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The other side of relationship classifieds in ‘The Star’

By Mercy Kwamboka

In recent weeks, Kenyans have been waking up to shocking stories of young women attacked or murdered in cold blood by men suspected to have been dating them.

The earliest reported case this year was that of Starlet Wahu, the 26-year-old socialite found murdered inside an Airbnb in Nairobi’s South B Estate.

Unconfirmed reports indicated that the deceased may have met her killer through a dating site. Days later, another disturbing case of a young woman murdered, body parts dismembered and stashed in a dustbin hit headlines.

The killings, loudly condemned by leaders and human right activists as femicide, ought to trigger another debate: Should the media advertise dating sites whose credibility cannot be verified?

While society cannot control the lifestyles of youths who are increasingly turning to the internet for dating, the media has the responsibility of guiding the youth and sensitising them on the dangers lurking behind some dating websites.

The public considers media houses as the most trusted sources of information. As such, when the media runs acres of adverts offering all kinds of relationships including sugar mummies, sugar daddies, homosexuals, foreigners, celebrities and many more, there are sections of the public that might be forgiven for rushing into the arms of complete strangers.

It is the media’s responsibility to act as custodian of our society’s values and morality.  Running adverts on thinly veiled invitations to sex escapades with strangers, especially in the wake of the recent killings, is both irresponsible and immoral.

It is also the duty of any responsible media to offer solutions to societal problems. One would expect our media houses to host experts to help unbundle the fatal psychology that makes young women throw all caution to the wind and agree to meet complete strangers in strange places, or even what drives the killers to their victims; the dos and don’ts of blind dates, and so on.

This is the least that the media ought to do – putting forth the narrative of the need to create meaningful relationships. Perhaps these are among the unmet expectations that may have contributed to the recent murders in Airbnbs.

The media must take responsibility for educating the public against harmful dating sites by doing background checks of clients placing relationship adverts.

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