Kenyan Women Protest Femicide Epidemic Amid Alarming Rise in Cases

Thu Feb 01 2024
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NAIROBI, KENYA: The gruesome murder of Kenyan student Rita Waeni, with her head severed and body parts chopped off, has sparked nationwide protests against a growing femicide epidemic.

Thousands of women took to the streets in Nairobi, demanding an end to the alarming trend. In 2022, Kenya recorded 725 femicide cases, the highest since data collection began in 2015, according to a UN Office on Drugs and Crime report. Rights groups describe femicide as a “pandemic” and urge the government to treat it as a “national disaster.”

The murder of Rita Waeni is one of at least 16 femicide incidents recorded in Kenya in the first month of 2024. Her brutal killing, where body parts were dumped and her head later found in a dam, shocked the nation. Kenya’s top government pathologist expressed astonishment at the unprecedented nature of the crime.

Femicide in Kenya has become an alarming reality, with 75% of cases perpetrated by intimate partners and family members, as revealed by a January report from OdipoDev, a Nairobi-based data science company. The crisis is exacerbated by cultural silence and victim-blaming, contributing to underreported cases.

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Usikimye, a safe house for survivors of sexual and gender-based violence, was founded by Njeri Migwi in 2019 after escaping a 15-year marriage marked by violence. The majority of femicide cases go undocumented, and religious and political leaders’ silence further perpetuates the issue.

Despite Kenya’s efforts to address sexual and gender-based violence through specialized courts and PoliCare centers, activists argue that the legal system still fails women. Research by OdipoDev reveals a lengthy process, with an average of 1,900 days before a femicide suspect is sentenced. Victims emphasize the need for a shift in attitudes, as incidents are sometimes dismissed by law enforcement.

Following public outrage over Rita Waeni’s murder, Kenya’s Directorate of Criminal Investigations pledged to expedite investigations into serious sexual offenses and femicide incidents involving women. The director of criminal investigations emphasized the urgency to end the worrying trend of femicide in the country.

Protesters hope that the government’s commitment will be followed by concrete actions to address the root causes of femicide and provide effective legal and social support for victims.

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