Organized by the Centre for Advanced Study in International Humanitarian Law (CASH), RGNUL in collaboration with the ICRC, Regional Delegation for South Asia, New Delhi.
Theme: International Humanitarian Law in South Asia: Prospects and challenges
The ENSAYO competition is one of the premier essay writing competitions on International Humanitarian Law. Its genesis can be traced to the to the year 2009 when it was launched by the Center for Advanced Study in International Humanitarian Law (CASH) at Rajiv Gandhi National University of Law, Punjab (India) in collaboration with the ICRC Regional Delegation, New Delhi, India. Organised annually, ENSAYO, is primarily for undergraduate student from both law and non-law disciplines. A new theme is identified every year and ENSAYO offers a platform for students to express their views on the same. The topics range from traditional issues in IHL to contemporary challenges. Over the years the ENSAYO has attracted a lot of participation from Asia. The competition has been instrumental in piquing the interest of the students in IHL and facilitating the larger vision of the ICRC in integrating the dissemination of IHL amongst the student community.
The ENSAYO Essay competition is open to university students from the disciplines of Law, Political Science, Sociology, Psychology, Defence Studies, International Relations, Medical Sciences, Mass Media and Journalism from Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Iran, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.
Participants may choose to write on any topic within the ambit of the theme of the competition, that being “International Humanitarian Law in South Asia: Prospects and challenges”.
Morris Muthama, a student of Kisukioni High School in Tala township, located 104 kilometers North of Kenya’s capital Nairobi, was elated when he received news that he was the overall winner of the 2014 sexual harassment and Human Rights Essay writing competition for Secondary School students. His essay had succeeded in capturing the imagination of the judges, who had taken time to review submissions from around the Country, which were to be limited to 1,000 words per essay. Amnesty International has organized the essay competition yearly in partnership with the Student Consortium of Human Rights (SCOHRA) as a means of sensitizing the youth in Human Rights issues. Sandra Gitau from Loreto Convent Msongari, and Musembi Peter Njeki from Jamhuri High School took the second and third positions respectively.
The Annual competition targets young people in secondary schools and seeks to engage them to use their imaginative and creative skills, personal experiences and writing skills to develop a speech written as the governor of their respective counties seeking to address the rising cases of sexual harassment experienced by students in secondary schools, which is usually perpetuated by persons in authority in their lives. In addition, the speech is supposed to highlight the relationship between sexual harassment and human rights, in an effort to create awareness and contribute to Human Rights change in the country. Here are copies of their essays for you to read and experience their budding creativity and imagination.
1ST PLACE ESSAY
BY MORRIS MUTHAMA: KISUKIONI HIGH SCHOOL
“ His Excellency, the Head of State and President of the Republic of Kenya, the Deputy President, the Deputy Governor, the County Director of Education, Cabinet Secretaries, Members of Parliament, Members of the County Assembly, Women Representatives, distinguished guests and all dignitaries present, ladies and gentlemen, good morning? It is indeed a wonderful time that I stand before you to address the issue of sexual harassment.
Sexual harassment is a form of violence in which a man or a woman is solicited by another person to have sex without his or her consent. It is a vice that is prevalent in all social units in our present day life. This form of mistreatment is not bound to befall ladies alone as many people presume; men are also victims since sodomy is real.
I want to believe that every one of you can attest to the fact that students have a higher vulnerability to this atrocity beyond any reasonable doubt. My esteemed audience, allow me to highlight on some forms of sexual harassment before I grasp at straws.
First and foremost, the use of lewd language in public places where members of the opposite sex are present is one of the things that greatly counteract our efforts of inculcating good morals into our youngsters, exposure to sexually explicit materials or sending text messages whose content is sexually arousing and failure to create awareness to the mass among other setbacks are contributing to consistent cases of sexual harassment that we are currently witnessing.
Your Excellency and my listeners, allow me at this juncture to air my most bewildered and perplexing discoveries. Since examples are better than percepts. Firstly, I have received allegations concerning teachers in a school by the name, Makmi Secondary School in this country. Reports have it that there are lady teachers in that school who are dressing in a sexually provocative manner hence arousing the male students. In addition, I have received cases from several girls’ schools about male teachers who also dress indecently thus affecting the learning of the students negatively. It is very humiliating to note that the people upon whom we have bestowed our trust and given them the mandate to impart our children with good virtues are still the same people who have the audacity to violate their rights.
Exposure to the above forms of sexual abuse is a great violation of the Children’s Act contained in the new constitution, in that the student is denied a vital right to a free and peaceful environment, right to privacy, and in extreme cases the student may end up dropping out of school, hence denial of the right to education. Denial of the above mentioned rights to a child is punishable by a fine of two hundred thousand shillings or a two months jail term or both.
I believe that you all agree with me that there is nothing that robs the brain of its ability to think right and act as it does when threatened with fear. It has been brought to my attention those students, especially the female ones fall in the snares of these teachers, make up for the teacher’s sexual desires and at least when things go haywire the girls are ordered to hold their tongues. If anything of that sort happens, it is only wise to disregard the threats and report the matter immediately.
Fellow countrymen, we should understand that when such intimidation is done to our students without our efforts to protect them their performance will definitely become dismal and even in extreme cases the students drop out of school hence denial of the right to education. Allow me to assume that this vice has flourished in our society due to ignorance.
Ignorance is a black man, wearing a long black robe, inside a vast dark-painted room trying to trace the whereabouts of a black cat hidden in the room and I suppose it would take centuries before the poor man traces the cat. Similarly, if you are ignorant of your constitutional rights, your life in Kenya would be like navigating across a stormy river.
Furthermore, a month ago, you all witnessed another pernicious scenario at Tala ward in Kajiado District where a certain octogenarian bishop was alleged to have sodomized an innocent altar boy pretending to be offering guidance and counseling to him and afterwards a deliverance prayer before the boy sat for the National Examinations. The Bishop really portrayed ill-manners and casted the name of his church in bad light and such an occurrence should never again happen in the future.
Thank God for the assistance of the Catholic Cardinal in ensuring that we catch up with the culprit and have him penalized according to the stringent dictates of the law. Far be it from us that we have to blow this problem out of proportion and end up relenting in our fight against it. I am a firm believer in the rule of law and therefore I urge you to be reporting cases relenting to sexual abuse to the relevant authorities without hesitation whenever they encounter them.
As leaders of this country we have decided to launch a civic education exercise that will enable our people to know their rights. Moreover we have budgeted for the establishment of a police post at least in every sub-location so as to create a peaceful environment for our citizens and also curb such cases as those of sexual harassment through easing and also reducing the cost incurred in the process of reporting.
Our Country will adopt the United Nations Charter on Human Rights of 1948 that protects human dignity. Again we are in the process of training and empowering personnel who will be posted to our schools, not only to inform our children but also to investigate and help bring to record all the historical injustices. In addition, I want to stress on the seriousness of the public officers to enforce the Ethics Act of 2003 that requires all public officers to execute their duties on the basis of integrity and respect of human dignity.
In conclusion, I would like to urge you to be more vigilant more so on the matters that you think violate your rights and uphold the respect that ought to be attached to human value. Maintain your patriotic approach in all your undertakings and endeavor to obey the constitution. Together, let us propel our country to higher moral heights with a holistic legacy for the youth. Thank you so much for availing your selves. God bless Machakos and her people. Thank you once more.”
2ND PLACE ESSAY
BY SANDRA GITAU: LORETO CONVENT MSONGARI
“I stand before you all, heavy hearted… torn between exposing my heartfelt emotions in a child-like manner and relinquishing them so as to prove my steadfast leadership quality. Nevertheless, courtesy has not escaped me. Your Excellency, honorable Uhuru Kenyatta, all protocols observed – good morning?
Over the recent months our country has been overcome by different menaces and one to which my country has fallen victim to is sexual harassment. Coercion of sexual nature and inappropriate promise of rewards in exchange for sexual favors has consumed the minds of a certain bush-league of people in my administrative area. The weekly loads of reports I have been receiving are not only heart wrenching butt also shocking. Reading through the victims’ lives fills me with disappointment and I shall not simply sit back and watch!
One similar case is that of a beautiful, brave, nine year old girl named Tabitha. She lives in a village not far from our main town. Three different men, all of different –but paramount- social background, took advantage of her at the peak of her vulnerability. How does one simply plan to ruin a child’s life? Furthermore, succeed?
Could it be by abusing the faultless? Calling them all sorts of names-unknown to the inexperienced – when they reject your sexual advances… As the shameless guard by Tabitha’s family farm would do to her? – Polluting the mind of my future leader! Or is it by luring the innocent into remedial classes and then attacking them unawares just like Tabitha’s Mathematics teacher did? You can only imagine her distraught state. Possibly it could be the most atrocious – a medical officer, carefully maneuvering their way around a pure being’s genitalia in the name of ‘through examination’? Turn your minds to that familiar doctor who is uneducated and incompetent as Tabitha’s examiner. It surely seems like there is no where to place our trust. Those who are believed to be the most adept in the community living such mediocre lives… This world is truly full of surprises!
For the past three weeks, my desk has not brushed faces with even a single file containing cases different from Tabitha’s. Withal to all my dismay, such a situation has met parties of both sexes and varying ages… I would know for I have experienced such a situation – first hand! Truth be told, even in my middle age and masculine nature, I too have been captured once by the trap of sexual abuse. Age is just a number and gender is not a limit for this plague.
Why would sexual harassment be such a crucial matter? Abuse of human dignity is a direct violation o Chapter 4, article 28 of the Kenyan Constitution that clearly states that ‘Every person has the right to the protection of their dignity. It should be noted that this article is but a mere reflection of the various laws on human rights set by International bodies such as: The Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UNHDR), the Protocol to the African Charter on Human Rights, among others; that carefully summarize the need for protecting human dignity.
Not only is sexual harassment an infringement of law but it also brings discontinuity to our country’s economy. It has been noted that only 1% of pregnant girls go back to school after delivery and considering over 80 % of such cases occur in schools with about 50 % of them leading to Child Birth or abortion, poor literacy rates is dimming by the decade! We need to curb this threat- sooner rather than later.
It is said that the best way to abolish anything is by attacking its root cause. It is time to speak out against these offenders and capture them with the hand of justice!
I challenge judiciary to properly and carefully implement laws such as ‘The Sexual Office Act of 2001’ by Njoki Ndung’u that are against sexual harassment. These laws will ensure offenders are brought to book and punished. This would not only bring comfort to victims like Tabitha but also be a stern warning to others performing such heinous acts.
We as parents must also take a step out of the comfort zone and enlighten our children on understanding and identifying forms of harassment. Moreover, we need to teach them to defend themselves in order to keep these hyenas off our children. Simple measures, such as screaming during an attack or merely using everyday tools such as pens or a general compass to fight back can make the difference. By talking to them and offering them strong parental advice, we shall be able to build a strong parent-child bond and encourage them to trust us.
Mr. President, it saddens me that our school curriculum does not emphasize enough on sexual harassment issues. Where would be a better place for children to learn about such topics on an in depth basics other than school institutions? This is a matter discussion that should fully involve every legislative mind in our next session. However, I must commend the work on awareness currently being carried out by civil societies such as Amnesty International, FIDA, not forgetting Human Rights Watch amongst others. We as government should truly borrow a leaf from them and make our people more aware on such crucial matters.
Finally as I lead a private initiative on mass education on matters arising from sexual harassment, I urge you all to remain aware of your surrounding and help us reach the most affected areas. If we want change, we first need to be the change. Thank you.”
3RD PLACE ESSAY
MUSEMBI PETER NJEKI: JAMUHURI HIGH SCHOOL
Today I am here to speak briefly about an arising menace in our society and that is Sexual Harassment especially on students. To begin with sexual harassment is unwelcomed sexual advances. We all know that in places like our homes, primary schools, secondary schools, colleges and universities, sexual harassment is rampant. The offenders are parents, guardians, teachers, pastors and even politicians. It is despicable to hear in the news that, ‘Father molests his three year old daughter’ or ‘Teacher molests a student.’
Furthermore, according to research done by SYNOVATE and INFOTRAK, cases of sexual harassment in Nairobi County have increased rapidly over the years. This shows that people have deserted their human nature and virtues and resulted to these heinous and beastly acts. Students in primary and secondary schools, especially girls, are the most affected. This is where you find female students assaulted by their male teachers or they are offered better grades in exchange for sexual favors. After an ordeal like this one, the victim is left traumatized and sometimes contemplates suicide. This violates the dignity of the individual and affects her relationship with members of the opposite sex or even teachers of the opposite sex.
Moreover, there are cases of sexual harassment in boarding schools. For instance a newly admitted form one student is approached by a Form Three or Four student. The Form Three or Four student tell the Form One student that if he or she needs security or does not want to be bullied in that school, then he or she should agree on the sexual advances made. In 2012, there was a case where eight Form Two students from Pangani Girls High School, were expelled for being lesbians and sexually harassing fellow students. Recently, we heard of a case on Citizen TV, where a father impregnated his daughter in Njiru.
Let us not pretend that these things don’t happen, they happen, but we are afraid to speak them out. Sadly, the cases are rampant but few are reported. A large percentage of students still suffer in silence. Those that do not report, fear the stigmatization and rejection that accompanies them if they did report to the police. Once a case is reported, the perpetrator is quickly looked for and arrested. But once arrested, they are either bailed out, give bribes or given a light fine. This is injustice committed in broad daylight and which violates human rights because justice is not given.
In the Kenya Sexual Offences Act Section 24(4) provides for a sentence of not more than ten years for the offender. In Section 28 of the Sexual Offences Act 2006, ‘ Any person being in a position of authority or holding public office, who persistently makes sexual advances is guilty of sexual harassment and shall be liable to imprisonment for a term not less than three years or a fine of not less than one hundred thousand shillings or both.
As the County Governor, I am going to put in place effective measures to curb this issue. I have talked with the Maendeleo ya Wanawake Association and the Maendeleo ya Wanawake Organization chairpersons, who have agreed to join hands and start an initiative against sexual harassment on students across the county. I am going to hir lawyers who will specifically fight for the justice of the victims. I will also create public awareness of children’s rights through ‘ public barazas’ in various divisions, through the media via breakfast and talk shows in the Televisions and Radios. I will also organize seminars and workshops for all teachers in this county where they will be trained on how to hand cases and victims of this vice. I will build children’s homes for those affected to live there because of the stigmatization involved. I will ensure the Nyumba Kumi initiative is affected in all neighborhood’s so that the people will know the various people they live with.
Finally, my fellow citizens, it is upon us to work together and report sexual harassment to the police or other authorities concerned, to ensure that our children are safe. Let us join hands and fight this vice for w know that unity is strength. An American politician once said that, ‘Ask what your can do for your country, not what your country can do for you.’