"What was she wearing? Why was she out alone at night? Did she provoke the attacker? Was she involved in any risky behaviour?" and more, are the questions that are sometimes asked when a girl or a woman is the victim of violence.
While these questions, unfortunately, are perpetuating victim-blaming attitudes, they also often obscure the real issues at hand.
Femicide, which today has been the chilling reality transcending borders and cultures, continues to cast a dark shadow over the lives of women in Kenya. News headlines are filled with the names of sisters, daughters, and mothers lost to the gender-specific brutality of violence.
These stories, often hushed and overlooked, reveal a harsh reality that demands the serious attention it deserves.
Femicide is not just a statistic; it is an urgent call for societal reflection and collective action to dismantle the roots of this outrageous crime.
Since the establishment of Femicide Count Kenya in 2019, the organisation has documented horrifying incidents, ranging from stabbing and beating to mutilation and immolation.
The victims, mostly aged between 21 and 30 years, face the brutality of a society where more than one in three women report experiencing physical violence in their lifetime, as indicated by a 2022 national survey.
But honestly, where did the rain start beating us? She was just in her 20s, now she won’t see her 60s let alone enjoy her 40s. Despite the presence of strong laws and policies against gender-based violence and femicide, implementation remains a significant challenge.
Femicide Count Kenya reported a heartbreaking record of killings in 2023, the highest in the last five years. The National Crime Reporting System reveals that more than 40 per cent of Kenyan women aged 15–49 have encountered physical violence at least once in their lifetimes, with one in four women experiencing it within the last year alone. The highest incidents of femicide-related killings are reported in Nairobi, Kiambu, and Nakuru counties.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) underscores the severity of the issue, reporting alarming cases of femicide in 2023 a drastic increase from the previous year. The 2022 KNBS data puts women’s experience of physical violence and sexual violence nationally at 34 per cent and 13 per cent respectively. Strangulation and stabbing emerged as the most common causes of death, with 95 per cent of the victims being women. The report brings to light the alarming reality that a majority of femicide cases occur in rural areas, affecting predominantly low-income backgrounds. Shockingly, 60 per cent of the perpetrators are known to the victims, often husbands or ex-husbands, and 22 per cent involve other family members.
These statistics, though alarming, likely underestimate the true extent of femicide due to underreporting. The call for urgent action becomes even more pressing as governments and civic society organisations stress the need to address the root causes of femicide. Awareness, education and stricter laws and enforcement are imperative to protect women and girls.
Femicide should be treated as a national catastrophe, demanding more attention and action. The blame game, often directed at women, must cease. Victory over femicide can only be achieved through strategic research and data driven advocacy on some of the potential stressors - including conflict, socio-economic challenges, humanitarian and environmental crises. Collective action, commitment, immediate and effective measures, need to be our talk of the day. It is our individual and collective responsibility to build a nation where every girl and woman lives free from fear, violence, and intimidation.
The writers are Youth Advocates, Reproductive Health Network Kenya