When I mention this recreational park, to most people, it would ring a bell as a chill spot, a meet up place, a picnic hot-spot, and a couples low budget getaway. To feminist and activists like me, it’s meet up place for protests and marches, especially at the freedom corner. It’s also a very accessible place located within Nairobi Central Business District hence it’s legendary name “Green City Under The Sun”. There have been times in my recent past that I was homeless, (this is a story for another day), and at one point, hanging out at the Uhuru park was a convenient idea. After all, you don’t pay a dime to access it and according to me, it’s a safe place due to the fact that there is a huge police presence noticeable around the park. So on this particular day, I get there. The past couple of days before going to Uhuru Park I had only been taking black tea from Cafe Deli so I can charge my phone. (It’s the only cafe I know other than java that has functional charging spots). So I was kind of tired due to sleepless nights, and I was safer awake at night, chatting my night away with street families than sleeping. I decide to lie down and if possible – sleep. It didn’t automatically fall asleep simply because I was tired. In fact my conflicted self is still learning how to sleep, that’s why I am writing this at this hour, twenty minutes past two in the morning. As soon as I lay down, this guy comes and sits directly opposite to where I was lying. And close enough too like two meters away.
It made me uncomfortable so I turned and gave him my back. Shortly after, he moves on the other side and sits opposite me, same range. I make a decision to ignore him but be keen on him. In my mind, it registered he may be a thief. Hardly five minutes later, I look at him only to notice his Penis was out, he is wanking and ejaculating and looking at me and smiling. I felt so abused. I felt dirty. I felt used and worst of all it was all unsolicited. And even after looking at him, he wasn’t a tad bit scared, he just went on. I stood up and rushed to the freedom corner statue, shaking and in shock.
I felt really violated and it took me back to bad places. Twenty minutes later, he stood up and left. It was just past lunch hour so most people had left. I found another spot and this time I sat. Next to me was a lady who was literally sleeping, on her tummy and even snoring. A strange guy wearing an oversize tracksuit under the scorching sun came and lay down right after the feet of the lady who was sleeping. Shocker, the guy did not even hesitate. Given as the woman who was sleeping was pretty bootylicious, he lied on his tummy and tilted his lower body to face the lady and he too wanked, ejaculated and the worst part is he went on and on. For at least thirty minutes, I was numb, I could not even speak. I just cried. I was shocked, mesmerized and astonished by all that I had seen in a span of three hours. After he was done he stood and left. A guy who had sat next to me, even though I hadn’t noticed his presence approached me as he saw me cry and told me “sadly there is nothing that can be done but women get abused here all the time.”
I cried even more partly glad because he understood that was abuse and partly because of the pessimism he came with. Shortly after he left, and this young guy comes up to me and asks if he can sit with me and I politely say no. He insists, and I tell him I can leave the spot for him. And goes ahead and says “Kama sitakaa na wewe Sitaki, (if I won’t sit with you then I don’t want to sit). At this point all my paranoia senses are alert and with me, and Uhuru Park felt like a ghost town. Full of cannibalistic aliens. Gender based violence runs so deep in our culture. So does rape culture.
As I left Uhuru Park, I asked the guys who sell stuff there if that was a common thing and I was told, women get abused a lot there including being raped and nothing is ever done about it. Until today, I am dealing with the trauma of the events of that day.
At what point is body autonomy, body autonomy???? Why has it become so hard for men to consent on anything sexual. Why do women have to go through this in a world where just as men, they are human too??? Why should a place otherwise public be dangerous for a segment of the Kenyan population?? Kids are always taken there too, how safe are they while there? It’s 2:50 AM My demons never allow me to sleep, so I wrote