Trigger warning: femicides
LET US ADDRESS THE FEMICIDE CRISIS IN KENYA
(Photo by Unsplash,2021)
“For most people, it is just another story, another statistic, another number, but the reality is; it is a woman you know” ( Fiji,2021)
It is not okay
Violence against women is pervasive all around the world. Gender-Based Violence (GBV) against women has recently gotten much attention as it has become a human rights crisis. It is crucial to note that many different forms of gender-based violence against women exist; nonetheless, femicides are regarded as the most extreme form of ferocity against women; however, it is taken lightly. Femicide is commonly considered as the deliberate murder of women for no other reason other than that they are women, although more expansive definitions encompass all homicides of women or girls (World Health Organization, 2012). In some aspects, femicide differs from male homicide. Domestic abuse, threats or intimidation, sexual assault, or settings in which women have less power or resources than their partners are all common occurrences of femicide.(The Republic of Kenya,2021). On November 25, the world marked the #16Days of Activism grassroots campaigns to signify a symbol of a brighter future for girls and women free from violence. For the past 16 days, the world turned orange to signify a brighter future free of violence against women and girls. Sadly, every year an average of 66,000 women are slain in violent acts across the world. Kenyan feminist activists and female-grassroots organizations are enraged by recent violence trends against women, which is nothing new to a society that has struggled with femicide for decades.
Image 2; UN women,#16DaysOfActivism,2021
Numbers do not lie
Over the years, Kenya has had a long history of violence against women. The Federation of Women Lawyers-Kenya (Fida-Kenya) reported that 1,071 cases of Sexual and Gender-Based violence (SGBs) were reported in Kenya between April 15, 2020, and February 28, 2021, with 511 cases involving intimate partners and 133 cases involving defilement (citizen television, 2021). Similarly, Counting Dead Women in Kenya revealed that in 2019, 46 women were killed in just four months (ThePixelProject.net,2020). The target victims are in the youth demographic, whom the Economist lauded as the “favorable demographics responsible for Africa’s prosperity.” a case in point. An example of one of the most horrifying cases is the death of Ivy Wangechi, a sixth-year medical student hacked to death in broad daylight. The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics stated that 40% of Kenyan women aged 15 to 49 have been victims of domestic violence at least once in their lifetimes (“A blog on gender-based violence in Kenya,” 2021). According to a study by the conversion journal (2021) looking at sexual harassment in newsrooms, 77.5 percent of women in Kenya reported that they had encountered workplace sexual harassment, with 40 percent saying they had experienced it more than five times. South Africa had a 57.5 percent rate of sexual harassment for women, whereas Nigeria had 38.1 percent. This only shows that Kenya has a high rate of sexual harassment that puts many women and girls at a high chance of being sexually defiled; the worst part is that the government lacks a national observatory that takes stock of femicide numbers (Brown, 2021).
Whom should we call out?
In talks about gender-based violence, victim-blaming has become the norm. Cases of femicide continue to be accepted, tolerated, and justified. Social media discussions on the deaths of these women demonstrate how, as a society, we are quick to criticize and blame the victims (Brown, 2021). Victims often feel there compelled to justify their actions, even in the face of clear evidence of perpetrators’ guilt. Questions such as who she was out with? , what was she wearing? Such language suggests that she was to blame for what happened to her. This only deflects attention away from the perpetrators of the violence(“Pervasive victim-blaming in the media needs to end,” 2021). As a result of such treatment, there is little public pressure to assist the victims and prosecute the perpetrators. Parents and families are subjected to unimaginable emotional and psychological pain. They lament and demand justice, but society forgets and moves on. When a person realizes that society will not punish them for their atrocities, committing such crimes becomes easy (Brown, 2021). Additionally, this proves that the government system is flawed as crimes against women are dismissed as minor misdemeanors rather than serious offenses; contrary to article 16 of the Kenyan constitution, which states that everyone has the right to life(constitution of Kenya,2010).
Image 3; UN women,2021
Gendered power inequalities
Violence and harassment against women are caused by unequal gender roles interactions among women and men in a community, particularly at a resident, at work, in the classroom, and across institutions. These reinforce social norms that promote negative attitudes, beliefs, behaviors, and many (intersectional) kinds of discrimination (“Gendered power inequalities,” 2021). Some men, for example, sexually harass women who rise to top positions or work in traditionally “male-dominated industries” as a threat to the workplace’s existing gender power structures. Many societies fail to properly denounce gender-based violence, which is exacerbated by “the notion of men’s entitlement and privilege over women.” Masculine social norms, as well as the need to exert masculine control or power, enforce gender roles, or restrict, discourage, or penalize what is deemed inappropriate feminine behavior.” (“Gendered power inequalities,” 2021). Dehumanizing women and teaching them that they have no right to speak or that their rights are subordinate to men’s rights leads to violence. Let us not become tired of speaking out against violence. Let us not forget that by remaining silent, we are participating in the creation of a world marked by inequity, hatred, and violations of our sisters’, friends’, aunties,’ daughters’, and cousins’ fundamental human rights.
Image 3; UN women,2021
How can we join the movement?
We must increase our efforts to address unequal gender power relations by joining social movements and raising our voices by supporting digital feminist campaigns to combat femicides and other types of Gender-based Violence (GBV). Additionally, we must take responsibility by approving and executing acts that protect the lives of women and girls. Moreover, we should support petitions made to Kenya’s parliament to guarantee a nationally coordinated Gender-based Violence (GBV) implementation strategy(“Focusing on prevention: Ending violence against women,” 2021). Furthermore, we must hold the government accountable for cases of impunity and ensure that all perpetrators of Gender-Based Violence (GBV) are prosecuted (“Focusing on prevention: Ending violence against women,” 2021).
A blog on gender-based violence in Kenya. WAGGGS. (2021). Retrieved 10 December 2021, from https://www.wagggs.org/ar/blog/femicide-media-sensationalism-and-victim-blaming-kenya/.
Brown, R. (2021). ‘Numbers don’t lie’: The team ‘Counting Dead Women’ in Kenya. The Christian Science Monitor. Retrieved 10 December 2021, from https://www.csmonitor.com/World/Africa/2020/0108/Numbers-don-t-lie-The-team-Counting-Dead-Women-in-Kenya.
Focusing on prevention: Ending violence against women. UN Women. (2021). Retrieved 10 December 2021, from https://www.unwomen.org/en/what-we-do/ending-violence-against-women/prevention.
Gendered power inequalities. Endvawnow.org. (2021). Retrieved 10 December 2021, from https://www.endvawnow.org/es/articles/1930-gendered-power-inequalities-.html.
How does Kenya’s femicide rate compare?. Africa Check. (2021). Retrieved 10 December 2021, from https://africacheck.org/infofinder/explore-facts/how-does-kenyas-femicide-rate-compare.
citizen tv. (2021). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8jbaimsiiWo [Video]. Youtube.
Inspirational Interview: Kathomi Gatwiri, Co-Founder of Counting Dead Women – Kenya, Part I – The Pixel Project. Thepixelproject.net. (2021). Retrieved 10 December 2021, from https://www.thepixelproject.net/2020/02/23/inspirational-interview-kathomi-gatwiri-co-founder-of-counting-dead-women-kenya-part-i/.
NTV Kenya. (2021). Ivy Wangechi Murder: Witness gives chilling details of what happened [Video]. Youtube.
Kenya response to the special rappoteur on violence against women, its cause and consequences. Ohchr.org. (2021). Retrieved 10 December 2021, from https://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Women/SR/Celebrating25Years/Kenya.pdf.
Pervasive victim blaming in the media needs to end. News.uct.ac.za. (2021). Retrieved 10 December 2021, from https://www.news.uct.ac.za/article/-2020-12-09-pervasive-victim-blaming-in-the-media-needs-to-end.
Sexism is rife in the Nigerian, Kenyan and South African press. And it’s left unchecked. The Conversation. (2021). Retrieved 10 December 2021, from https://theconversation.com/sexism-is-rife-in-the-nigerian-kenyan-and-south-african-press-and-its-left-unchecked-143358.