“To be a man is precisely to be responsible. It is to feel shame at the sight of what seems to be unmerited misery. It is to take pride in a victory won by one’s comrades. It is to feel, when setting one’s stone, that one is contributing to the building of the world.”
― Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, Wind, Sand and Stars
““Defilement is a normal occurrence in this jurisdiction and I don’t see any compelling reason to detain him,’’ the lawyer told the court after prosecutor xxx xxx made an application for Mr yyy to be remanded at the Malindi Police Station for 14 days to allow completion of investigations.” I read those words just as reported by The Daily Nation (a Kenyan independent newspaper) and could literally feel my stomach twist in agonizing knots. A lawyer? Did a lawyer, in fact an advocate, utter those words in a court of law? Was he really referring to DEFILEMENT as a normal occurrence?? Was he slightly intoxicated? Sorry, I mean VERY drunk, maybe? Look, I’m not of the habit of creating a storm in the proverbial tea cup..no, not at all, but that certainly cut a little too deep to just overlook. So you will be kind enough to bear with me as I bleed through this article..I need to..I have to. Let me bleed for all mothers of the land, for my hurting sisters from another mother, for my unborn daughter(s) and their daughters’ daughters..let me bleed for the women of the land, let me bleed for myself.
I know there are quite a number of men and women who probably read those same words and did not notice anything remotely wrong about that statement. In fact, I am sure a man, a woman, somewhere in this country, somewhere in the world, saw that and wondered, “What on earth is wrong with these girls?”, “What was she wearing?”, “What was that small standard eight, 15 years old girl doing with a businessman even?”, “She took meat to the slaughterhouse. It’s her fault!”. If those are your thoughts, SHAME ON YOU!
See, ours is a patriarchal society that is naturally notorious for deciding FOR the fairer sex what we (of the female gender), can/can’t do, should/shouldn’t do or say or wear or even feel and so forth. Mark you, my beloved motherland is most likely the only country that has had persons accused of gang-rape given a punishment of slashing grass…yeah, believe you me you read that correct- slashing grass as punishment for rape, gang rape!! (Well, that was reversed only recently after human rights activists and lobbyists made a lot of necessary noise. Bless your souls!). Do you now understand why I can’t just let such a reckless remark go? It is because something is dangerously and fundamentally wrong with our legal and social frameworks and that needs changing. Your silence and my silence on matters such as these won’t bring about the change desired. We must learn to look at the future not as a gift from our ancestors, but rather as a loan from our descendants. We owe it unto the future generations to leave this world a better place. That is why we cannot afford to be so reckless and insensitive in both our words and actions.
However, I will be doing humanity an injustice should I go on a emotional rant on this platform and fail to inject some much needed sense into my words and for the world. As a young budding legal eagle, I have learned to never let go of an experience, good or bad, until I have gathered my lessons and tucked them safely into the very core of my being. The trick of not getting mired in the past and missing out on the future lies solely in our ability to let go and move on but before we move on, here are some great lessons drawn from the very reckless words of a probably well-meaning lawyer:
One George Bernanos, a French gentleman, in his book The Last Essays of George Bernanos (1955), Why Freedom?, noted: “The first sign of corruption in a society that is still alive is that the end justifies the means.” There you have it! Mr. Well-meaning lawyer, truly, meant no harm when he termed a grave crime as that of Defilement as a normal occurrence! Appalling and hurting as that might be, this learned friend’s sole purpose was to get his client out on bond pending further investigations. It is noteworthy that an accused person has the constitutional right to a fair hearing which includes the right to be presumed innocent until the contrary is proved; and his lawyer wanted to ensure that. Just that. While his intentions might have been pure, in fact noble, his poor diction betrayed him and put him on the spot as a selfish, corrupt individual. You see, since we do not exist in isolation, this is just a subtle example of the many cases of corruption in our society. And if you think corruption is only when we are talking of the ‘big’ cases such as Anglo-leasing Scandal, the ‘chicken’ scandal etcetera, you are wrong! Corruption is when the ends justifies the means. It is simply when I will say/do whatever I may just to get stuff done without being mindful of the impact of my words/actions/omissions to the next person. That is corruption, and that needs uprooting from the soil of this land.
2.) Mindful Lawyering.
Quite frankly, it does look funny (to me) to even put those two words next to each other. LOL. I am not serious, but this in fact is no joking matter. Lawyers? Mindful? Yes! Lawyers should and ought to be mindful. I am by now used to the name-calling and the lawyer-jokes that always get me laughing so hard. Check these out: Person A: “What do lawyers and a sperm have in common? ” Person B: “Both have but only one-in-a-million chance of turning out human.” Haha! Q: “What’s the difference between a lawyer and a leech?”
A:” After you die, a leech stops sucking your blood.” 🙂 I must admit these lawyer-jokes never get old, they never will! Quite frankly, I am happy and damn proud to be part of the legal fraternity. I cannot think of anywhere else I’d rather be. When it might be true that lawyers (most lawyers) lead a Jekyll-and-Hyde life, winning at all costs, working the margins, gaming the system, bending the rules, mastering the art of aggressive and creative lawyering and making lots of money, we, as lawyers, must not forget our true calling as professionals. We ought to ask ourselves, Are we making the world a better place or are we just content with making ourselves filthy rich? Are we noble guardians of the rule of law, fighting for justice in our jurisdictions, or are we just greedy parasites using the practice of the law to suck every single penny from the society like the said leeches on a dying man? The nobility of the legal fraternity must be fought for and upheld for it is lawyers who wrote the Declaration of Independence and the bill of rights. One Mark Gimenez, in his book The Color of Law, reminds us that those before us fought for civil rights, that we protect the poor and defend the innocent, free the oppressed. He goes further to say, “We lawyers are all that stands between freedom and oppression, right and wrong, innocence and guilt, life and death. And I am proud, damn proud, to be a lawyer…because lawyers do good!” Yes I, too, am proud, damn proud to be a lawyer, because lawyers do good. And this is the reason why my senior’s reckless words moved me to calling for mindful lawyering. The choice between being a good lawyer and just wanting to do well as a lawyer, is one that we all have to make every morning… It is a product of mindful lawyering to make the better decision, to be responsible for our words, actions & omissions and to let the love for humanity be the color of the law and the legal fraternity!
I don’t know what YOU understand by the term “feminism”. But to me, simply put, feminism is the belief that both the female and male genders are entitled to equal opportunities and rights on social, economic, and political platforms. And that, in a nutshell, is equity (fairness)! No, I do not wish for men and women to be equal. That is the most absurd thing I have ever heard of. Men can never be equal to women or women to men. Why? Because we are different. Very different. But in appreciation of our diversities, we must have equal opportunities. I am a feminist, and you should be too! Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie said it best, “Some people ask: “Why the word feminist? Why not just say you are a believer in human rights, or something like that?’ Because that would be dishonest. Feminism is, of course, part of human rights in general – but to choose to use the vague expression human rights is to deny the specific and particular problem of gender. It would be a way of pretending that it was not women who have, for centuries, been excluded. It would be a way of denying that the problem of gender targets women. That the problem was not about being human, but specifically about being a female human. For centuries, the word divided human beings into groups and went ahead to oppress one group. It is only fair that the solution to the problem acknowledge that.” Until we all become feminist and stop normalizing wrongful acts done to our girls/women, the society will never change. Until we accept that the female gender is just as worthy as the male gender, and stop socializing the male child to grow thinking he is a better, more valuable child with entitlements over the female child and her body, we will keep talking of rape and defilement cases..until we teach the male child, from a tender age to RESPECT the female child! And stop socializing the girl-child to cater to the fragile egos of the male child.The much desired change will not be realized until we all embrace positive feminism and become feminists. And to you daughter of the land, as a girl you never have to dim your shine for the fear that you might intimidate a man, let him wear sunglasses should the glare of your shine be too much for his eyes to bear. But while at the “altar of girl-power”, dear daughter of the land, remember to master the art of combining feminine glamour with professional power, business ambition with personal value, and confidence with heart; for that is the real stunner stuff that makes a woman a force to reckon with. Dear sister, stay gentle.
Lastly, here are my questions: would the case of a 16 years old girl gang raped and left abandoned unconscious have been handled a lot more differently were the victim of the crime of the male gender? Would anyone dare term the crime of defilement as a normal occurrence despite its being rampant in the area? If the victim was a 15 years old boy, would he have said that? Tell me, were it a boy, would such words have been uttered?
“We say to girls: You can have ambition, but not too much. You should aim to be successful but not too successful, otherwise you will threaten the man. If you are the breadwinner in your relationship with a man, pretend that you are not, especially in public, otherwise you will emasculate him.” -Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie