The horror of gender-based violence (GBV) in the country was literally thrown into the faces of Kenyans last week with the shocking news of the brutal killing of a young star athlete.
And before the sad news of the fatal brutality that cut short the life of the 25-year-old celebrated long-distance runner Agnes Tirop in Iten, Elgeyo Marakwet County, had sunk in, a similar horrific murder was reported in Kirinyaga County.
Another young woman, budding athlete Edith Muthoni, 27, had been slashed to death in similar circumstances, with her partner, now under arrest, the prime suspect in the murder.
The murder of Muthoni, a familiar figure at central Kenya regional athletics events, happened at her Kianjege home just a day after news of the ghastly murder of Agnes, a national heroine whose dreams to soar higher in her promising athletics career have now been viciously terminated.
These murders are as heartbreaking and unacceptable as they are exasperating. The brutality that preceded them are too painful to fathom. After toiling and sweating it out in endurance races internationally amid national cheers, Agnes would retire quietly to an abusive private space — her own home –– until the next race. Yet home should, naturally, be one’s safest space for love, peace and general tranquility.
The atrocious violence that has caused untold pain to the families of the young women and others that have gone unreported is a constant reminder of how much the nation needs to do to prevent, deal with and pluck out all forms of GBV.
It is galling and unacceptable that, with all the empowerment, especially by the civil society, including women’s and children’s rights and other campaigners, and the laws in place, the monster that is GBV bestrides the nation in a most deplorable and obnoxious way. That sends a message on the need to be more intentional to combat GBV, especially violence at home —which includes incest — whose victims are mostly women and girls, even as focus is directed at prevention.
Accepted form of abuse
It is time, too, to demonstrate, through structured actions, that GBV is intolerable and unacceptable. Perpetrators and their accomplices have to be dealt with and handed maximum punishment. Without that, the nation will continue to witness hideous violence in the form of femicide, now rampant countrywide and turning into an epidemic.
Sadly, domestic violence appears to be an accepted form of abuse, largely unreported until it becomes disastrous and tragic. Communities, including family, friends and neighbours, treat violence in homes casually, especially when it is the woman on the receiving end, shrugging it off as mambo ya nyumbani (family affair) until too late.
It is important that communities and the police understand that domestic violence is not just a couple’s or family issue; it is everybody’s business and must be reported and the alarm raised at the slightest indication of it.
Most importantly, women suffering spousal abuse and other forms of domestic violence should walk out of the relationship, no matter the circumstances. Those around such victims should encourage them to do so.
It was tear-jerking listening to Agnes’s parents narrate on TV how they were arrested after reporting to police that the prime suspect in her murder eloped with their then-Form 2 daughter, forcing her to drop out of school. As the nation prepares to lay the star athlete to rest on Saturday, the least that can be done for Vincent Tirop’s family is ensure they fully get justice for their slain daughter.
The National Police Service has taken a progressive step with the proposed Policare — the one-stop centres where survivors of sexual and gender-based violence would get specialised attention that include medical and legal services. But it is critical that gender desks at all police stations be easily accessible and managed by compassionate men and women in uniform.
Ms Rugene is founder, The Woman’s Newsroom Foundation, and consulting editor. [email protected]