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Hot issue Sugar daddies and the tragic 'sponsor' syndrome.

Summary: It may be the era of #MeToo and #TimeIsUp in much of the world, as more and more cases of sexual predators, rape and harassment are exposed and the perpetrators brought to book. However, the same cannot be said of Africa, where such acts are routine but still hardly ever talked about. And tragically, some victims who have called out their abusers have been killed. The following article may make for a gruesome read, but reflecting on the sad 'sponsor' or 'sugar daddy' syndrome is a must. It is time Africa had its own #WeToo moment.

True story. At the beginning of September this year, the lifeless, mutilated body of a young fe- male was found dumped in the deserted Kodera Forest, western Ke- nya. She had been savagely raped, beaten and stabbed, leading to her death and that of her unborn child. Sharon Otieno was only 26 years old.

Her gruesome killing was not the only thing that the Kenyan media splashed headlines on, it was also the fact that a very powerful man in Kenya -- the 59-year-old governor of Migori County in the west of the country, Okoth Obado, whom she was allegedly dating, was arrested and charged with aiding and abetting the university student's brutal murder. Af- ter 34 days in custody, he was released on bail pending trial, scheduled for sometime in 2019. Governor Obado denies the charges and at the time of going to press, two of his aides were in custody charged with her murder.

According to local media reports, trouble for the student began when she discovered she was pregnant, news that Governor Obado, married with grown children, reportedly did not take well to and asked her to ter- minate the pregnancy. She reportedly refused to do so.

It has been established, and con- firmed by his lawyer, that the gover- nor has admitted he was having an extra-marital affair with the student, but was not sure she was made preg- nant by him.

Before her gruesome death, Sharon had set up a meeting with a journalist, reportedly to expose the story of the affair. But as she met with the journal- ist, both were abducted; the journalist managed to flee from the speeding car they were abducted in. Sharon's body was discovered days later.

In the same month of September, another woman, socialite Monica Kimani was found dead in the bath- tub of her upmarket apartment -- her throat had been slit. Reports alleged that her death may have been con- nected to an extra-marital affair she was having with a South Sudanese top honcho who was showering her with money and assets, a lifestyle which she regularly posted about on social me- dia platforms.

#WeToo

These two horrific stories have captured Kenya's collective conscience. But this is not just a Kenyan prob- lem -- it is an African problem, where many more such incidents go unreported. Sex crimes are largely shrouded in secrecy. And these deaths have one thing in common, they ex- pose the growing culture of young women who are lured into the rich trappings offered by their elderly so- called 'sponsors' -- to lead and show off expensive lifestyles.

Whose fault is it, many have asked? Is it society's? Is it our backgrounds? Is it our girls? Is it a lack of parental advice? Is it western reality TV shows that have increasingly engulfed our small screens? Could it be social me- dia with all its pressures and the ever- growing appetite for a picture-perfect Instagram or Facebook post?

Both Sharon and Monica were very active on their platforms -- shar- ing every moment of their seemingly perfect lifestyles. Through social me- dia, we can now see the rise of a new generation -- the so-called socialites or slay queens -- some of whom openly brag about achieving their lavish lifestyle via their 'sponsors' or sugar daddies.

There are some collective ques- tions we can all ponder. What value are our young women and daughters placing on themselves? Who defines these values and how can we as a so- ciety instil self-esteem and confidence in our girls so that they make choices that are dignified? If a parent discov- ers their young daughter has suddenly acquired expensive things she can hardly afford, isn't the onus on them to question her and get to the bottom of how?

This is a tough subject to discuss and debate, more so given the fact that the lives of two women in their prime have been horrifyingly snubbed out. Yet it is moments like these that offer society poignant opportunities for collective reflection. We all have a duty to help educate our young wom- en on how to value themselves; teach them that self-worth can never come through performing sexual favours for a so-called rich male sponsor; nei- ther should a perfect Instagram post be achieved through a sugar daddy's gift.

Our societies should protect young women from these 'sponsors'. Perhaps some form of deterrent needs to be considered against the sponsors for the harm caused, or even death as in the case of Sharon and Monica. The Time is Up in Africa too.

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Publication:New African Woman
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Nov 30, 2018
Words:869
Previous Article:Is social media really social? PERILS OF A SOCIAL MEDIA LIFE.
Next Article:Do you remember Nafissatou Diallo? Africa and its forgotten 'MeToo' moment.

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