‘Enough is enough’: Women in Kenya rally for war on femicide

As the world marks another International Women’s Day, Kenya and its women want this one to be a turning point that heralds the end of femicide

– As the world marks another International Women’s Day, Kenya and its women want this one to be a turning point that heralds the end of femicide  

– Murders of women in Kenya are ‘not isolated incidents,’ indicate ‘ingrained societal acceptance of violence against women, often rooted in harmful patriarchal attitudes,’ says UN Women analyst Mary Njeri 

– Main reason for femicides in Kenya is that people remain unwilling to move away from harmful social constructs, where women are seen as lesser beings, says advocate Benta Moige     


For Benta Moige, the cause of Kenya’s epidemic of violence against women is clear: a deep-rooted patriarchy that views women as lesser beings and allows – even encourages – impunity for men.

“Women are taken as people who do not have rights or are supposed to adhere to some social constructs … that, at the end of the day, expose them to violence,” Moige, a high court advocate, told Anadolu.

The conversation was about Kenya’s crisis of femicide, defined as the gender-based deliberate killing of women and girls.

As the world marks another International Women’s Day, Kenya and its women want this one to be a turning point – one that heralds the end of femicide in the East African nation.

Kenya has existing laws to combat gender-based violence but they have done little to tackle the problem, leading to mass protests recently, where scores turned out to make their voices heard.

There is a dearth of official government data, but research by independent organizations such as Femicide Count Kenya and Africa Data Hub paints a disturbing picture.

Africa Data Hub estimates over 500 women have been murdered in Kenya since 2016 to date, with many more cases going unreported.

Femicide Count Kenya recorded at least 152 murders of women in 2023, the highest figure in the past five years, but one it stresses is lower than the actual count because many more were never reported.

In just January of this year, the group counted at least 28 murders of women.

“Enough is enough. People have been unwilling to move away from those social constructs and that is why women have been finding themselves in situations where they are killed,” said Moige.

Mary Njeri, a gender-based violence analyst at UN Women, emphasizes that these killings of women are “not isolated incidents.”

“They reveal a deeply ingrained societal acceptance of violence against women, often rooted in harmful patriarchal attitudes and practices,” she said.

Who are the perpetrators?

Data suggests that a significant number of femicide cases involve intimate partner violence (IPV).

The perpetrators in 75% of these murders were people who knew the victim – an intimate partner, relative or friend, according to Africa Data Hub, with husbands and boyfriends being the most common perpetrators.

In the January case of 26-year-old Starlet Wahu, it was her boyfriend who stabbed her to death.

Wahu’s murder sparked national outrage and reignited conversations about the need for stricter laws and better mechanisms to protect women from IPV.

“The issue is even worse because femicide is being branded as if it is a morality issue on the women’s end,” Wambui Muchiri, a women’s rights activist, told Anadolu.

The issue is not what women are doing, it is that “there are murderers out here who are targeting women and killing them,” she said.

​​​​​​​“We are tired of it,” said Muchiri.

Systemic challenges

Beyond the cases that make it to national headlines, there are countless stories of femicide that remain untold in Kenya.

Gender violence experts highlight that rural areas, where resources and support services are scarce, often have higher rates of femicide.

Experts also point to a complex web of factors, including weak enforcement of existing laws.

The Protection Against Domestic Violence Act of 2016 offers a legal framework to address IPV, but challenges in implementation and resource constraints often hinder its effectiveness.

Cultural normalization of violence has also been pinpointed as a key factor, with experts agreeing that societal attitudes perpetuate gender inequality and violence against women, creating an environment where femicide is tolerated, and even justified.

The patriarchal mindset that many point to was explicitly clear in what James Mwangi, a 45-year-old taxi driver in Nairobi, had to say about the issue.

“I think it’s normal for men to exert control over their wives or partners. It’s part of our culture and it’s how things have always been,” he said in a brief conversation with Anadolu.

“Women should know their place and respect their husbands. If they don’t, they shouldn’t be surprised if things turn violent, but I am not saying they should be killed.”

But the growing chorus of voices condemning these attitudes points to the possibility of a cultural shift brewing in Kenya.

“I refuse to accept violence against women as a cultural norm. It’s barbaric and unjustifiable,” said Daniel Kipkirui, a 32-year-old university student.

“We need to challenge these harmful beliefs and create a society where women are treated with dignity and respect.”

Women’s rights organizations and civil society groups are pushing hard for increased government investment in law enforcement and the justice system, and support services for victims of IPV and femicide.

Stricter legislation is also one of their primary demands.

“We cannot simply wait for the next tragic headline,” asserted Moige, the advocate.

“We need a comprehensive and sustained approach that tackles the root causes of femicide. We have to empower women and hold the perpetrators accountable.”


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