This article is a testimony of an act of violence witnessed by a young woman. It happened in the morning, in the street, with people going by. The reaction (or absence of reaction) of the people around raised a question : has violence become a common aspect of our societies to the point that it does not affect people anymore? Has civic solidarity disappeared? What about helping someone in danger ?
This morning, around 09h00, I witnessed something. Some might consider it normal because it has become part of their daily life. But for me it was not. For me it showed once again how vulnerable those trying to protect others from being hurt can be. How vulnerable human rights defenders can be. I felt vulnerable. And look around for anyone who could protect me.
Recently, I decided to change my morning routine. I take a cab to a place not far from my workplace then I walk 5 minute to work. It is my excuse or pretence of a morning sport. 2 minutes into my sport routine, I saw a public bus. It stopped by the side of the road. It was obviously not working. Few seconds before a man walked into the bus. I actually thought he made a mistake thinking the bus was working. I heard noises coming out of it and turned. As I looked closely, I saw a guy beating a girl. I do not know what the story is. I do not speak Wolof (local language in Senegal) so I could not understand the words they were exchanging.
I looked around, there was a guy sweeping the road. He was standing in front of the bus. And the guy that walked into the bus was probably trying to stop the fight. I took out my phone and started recording not knowing what else to do. Few seconds after, the road cleaner turned so did the man that walked into the bus few seconds ago. They both looked aggressive. I was seriously scared. I stopped the video, and hold on to my phone tightly. They asked if I recorded the scene. I said no. I was scared. They asked to see my phone. Two men, and me and another man beating a girl with no one around to call for help. That is not the kind of environment I want to find myself on a Monday morning.
The guy that was in the bus followed me for a few second asking for my phone. He said : I am an authority, I hope you did not record me. I started walking very fast. I could not wait to get to work, or at least the hall where I know I could see familiar faces and most importantly guards to call for help. As I am walking I saw a guy dressed like a security force. I told him to hurry toward that bus. He walked toward the bus and me toward my workplace as fast as my feet could project me. I get to the hall of my office, and went to the guards and asked them if they have the number of the police or if they could do something.
As I am narrating the story, I saw the guy that went into the bus few seconds before I saw the scene. He followed me to my work place. I run to the lift. I felt really vulnerable. I did not know if those guards will stop him. I did not know what he will do. I got to my floor. Run out of the lift and got into my office. I was shaking. I thought about what he could have done if there was no one around. I was really scared. And for a second I thought about all those women that put their life at risk everyday protecting others. I do not know what the story was. I honestly don’t know what the girl did. All I saw was a girl been beaten in a public space while another guy stood and watched, another probably tried to help.
One question that it raises though : if that can be done in public, by a public servant, what is been done behind closed doors ? As a woman, today I felt vulnerable when those two aggressive looking guys walked toward me. I hope those that are suffering behind closed doors, have the courage to speak out. I hope we move toward a society where women rights truly become human rights. I say it again: I do not know what the women did to be beaten in public by a public servant. Notwithstanding, for me such behaviour cannot be normal. If you raise your hand on a women in public, what will stop you from doing it in the dark night, behind closed door where the only witness is silence ?
Photo : Evaneos