Hundreds of women took part in a so-called miniskirt protest in Kenya’s capital Nairobi on Monday, expressing support for the victim of a mob attack who was targeted and stripped due to clothing her assailants deemed provocative.
“My dress, my choice,” read some of the banners on display as demonstrators marched from Uhuru Park in the city center to a downtown bus station where the woman, who has not been identified, was subjected to the humiliating attack.
It follows the emergence last week of grainy cell phone video that showed a group of Kenyan men surrounding the victim before grabbing, grasping and yanking at her clothes until she is naked. Several similar videos have also recently emerged. It has resulted in a groundswell of anger leading up to Monday’s protest, at which a majority of those participating were women.
"Women are being assaulted," protester Diana Okello told Al Jazeera. "We especially want to know what the women we chose as leaders are doing."
Rachel Machua, another demonstrator, wore what she called "a little black dress ... my normal outfit" to Monday's protest. She views the recent attacks as stemming from socio-economic conditions: Lower income men are attacking successful, well-dressed women.
"Kenyan men are in different groups. My father wanted me to be here and said you can dress however you want. Then there are others who think you are out of their reach, and they try to victimize you," Machua, 26, who runs an aid group called Transforming Generations, told The Associated Press.
While the country's foreign minister is a woman, few women hold high-ranking elected office. Parliament is a virtual men's club, unlike in neighboring Rwanda, where more than half of parliament is female.
The protest was attended predominantly by women, but around one in ten demonstrators were men, according to an estimate by the Associated Press. James Wamathai, told the news agency he was marching because he believes in equal rights.
"I think it's really horrible, and no women should have to go through that," said Wamathai, 33. "It's a weird sexual fetish. If you see some of the videos some of the men are groping the women. ... But it's not based on anything because in Africa we didn't used to wear clothes."
About 100 yards from the marchers, park worker Ulda Akinyi told reporters that she has instructed her three daughters to dress conservatively for fear of attracting unwanted attention. "Wearing miniskirts is the devil's work," said Akinyi.
Men gathered against a nearby fence. Most said they didn't support the cause. A man who gave only his first name, John, said he didn't want Kenya's women to "seduce" him by wearing revealing clothing.
"It's like three-quarters naked if you are wearing one of those short skirts," said David Ndongo, who works on one of Kenya's mini transport buses known as matatus, where women can also face harassment.
Kenya's Public Prosecution office has said the video of the bus station attack would be analyzed "with a view to identifying, apprehending and immediately bringing to justice the perpetrators of this heinous incident.”
The police, however, told Al Jazeera they couldn’t take the case further because the woman did not file a complaint.
Al Jazeera and wire services. Catherine Soi contributed to this report from Nairobi.