Red flag as femicide, defilement cases spiral out of control

Haki Africa

Haki Africa Executive Director Hussein Khalid and other officials during a press conference at their Nairobi offices, where they condemned the rising cases of gender-based violence on April 23, 2021

Photo credit: Kanyiri Wahito | Nation Media Group

What you need to know:

  • Between January 2020 to December 2020, 5,009 cases were reported through SGBV toll-free helpline.
  • The crisis has drawn the attention of former PM Raila Odinga, who has called for urgent measures to stop SGBV

In just 48 hours, between April 17 and April 18, four girls in three different counties were defiled. In all these cases, the perpetrators are a village man, a father and a police officer.

On April 17, a father reportedly swallowed a condom he was using to defile his 11-year-old daughter in Kismayo, Embu County after he was caught in the act.

The next day, a man is said to have defiled two girls aged 17 and two at their home in Mwingi, Kitui County. He then poisoned them, leading to the death of the younger one.

On the same day, another 16-year-old girl was reportedly defiled by a police officer attached to Sigomere police station in Ugunja, Siaya County.

And last week on Tuesday, a Mr Franklin Munyao was arrested  on suspicion of  killing his girlfriend. He is said to have stayed with her body in his rental house at Kambi Moto village in Ruiru, Kiambu County, till his apprehension.

His arrest followed that of Evans Karani, who confessed to have murdered his estranged girlfriend Catherine Nyokabi on April 14 in Juja, Kiambu County.

Painfully so, the list could go on and on. From the consistent string of defilements and femicides, it is evidential that sexual and gender based violence (SGBV) is resoundingly prevalent in Kenyan homes and communities.

Too many lives being lost

In a Twitter post last Tuesday, Mr Odinga expressed concern over the piling cases of intimate partner murders.

“Too many lives are being lost on an almost daily basis going by media reports,” he said.

He said the killings cannot be normalised, calling for urgent measures to stop any incidents of SGBV.

“This scourge must come to an end. The abnormality of these murders cannot become the normal. No! If you cannot reconcile, then leave and let live. We need an urgent candid discussion on #GenderBasedViolence as a nation,” he noted.

In a press conference last Thursday, Ministry of Public Service and Gender Cabinet Secretary Margaret Kobia said SBGV is a complex issue whose preventive solution could come through a collective action.

“(The) government cannot win the fight single-handedly. All sections of our society have an important role to play, whether big or small, in preventing (S) GBV, and save the society,” she said.

Data from the ministry indicates that between January 2019 to December 2019, a total of 1,411 cases were reported through the national SGBV toll-free helpline 1195.

Defilement and rape

In the similar period last year, the numbers increased almost fourfold to 5,009. And in the first quarter of this year, 286 of them have been recorded, with Nairobi, Kakamega, Kisumu, Nakuru and Kiambu counties reporting the highest prevalence.

In her earlier statement on April 20, Prof Kobia identified physical assault, psychological torture, defilement and rape as the leading forms of SGBV.

“The Covid-19 pandemic containment measures have increased the vulnerability of women and girls owing to confinement at home with their abusers; with nowhere to run to for safety,” she said.

She added: “There is increased intimate partner violence, girls staying home from school are vulnerable to many forms of abuse including defilement and female genital mutilation.”

She said the government through the inter-agency programme is utilising the Sh200 million anti-SGBV package to effortlessly tackle the problem.

The programme is run by an inter-agency committee led by her ministry and constituting of five other ministries- Interior, Education, ICT, Health and Labour. It also includes representatives from the counties, development partners, and other non-State actors.

She said in addition to a safe house established by Makueni County, other rescue centres have been established in West Pokot, Bungoma, Vihiga, Meru and Migori counties with funding from the National Government Affirmative Action Fund.

Kitui Governor Charity Ngilu last week also called for a national conversation on the crisis to pave  way for urgent measures to end the vice.

National crisis

 “I wish to condemn, in the strongest terms, the increase in senseless killings of women all over the country.  These women who are being killed are in the prime of their life, with young children to look after. This is a national crisis, which must be addressed by all leaders. As national and county governments, we must not let these murders happen under our watch," said Ms Ngilu.

The governor added she is aware there are many other cases of women who have been murdered in villages and towns but the cases go unreported.

“Of great concern is the fact that the perpetrators are still walking free and probably killing other women. I am calling on all leaders  to raise their voices against this dangerous culture , which is slowly taking root in our country,” the governor said.

Further, civil society organisations have complemented the State’s efforts in running other shelters.

There are at least 36 privately owned shelters in Kenya spread across 14 counties according to the National Shelters Network.

They are located in Nairobi, Kajiado, Mombasa, Kiambu, Nyeri, Samburu and Meru counties. Others are in Laikipia, Machakos, Murang’a, Makueni, Kisumu, Kwale and Nakuru counties.

Additional reporting by Kamau Maichuhie