Human rights organizations are urging the Kenyan authorities to promptly investigate and bring to justice cases of femicide, following the vicious killings of two women.
Audrey Mugeni, co-founder of Femicide Count Kenya, an NGO that tracks the annual number of women killed in the country, stated that our nation is facing a serious crisis as we are not taking sufficient measures to safeguard women.
In the previous year, Femicide Count Kenya documented 152 homicides, which is the greatest number in the last five years. According to members of the nonprofit organization, who only document reported incidents, the true number of homicides may be significantly higher.
There have been at least four instances of femicide in the current year. Two of these cases have received widespread recognition, one being the killing of 26-year-old Starlet Wahu on January 4th. She was fatally stabbed by a man believed to be involved in a criminal group that uses violent tactics to extort and sexually assault women they meet on dating websites.
A man has been detained by the police and investigations are ongoing.
Only a mere fourteen days after Wahu’s remains were found, a different female was drugged and cut into pieces by a man she had planned to meet in a leased apartment. Her body fragments were discarded in plastic bags.
A 2022 national survey found that over 33% of women in Kenya have been victims of physical violence during their lifetime. Despite having robust laws and policies against gender-based violence, the implementation in the country is inadequate, according to rights organizations.
Mugeni emphasized the importance of taking women seriously when they report experiencing violence. She also pointed out that femicides are not isolated incidents, but often the result of a pattern of events leading up to the fatal act. Therefore, it is crucial for us to pay closer attention to these warning signs.
Since its establishment in 2019, Femicide Count Kenya has documented cases of women who have been killed through stabbing, beating, mutilation, strangulation, and being doused in fuel and set on fire. The majority of these victims were between the ages of 21 and 30.
The recent killings have caused a lot of anger on social media, as people demand an end to violence against women with the hashtags #StopKillingWomen and #EndFemicideKe. Unfortunately, there has also been victim blaming, discussions about the safety of short-term rentals where the murders took place, and suggestions that women should be more careful to prevent attacks. Women’s advocacy groups argue that these views only serve to justify femicide.
The statement shared by the women’s movement Feminists in Kenya on X is concerning as it implies that women are at fault for not putting in enough effort to protect themselves from harm. It is important to recognize that in a society where violence against women is prevalent, women are already taking various measures to ensure their safety. However, despite these efforts, violence continues to occur. The root issue lies in the actions of men perpetrating violence, not in women’s failure to keep themselves safe.
On Wednesday, Femicide Count Kenya issued a statement expressing disappointment with the government’s lack of action. The statement emphasized that the government cannot continue to be passive in the face of femicide and reminded that Kenya has committed to international agreements to combat gender-based violence. Despite the president’s promise to safeguard women’s lives, the prevalent occurrence of femicide undermines the sincerity of these assurances. Immediate measures for enforcement and accountability are crucial.
The NGO focused on women’s rights, the Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness, has added their voice to the demand for the government to take action against those responsible for femicide. They expressed their concern and shock over the disturbing trend of violence and have joined the feminist movements in calling for protests to put an end to these killings.
Mugeni stated that although this is a frequent occurrence, it is not receiving enough attention. It is important to acknowledge and address this issue in order to mend the societal damage.