By Salome Nthenya Nzuki

 

The cases of femicide in Kenya have been rising at an alarming rate going by media reports since January 2019. Femicide is the intentional murder of women and girls based on their gender. Femicide is driven by unreasonable hate for girls and women.

The Kenyan media has highlighted horrifying stories of women who have been raped, gang raped, sodomized, mutilated, doused with acid and eventually murdered without a care in the recent past.  In the month of February in Nairobi, a young woman boarded a taxi; hospital bound to seek medical attention but never reached her destination. Her mutilated body was later discovered at a city mortuary. It is suspected that she was raped, hit with a blunt object and thrown on the road to be hit by vehicles to conceal the murder. The motive of the murder is not known to date. This is just the story of one woman.  There are countless cases of femicide that I can point out. Femicide patterns indicate that every woman is at risk as perpetrators don’t spare elderly women and babies. Elderly women and children are more vulnerable and easy to be lured by people with ill motives. 

It is not a safe world for women because even as they seek to protect themselves from danger posed by strangers, it is tragic that intimate partners can turn against women and murder them.  In the month of February alone, it was reported that a man tortured his wife and set her ablaze. In another bizarre incident a man killed his wife and stuffed her body parts in a drum. A man beat his wife to death in Nairobi. A boyfriend stabbed his girlfriend to death and attempted suicide. All these murders were perpetrated after quarrels between two intimate partners.

Patriarchy and the belief in the subordination of women play a role in the rampant cases of murder of women. In most intimate relationships, men believe that they should be the dominant partner who holds power over resources and decisions.  However women are continuously being empowered and making decisions on career, how to spend their money and leaving a union that makes them unhappy. This power shift startles some men and unfortunately in order to assert their dominance, the men resort to violence and even in some cases murder. 

When a woman is killed, empathy and understanding that a crime has been committed and precious life cut short is expected but social prejudices and biases against women come to play. Both men and women play a part in justifying femicide. Some will say that a woman deserved to die because she was a mistress, a prostitute, she had an extramarital affair, was drunk and disorderly , was out at night, decided to  leave a union where a man allegedly invested large amounts of material wealth to make her comfortable amongst other reasons. It is important to note there are legal and humane methods of dispute resolution like mediation that men in intimate relationships can explore as opposed to resorting to murder.

Femicide is a grave manifestation of gender inequality in society where a low value is placed on the lives of women and girls. It is a total disregard of the humanity of women, whereby girls and women are only considered worthy of living if they submit to unrealistic societal expectations imposed on them. Article 26(1) of the Constitution of Kenya asserts that everyone has a right to life. This is a right to be enjoyed by all Kenyans, women and men alike. Femicide is therefore a crime and violation of women’s fundamental rights.

Kenyan authorities need to move in swiftly to address the cases of femicide to avert loss of life and the devastating effects that victims of slain women go through. Families of victims of femicide go through untold emotional and psychological torture associated with the sudden loss of their loved ones. At times, the slain women are the sole bread winners in the family. Femicide also instils fear amongst the female population as women and girls cannot be guaranteed of their safety.

Perpetrators of femicide should be apprehended, prosecuted and convicted. There is also a need for data collection on the cases of femicide so as to bring to light the severity of the crime considering not all cases are highlighted by the media. Security agencies need to be vigilant and act whenever women report death threats or when they receive distress calls from women in dangerous situations. Government agencies, civil society, religious and political leaders have a role to play in the prevention of femicide or bringing the perpetrators to book. 

Women’s lives matter.