Women and feminists in Kenya took to the streets on Saturday to march against the rising cases of femicide. The nationwide protest, dubbed 'Feminists March Against Femicide', is taking place in 11 counties: Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Homabay, Turkana, Kilifi, Machakos, Kisii and Nyeri.
The protest follows a series of gruesome murders of women. The most recent are the murders of Starlet Wahu, 26, who was brutally murdered in a short-term rental apartment, and Rita Waeni, a first-year university student whose dismembered body was also found in another short-term rental apartment in Nairobi.
The murders of the two women are just the tip of the iceberg of Kenya's growing femicide problem.
In 2018, Sharon Otieno, a student at Rongo University who was reportedly the girlfriend of Migori County Governor Okoth Obado, was found dead in a forest in Oyugis town, Homa Bay County. In 2019, Ivy Wangeci, a medical student, was hacked to death by a jilted boyfriend in Eldoret.
Eunice Wangari was thrown from the balcony of a 12-storey building in Nairobi in 2020, and celebrated Olympic runner Agnes Tirop was allegedly stabbed to death by her husband in 2021.
These are some of the high publicised cases of femicide in Kenya. A study conducted by the Africa Data Hub estimates that there will be around 500 femicide victims between 2016 and 2024.
Studies conducted by UN Women show that Africa recorded the highest absolute number of female intimate partner and family related killings with an estimated 20,000 victims, followed by 18,400 in Asia, 7,900 in the Americas, 2,300 in Europe and 200 in Oceania.
All these killings occur despite the existence of robust international and national legal mechanisms to combat this heinous crime. In Kenya, the Constitution of Kenya 2010 ensures that the rights of women and girls are protected under Article 27, and the Penal Code provides for penalties for violence against women and girls.
Despite this, perpetrators of most intimate partner violence and femicide crimes go unpunished. This prompted the first feminist march against femicide in Kenya. In 2019, alarmed by the rising cases of femicide and intimate partner violence, women came together to demand accountability in peaceful protests across the country.
This Saturday, Kenyan women will once again march against the rise in femicide cases in Kenya, organising online under the hashtag #TotalShutdownKe.
Several human rights organisations, including Amnesty International, have shown their commitment and support for the march. In a statement released this Friday, Amnesty International announced that its members and staff will be participating in the march against femicide.
We call on all Kenyans to come out and raise their voices against the growing violence that violates international and Kenyan laws and poses an existential threat to the lives of women and girls," the statement said.
Leaders and human rights organisations have also expressed solidarity with victims and survivors of sexual and gender-based violence.
Azimio la Umoja leader Raila Odinga was among the first leaders to express concern over the rise in femicide cases, describing it as a "national emergency" and saying that the murder of women and girls should not be normalised.
“It is sad to see a troubling increase in the deaths of young women, leaving a trail of grief for families and friends. The abnormality of these murders cannot become the new normal. Murder is and will always be wrong, and there is no excuse,” Mr Odinga said.
Gender Cabinet Secretary Aisha Jumwa also called for investigations into recent acts of violence against women and warned the public against shaming victims of such crimes.
"We reiterate our commitment to promoting a culture of respect, equality and safety for all individuals in Kenya, regardless of gender. We encourage the public to stand united against violence and support efforts to create a safer environment for women and girls," she said in a statement.
The President's Advisor on Women's Rights, Harriette Chiggai, pledged to push for stiffer penalties for perpetrators of sexual and gender-based violence.
"It is also my commitment to work with the judiciary to expedite cases of intimate partner violence.To this end, I will also ask the criminal justice system to ensure that survivors of sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) are treated with dignity and that these cases are not delayed," Ms Chiggai said.
In the same vein, the Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly, Gladys Shollei, expressed the need for the government to strengthen the capacity of law enforcement agencies with resources and training to combat technology-facilitated GBV.
On the other hand, the Federation of Women Lawyers (Fida) Kenya accused the National Police Service of failing over the years to bring perpetrators of intimate partner violence (IPV) and femicide to justice.