I Will Not Be Silenced:Charlotte Campbell-Stephen

Posted on May 16, 2015 01:24 am

Rarely do I get time for films but this weekend is extra ordinary.Charlotte Campbell-Stephen will be speaking about her rape ordeal in Kenya and quest for justice at the ongoing 2015 Human Rights Arts and Film Festival in Melbourne, Australia.The two week festival began in Melbourne on 7 May and will also tour Alice Spring, Sydney, Canberra, Perth, Brisbane and Darwin. According to the official website, Festival director Ella McNeill says the program will focus on issues of particular relevance to Australian audiences, including the experiences of asylum seekers, violence against women and climate change. Charlotte Campbell Stephen is one of the many women who have gone through the most heinous crime committed by men in this world.There are thousands of crimes being committed against women in every corner of the world let alone Kenya where Campbell Stephen met her most agonizing moment barely two months into her stay in Kenya and ordeal that allegedly took eight hours.And it is not just rape. Women are molested sometimes at their workplaces, on the streets and even at school. In Africa, the continent has witnessed cases of sexual assault and acid attacks and yet the criminals behind such crimes walks freely on the street.

Women are also the victims of domestic violence or are trapped in abusive marriages. However, most cases of crime against women go unreported in Kenya and other parts of Africa due to the social stigma attached and the fear of being ostracized by society. To be blunt, African women suffer in silence. Sometimes the injuries are so grave that they are physically impaired for life.Ms Charlotte Campbell Stephen violent robbed and gang raped in Nairobi in 2006 will hopefully awaken countries like Kenya to the darkest crime that can be committed against a woman. This barbaric act shook the Australians to fight for the safety of our women.When it was first reported I was gobsmacked.I laud the braveness of Ms Charlotte Campbell-Stephen seven-year efforts to bring her attackers to book.Everyone has expressed solidarity in seeing the rapists punished severely but as she has several times indicated, in corrupt ridden countries like Kenya, she hasn’t succeeded yet. Beyond physical abuse, verbal abuse amounts to a violation of women’s rights.Online bullying hasn’t helped our women cause of seeking rightful place in our societies as well.

Although it is more common in developing countries like Kenya, developed countries are no good in treatment of their women and Australia is not an exception.Although the anguish and pain of Charlotte Campbell-Stephen cannot be taken back, severe punishment of those who commit crimes against women will prevent them from repeating such heinous acts. There are many questions that need to be answered by Kenyan society and security authorities. How can Kenya, Africa’s ninth largest economy create a safe environment, take prompt action in each case and punish the guilty?Kenyan Laws should be formed that help women to climb the social ladder not take them back to the Stone Age.Those who raped Charlotte Campbell-Stephen should know times have changed and so have the roles of women. Women are not just Contador Harrison’s mothers, wife or daughters, but have identities of their own and contribute to the development of society in various roles as Charlotte Campbell-Stephen presence in Kenya at the time of her attack proves as she was working for African Leaf, an non-governmental organization that supports abused children.Despite the trying experience, Charlotte Campbell-Stephen still works in Kenya with Polycom Project, a woman’s empowerment organization.

I strongly believe that our women deserve much more respect than to be guided by their male counterparts on non-issues.Despite a growing number of victims courageous enough to report abuse to the police, few cases of violence against women are resolved fairly, according to latest data published last year about rape cases in developing world. In Kenya, many women who report incidents of violence against them have found the justice system to be inadequate at holding the perpetrators accountable.I do somehow think that poor knowledge and understanding among attorneys and judges of what can be determined to be “women-related violence” also hampers bringing the perpetrators to justice. To cope with the high rate of violence against women, there need to be a minimum standard service that comprises guidelines of legal assistance and trauma healing for the victims.Currently, many victims of violence in Kenya and other African countries are poor, have to pay costly hospital fees that is largely a burden and may of them fail to get fair treatment As Charlotte Campbell-Stephen case has shown, the longer the delay, the less chance there is of bringing the perpetrators to trial because the evidence gradually diminishes.

Contador Harrison