Menace that is boda-boda to women and girls in Kisumu

Boda boda operators in Kisumu County on the spot for sexual assault as women and girls express fear when riding in the boda-boda due to sexual harassment. Photo: Henry Owino
Boda boda operators in Kisumu County on the spot for sexual assault as women and girls express fear when riding in the boda-boda due to sexual harassment. Photo: Henry Owino

While boda-boda (motorcycle taxis) have proven to be the most convenient mode of transport in recent time, not so many people are happy with the antiques being displayed by some operators.

Women and girls in Kisumu County are now living in fear of riding the boda-boda due to sexual harassment.

Fingers are being pointed at boda-boda riders operating in the outskirts of Kisumu city as notorious perpetrators.

Areas that have been mapped out include Nyamasaria, Nyawita, Nyalenda, Obunga, Manyatta and Mamboleo where young male boda-boda riders’ intentions are ill motivated.

Female users of boda-boda who were interviewed claim the riders will ensure they struggle to board the motor-bike so that their inner wear is exposed for other riders or colleagues to see. This then sends the young men giggling with some even going to the extent of shouting the colour of the inner wear they have seen leaving the women embarrassed.

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Alice Juma who lives in Manyatta Estate has heard women and girls complain of sexual harassment by boda-boda riders.

Cases of sexual abuse among school girls and women have been reported at Manyatta and Kondele police stations but so far nothing has been heard of riders getting arrested.

Juma says suspected boda-boda riders usually go on exile by changing the route of operations once word gets out that a warrant of arrest has been issued.

The suspects even change their motor-bike number plates making it more difficult for them to be traced.

“Imagine picking a boda-boda rider in Manyatta Estate to take you to Kibuye Market and instead of him going directly to the destination, he dodges through various estates,” says Juma. “The rider buys time with you just because he is enjoying the soft touch of a woman’s body rubbing on his back.”

Protests

Juma says women in the county have condemned this behaviour and even held demonstrations in the streets of Kisumu city to condemn the behaviour but no action has been taken.

Juma notes the notoriety has gone to the level where some riders will offer women a ride in exchange for sex.

“Surely how can a married woman living with her husband entertain a stranger on their first day of meeting? poses Juma. “Even if the deal were to be privately sealed for mpango wa kando (extramarital affair), it must take some time for planning and knowing each other better.”

Nelly Akello’s experience is that young men aged between 16 and 26 are most notorious.

Akello recalls how a rider innocently asked for her phone number, which she gave in the knowledge that it would be used for business purposes only. Soon that evening the man started sending her messages of love.

Harassment

“The rider was almost my elder son’s age and was not even ashamed to be asking me for sexual favours,” says Akello. She adds: “I ignored the text message at first but his persistence forced me to block his calls.”

Dorothy Otieno, a teacher in one of the private primary schools in Nyamasaria Estate lives in Mamboleo but commutes daily using a boda-boda since it is most convenient for her.

Otieno says although there are some notorious riders, not all of them are bad. “I have two riders who take me anywhere not just to and from school but even to the market, church, meetings and other places I may want to go.”

Explains Otieno: “This has saved me the humiliation other women go through with strange riders.”

She encourages women in Kisumu and its environs to be cautious of riders who transport them to various destinations.

Prudence

The women are advised not to entertain riders who take wrong routes or talk vulgar. She discourages women from having just one common particular rider all through.

“The riders are always happy when a woman unknowingly exposes her body or presses her chest on the rider’s back. In this instance the journey will take even longer,” says Otieno.

Margaret Omondi Mbira, Coordinator Women Concerns and Gender Technical Working Group says boda-boda operators are having a field day raping and defiling women and girls respectively.

Omondi specifically draws attention to parents who have entrusted their daughters to being transported to and from school among other places by the riders. She says this is what has led to a high rate of defilement cases in the county.

“This is done early dawn or late in the evening when it’s getting dark leaving the girls vulnerable and at the mercy of the riders who sexually assault them,” says Omondi.

Joseph Ouma, chairperson Kisumu Boda-Boda Riders Association admits that there are a few motor-bike operators who sexually harass women and girls.

However, Ouma assures their clients that as an association they are putting in place modalities to rectify the situation.

“Every rider is now required to register and belong to a Sacco and operate in a particular route within an estate,” says Ouma. He adds: “The rider must be well known to residents and colleagues as this will help identify the notorious ones.”

Ouma says they have set up complaints desks in various estates manned by qualified personnel as a first step towards containing such situations.