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Mass demonstrations sweep Kenya as women protest surge in femicide cases

Kenyan women and activists stage nationwide protests against rising femicide, demanding justice and legal recognition of the crime.

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KENYA – In a powerful display of unity and defiance, women and activists across Kenya staged massive demonstrations on Saturday (27 Jan), protesting the alarming surge in femicide cases plaguing the nation.

Dubbed the “Feminist March Against Femicide,” the nationwide protests unfolded across 11 cities, including Nairobi, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nakuru, Eldoret, Homabay, Turkana, Kilifi, Machakos, Kisii, and Nyeri.

The demonstrations come in the wake of a series of gruesome murders targeting women throughout Kenya over the past month. Shockingly, a total of 16 women have fallen victim to these heinous crimes during this period.

Kenyan women organize a peaceful protest in Nairobi, the capital of Kenya, on Saturday (27 Jan), in response to the surge in femicide incidents. (Photo: Capital News)

Defined by the United Nations General Assembly, femicide constitutes the killing of women driven by hatred, revenge, domination, possession, pleasure, and the perception of women as mere possessions, subject to the perpetrator’s whims.

Among the tragic cases is that of Starlet Wahu (26), whose lifeless body was discovered in an AirBnB in Nairobi’s South B on 3 January.

Authorities arrested a man suspected of her murder days later as he sought treatment at a hospital. Investigations revealed that Wahu had been stabbed multiple times before her body was concealed in the room where she had spent the night with the perpetrator.

Similarly, chilling is the case of Rita Waeni (20), a first-year university student, who met a gruesome fate in her Nairobi apartment on 14 January.

Police found her dismembered body discarded in a polythene bag near a dustbin outside the short-stay house where she had planned to spend time with a man. Despite the suspect being seen leaving the scene in blood-stained attire, law enforcement was yet to apprehend the main perpetrator at the time of reporting.

These incidents represent the visible tip of the iceberg concerning femicide in Kenya, with past cases including the murder of Sharon Otieno, a Rongo University student, whose lifeless body was discovered in a forest in Oyugis in 2018.

In 2019, Ivy Wangeci, a medical student, was brutally hacked to death by a man who had been spurned in Eldoret.

In 2020, Eunice Wangari was thrown from a 12th-floor balcony in Nairobi, while Olympic runner Agnes Tirop succumbed to stab wounds inflicted by her husband in 2021.

A study conducted by UN Women highlights Africa as the continent with the highest recorded cases of partner and family-related homicides globally, estimating approximately 20,000 victims.

Meanwhile, the Africa Data Hub projects around 500 femicide victims in Kenya between 2016 and 2024.

Despite robust national and international legal mechanisms aimed at combating such atrocities, femicide persists in Kenya. While the country’s 2010 Constitution guarantees the protection of women and girls under Article 27, the Kenyan Penal Code also prescribes punishments for violence against women and girls.

However, a significant portion of perpetrators evade commensurate punishment, spurring women and activists to rally against femicide. The movement was first conceived in 2019.

The recent protests signify Kenyan women’s resolute rejection of crime and injustice against their gender. Supported by human rights organizations, including Amnesty International, demonstrators called on all Kenyan citizens to speak out against escalating violence that violates both international and national laws, posing genuine threats to women and girls.

Brandishing placards bearing messages such as “being a woman is not a crime, protect women and stop killing women,” protesters demanded protection and stringent action against perpetrators.

They were joined by members of the Law Society of Kenya, led by President Eric Theuri, and Nairobi Women Representative Esther Passaris, as they marched through city streets before converging at Uhuru Park.

Central to the protesters’ demands is the legal recognition of femicide as a distinct crime, arguing that its conflation with murder fails to account for the unique circumstances and power differentials between men and women or harmful gender norms underpinning these killings.

Maria Angela Maina, 26, a lawyer and gender equality advocate, stressed the importance of raising awareness about femicide, noting the distinct nature of these murders and the urgency of addressing the issue through public protests.

While the growing clamor signals heightened awareness of femicide, activists hope it will spur enhanced enforcement of laws safeguarding women.

Nevertheless, protesters have encountered resistance and threats, including a video circulating online featuring two men opposing the demonstrations and issuing threats against women.

Activist Boniface Mwangi called for more men to vocally condemn femicide, emphasizing the need for collective action to end the violent killings.

Calls for Kenya’s leaders to address the femicide crisis have intensified, with women’s non-profit Akili Dada urging authorities to implement effective measures to protect women and girls.

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