In the 21st century, gender-based violence (GBV) manifesting itself in the form of sexual assault is something that cannot be ignored, advises British High Commissioner to Kenya Jane Mariott.
Mariott, a long-serving UK diplomat is one of the people who have been victims of sexual assault but not even her high cadre in the UK government has held her back from speaking against it and terming it an evil act.
In an exclusive interview with Daily Nation, Mariott recalled a tragic incident in Iraq where she had been posted 17 years ago. At the time, she was just 27 years old.
The British military together with forces from the US and other European countries had successfully dethroned former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003 and it was time to hand over key functions back to the people.
She was instrumental in all this even at 27 years of age but it is what would change her life. Mariott was sent to Al Amara, a British military base in south east of Iraq but was later transferred to another camp in Al Nasiriyah Province run by another military from Europe where she would take up a bigger role.
“The camp was sprawling, and there were four or five sort of plyboard huts. I was the only person living in them,” she told Nation.
She finally returned to her hut after five days since she had been away on duty but found that her laundry bag was missing. Suddenly, her door opened and there stood a well-built senior European Colonel.
“It was quite late at night and there was nobody around. Had I shouted, nobody would have heard me. He came in and said, ‘I hand-washed your underwear for you. I hope you’re grateful,” she recalled.
At this point, she was aware what would follow and even screaming at the top of her voice would not help her so she fell back to diplomacy.
“There was no point in being confrontational because I clearly wasn’t going to win a physical fight with him.”
“I managed to persuade him that ‘now’ wasn’t an appropriate time and that he should go and come back later. I somehow managed to get him out of the room before he could violate me further, but constantly at the back of my mind was; is this going to end up in rape?”
The British envoy to Kenya noted that she chose to share her story so as to create awareness and offer solutions.