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'Legs together' law to uphold culture for Kenya's female bike riders - report

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Mon, 12 Aug 2013 01:50 PM
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A motorbike taxi waits for a passenger in Kenya's western town of Kisumu, 350 km (218 miles) from the capital Nairobi, March 9, 2013. REUTERS/Thomas Mukoya
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NAIROBI (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Kenyan women could soon be banned from straddling motorcycles or bicycles behind the driver because it is “demeaning” and is undermining traditional culture, local media reported.

Women in Kisumu County in western Kenya may be forced to sit sideways on the vehicles if a proposed law is passed.

Piki piki [bicycles] and boda boda [motorbikes] have now brought a culture that is really demeaning to our women,” county assembly member for Kisumu North Caroline Owen told KTN television station.

Many people in Kisumu City, which borders Lake Victoria, use motorbike taxis because they are cheaper than cars.

One driver interviewed by the station said he was so distracted by women sitting behind him, he found it hard to drive.

“The sitting position in which the women sit with their legs apart when aboard the motorcycles was discussed in the house and termed as uncultural,” according to The Standard newspaper.

The county assembly was debating a report that said Kisumu’s culture was in decline due to the influence of western values that support “permissive conduct”, the paper said.

STRIPPED FOR MINISKIRTS

In Kenya, the onus is usually on women to dress and behave conservatively, rather than on men to treat them with respect.

Sexual violence is widespread, with one third of girls reporting rape, attempted rape or sexual touching before the age of 18.

Perpetrators are rarely reported due to stigma and a lack of faith in the police and the criminal justice system.

Earlier this year, minibus touts stripped a woman naked in Bomet bus park for wearing a miniskirt.

"This is how women end up being raped and men are blamed for being immoral yet women dress in a bad way," Kiprono Sang, one of the conductors, told The Star newspaper. “The skirt we bought her is the type we expect every lady in this town to wear, nothing less.”

It is an attitude that prevails across much of the continent.

In April, there were plans to ban miniskirts in Uganda, with offenders facing a fine or even jail-time.

 

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