A human rights organisation has demanded that Kenyan politician Miguna Miguna apologise to the nation after making "rape" comments towards a female counterpart on a national TV show last week.
Miguna, a former aide to former Prime Minister Raila Odinga who plans to run for governor of Nairobi next year told female political rival Esther Passaris, who is also vying the seat: "You are so beautiful; everybody wants to rape Passaris" as they appeared on KTN's Jeff Koinange Live (JKL), a popular TV show.
Miguna made denigrating comments on Passaris' looks in comments that deeply shocked the nation: "A woman who has absolutely no integrity. A socialite bimbo whose only claim to fame is because she is looking for billionaire sponsors [sugar daddies]."
Human Rights Watch (HRW) condemned the opposition politician's lewd comments, saying Miguna's words were trivialising sexual abuse.
Show host Koinange, a former CNN correspondent, has also come under fire for tolerating the misogynist remarks, which have renewed the debate about the treatment of women in Kenya.
"The heated exchanges between Miguna and Passaris may have deeper roots. Miguna has come out to say Passaris had earlier on called him a 'rapist' during a commercial break," Agnes Odhiambo, senior researcher at HRW's Women's Rights Division, explained. "But for Kenyans who watched and listened to his remarks, the background narratives are not important. They find his remarks deeply offensive."
Miguna alleges the footage was edited to exclude the part where Passaris called him a rapist.
"It is outrageous that Miguna, who aspires to be a political leader who will bear responsibility for addressing violence against women, would publicly joke about the rape of the woman running against him," the researcher said. "Miguna owes Kenyans an apology. A stronger response from the government condemning intimidation of women political aspirants is needed."
Odhiambo highlighted how she believes the media is not playing its role in fighting gender stereotypes that discriminate against women and quell widespread violence against women. "It is also outrageous that he was able to do so on air without being challenged by the show's host. His comments reinforce a culture of misogyny and abuse often directed toward female candidates."
Uploaded on 16 November, a video clip of the show was pulled down off the programme's YouTube channel the next day. Following public backlash, Miguna told K24 TV he has the uttermost respect for women.
According to the 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey, 45% of women aged 15 to 49 have experienced physical violence, and 14% have experienced sexual violence. A 26-year-old Kenyan man was arrested after national outrage after he reportedly bragged about having sex with a girl as young as 10 on social media last month.
With Kenya set to hold general elections in August 2017, HRW has urged the government to "take all necessary measures" to ensure that women can participate freely as voters and aspirants, free from violence and intimidation.