Over 60 and Unsafe

What makes some men into monsters? I got goose bumps when I read about old women worried about being raped learning martial arts to defend themselves.

Close to Nairobi in the shanty town of Korogocho, women who are in their 70s and 80s practise karate, hit a punching bag and watch as a teacher demonstrates the vulnerable points in a young man’s body. Their frail frames have to know about this so that they don’t end up just trying to beat hard.

It is apparently a known fact that bandits operate in this area. “Every time the boys make a robbery, they will ask the grandmas to sleep with them,” says Mary Wangui, 73. “Young men believe that young girls are all infected with AIDS, so they’d rather go to the old ones.”

Two years ago, three drunken young men broke into Frida’s home in the middle of the night and raped her. "They knew I lived alone... they broke (down) the door and came in and covered my eyes with a blanket, then they raped me... and left me there just lying on the floor. I can't believe people young enough to be my grandchildren could do that to me. When I heard they are teaching women how to beat rapists here, I decided to come and learn. Now I know if somebody wants to rape me, I just poke their eyes and make a noise."

Philip Otieno, executive director of I'm Worth Defending (IWD) said that besides fear of AIDS, "Others do it for ritual reasons... (some) criminals believe that having sex with an old person before or after a robbery will bring good luck either for a successful mission next time or protection from the police."

Surely the cops would catch these guys? Are there no groups to teach them something? It is terrible that even when one woman told her assaulter that she had AIDS that did not stop him. What about security agencies in the area? The media outside will report it, and in some cases it will be seen as one of those backward things out of Africa, but will it change the rot within? Don’t these women have children and grandchildren?

What do those guys get? This is a poor shanty. What can they rob? And why sexually abuse a woman? The reports talk about their fear of disease. Why is there no mention about these women getting infected by those sick men?

Cruelty is part of the human psyche and is manifested in different forms, but when such survival groups have to be set up, it reveals the sheer careless attitude of society, the government and human rights organisations too. The latter are often too busy with fancy causes to bother about these things.

Poverty is no excuse. Poverty expects you to survive and feed yourself and get shelter. Those are the basics.

It is tragic that the stigma attached to rape is such that these women don’t always speak out. Imagine the sense of shame that is already ingrained and then to have to face the smirks as the listener wonders: Oh, grandma, you think you are still worth it?

No one will ask those guys why they cannot get a life and lead it with some level of decency.

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