Source: The Guardian

At least four women have been murdered since the start of the year, leading to accusations of government inaction

Rights groups are calling for the Kenyan government to urgently investigate and prosecute cases of femicide, after the brutal murders of two women.

“This is a national crisis – we are not doing enough as a country to protect women,” said Audrey Mugeni, the co-founder of Femicide Count Kenya, an NGO that documents the number of women killed across the country each year.

Last year, Femicide Count Kenya recorded 152 killings – the highest in the past five years. Representatives from the nonprofit, which records reported cases only, says the actual number of killings is likely to be much higher.

At least four cases of femicide have occurred since the start of the year. Two gained public attention, including the murder of the 26-year-old Starlet Wahu on 4 January, who was stabbed by a man alleged to be part of a criminal ring, whose members violently extort and rape women they target through dating sites.

A man is in police custody and investigations continue.","text":"Police officer stoned to death after rescuing FGM survivors in Kenya ","prefix":"Related: ","role":"richLink","elementId":"91ed6907-c263-4c58-aef6-db034e396f3d"},"ajaxUrl":"","format":{"display":0,"theme":0,"design":0}}" config="{"renderingTarget":"Web","darkModeAvailable":false}" data-island-status="hydrated" style="box-sizing: border-box;">
A black woman's hand holding a razor blade against printed fabric
Police officer stoned to death after rescuing FGM survivors in Kenya
Read more

Barely two weeks after Wahu’s body was discovered, another woman was drugged and dismembered by a man she had arranged to meet in a rented flat. Her body parts were disposed of in plastic bags.

More than one in three women in Kenya report having experienced physical violence in their lifetime, according to a 2022 national survey. Rights groups say while the country has strong laws and policies against gender-based violence, implementation is wanting.

“We need to listen to women when they say they are facing violence,” said Mugeni. “Femicides don’t just happen – there’s usually a series of events that happens before it ends in [a killing] – so we need to pay more attention to that.”

Since Femicide Count Kenya was founded in 2019, it has recorded incidents of women killed by stabbing, beating, mutilation, strangling and being doused in fuel and set on fire. Most of the victims were aged between 21 and 30.

A 2019 Feminist in Kenya rally against femicide. Photograph: Courtesy of Feminist in Kenya

Recent murders have sparked widespread social media outrage, with calls for an end to gender-based violence using the hashtags #StopKillingWomen #EndFemicideKe. However, the incidents were also met with victim blaming; debates on the safety of short-term rentals where the women were killed; and suggestions that women should take greater safety precautions to ward off attacks – views that women’s groups say normalise femicide.

“These notions dangerously suggest that women deserve harm for not exerting sufficient effort to ensure their safety,” the women’s movement Feminists in Kenya posted on X. “It’s crucial to emphasise that within a culture marked by constant threats of violence, women already take numerous steps for their safety. Yet, even with these efforts, violence persists. The core problem lies not in women failing to keep safe, but in men perpetrating violence.”

In a statement released on X on Wednesday, Femicide Count Kenya criticised government inaction. “The government cannot remain complicit,” it read. “Kenya is party to international conventions against gender-based violence. The president himself has pledged to protect women’s lives. These promises are hollow when femicide remains rampant. Enforcement and accountability are urgently needed.”

The women’s rights NGO, the Centre for Rights, Education and Awareness, joined calls for the government to hold perpetrators of femicide accountable, saying it was “disturbed” and “appalled” by the “distressing pattern of violence”. Feminist movements in the country have called for protests later this month to demand an end to the killings.

“This is something that’s happening [very often] but it’s not being reported as much as it needs to be,” said Mugeni. “We need to call it what it is and speak up more about it so we can repair what is broken in society.

Go to top