Femicide in Kenya: A deeply disturbing and urgent national crisis

Femicide in Kenya A deeply disturbing and urgent national crisis Femicide in Kenya A deeply disturbing and urgent national crisis
Kenyan women shout slogans and holding banners during a march to mark International Women's Day in Nairobi, Kenya Friday, March 8, 2019. Hundred of women held street protest and marched in downtown Nairobi highlighting domestic violence, sexual attacks and discrimination in jobs and wages against them. Violent crime against women has been on the rise in kenya .(AP Photo/Khalil Senosi)

In recent years, the horrifying prevalence of femicide in Kenya has reached alarming proportions, prompting rights groups to demand immediate action from the government. The brutal murders of two women serve as a stark reminder of the urgent need to address this deeply disturbing national crisis.

Audrey Mugeni, the co-founder of Femicide Count Kenya, an NGO dedicated to documenting the number of women killed in the country each year, emphasized the gravity of the situation. According to Mugeni, “This is a national crisis – we are not doing enough as a country to protect women.” The figures compiled by Femicide Count Kenya are indeed shocking. In the past year alone, the organization recorded 152 killings – the highest number in the last five years. Disturbingly, these reported cases likely only scratch the surface, with the true number of femicides suspected to be much higher.

The start of this year has seen a spate of horrifying femicides, with at least four cases already reported. Two of these cases have garnered significant public attention. The murder of 26-year-old Starlet Wahu on January 4th shook the nation as it unfolded. Wahu was brutally stabbed by a man believed to be part of a criminal ring that extorts and rapes women they meet on dating sites. This heinous act drew outrage and shed light on the dangers women face in online spaces. While a suspect is now in police custody, investigations are still ongoing.

Femicide in Kenya A deeply disturbing and urgent national crisis
Femicide in Kenya A deeply disturbing and urgent national crisis

Shockingly, barely two weeks after Wahu’s tragic death, another woman met a gruesome fate. The young woman had arranged to meet a man in a rented flat but was instead drugged and dismembered. Her dismembered body parts were later discovered dumped in plastic bags. The horrifying nature of these crimes underscores the urgent need for effective measures to combat femicide.

According to a national survey conducted in 2022, more than one in three women in Kenya reported experiencing physical violence at some point in their lives. While the country boasts strong laws and policies aimed at curbing gender-based violence, the problem lies in their implementation. Rights groups argue that there is a blatant lack of enforcement and accountability, allowing perpetrators to act with impunity.

The endemic levels of femicide in Kenya are not isolated incidents but rather reflective of deep-rooted societal issues, including patriarchal norms and gender inequalities. Cultural attitudes that perpetuate violence against women need to be confronted head-on. Education and awareness campaigns must be implemented to challenge harmful stereotypes and promote gender equality. Furthermore, the legal and justice systems must be strengthened to ensure swift and fair investigations, prosecutions, and adequate support for victims.

Mugeni emphasized the importance of listening to women when they speak out about experiencing violence. Femicide Count Kenya, since its establishment in 2019, has documented cases of women being killed through various brutal means such as stabbing, beating, mutilation, strangling, and being set on fire after being doused in fuel. The majority of these victims were young women between the ages of 21 and 30.

The recent incidents of femicide have sparked widespread outrage on social media, with hashtags like #StopKillingWomen and #EndFemicideKe being used to demand an end to gender-based violence. However, alongside this outcry, there has also been victim-blaming, debates about the safety of short-term rentals where the killings occurred, and suggestions that women should take more precautions to protect themselves. Women’s groups argue that these responses normalize femicide and dangerously imply that women are responsible for their own harm.

Feminists in Kenya, a women’s movement, highlighted the importance of recognizing that women already take numerous steps to ensure their safety in a culture where violence is a constant threat. Despite these efforts, violence against women persists, and the root of the problem lies in men perpetrating violence, not women failing to protect themselves.

In a statement released on Wednesday, Femicide Count Kenya criticized the government for its inaction, pointing out that Kenya is a party to international conventions against gender-based violence and that the president himself has pledged to protect women’s lives. However, these promises ring hollow when femicide continues to occur at an alarming rate. The organization called for urgent enforcement and accountability to address this issue.

The Centre for Rights, Education, and Awareness, a women’s rights NGO, also joined the chorus of voices demanding that the government hold perpetrators of femicide accountable. They expressed their deep concern and shock at the distressing pattern of violence and called for immediate action.

It is imperative that the government takes decisive steps to address femicide and ensure the safety and well-being of women in Kenya. The voices of women must be heard, and their experiences of violence must be taken seriously. Only through collective efforts and a commitment to accountability can we put an end to this grave issue.

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