85 women killed this year as cases of femicide soar

Tuesday, December 24th, 2019 00:00 |
Former Moi University medical student Ivy Wangeci, who was killed outside the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in April. Photo/PD/FILE

Ann Nyathira

Last Friday, residents of Kianyaga in Gichugu constituency, Kirinyaga county woke up to a rude shock of the killing of a policewoman by her husband. 

Caroline Wangari Mbote,31, was stabbed to death by her husband who then committed suicide.

Wangari failed to report to work at Kianyaga Police Station prompting her colleague to check on her only to find her lying on the floor in the house.

The police officer had been stabbed several times with a kitchen knife.

Wangari’s killing is one of the latest cases of femicide spread across the country.

And as ironic as it sounds, not even a law enforcement officer is safe from the trend, which involves killing of a woman or girl, particularly by a man, on account of her gender.

This year alone, at least 85 women have been killed countrywide under different circumstances.

According to data emanating from media reports, the victims range from as young as four years to as old as 70 years.

Majority of the victims were aged between 21 and 30 years — at the prime of their lives. To put the number—85—of women killed this year to perspective, the victims can fill six 14-seater matatus!

Femicide represents the most extreme form of violence against women.

Data from a report by Code For Africa indicates that 49 per cent of the victims were killed by their partners, including boyfriends, husbands and former lovers. The rest— 51 per cent—were killed by criminal gangs and unknown people. 

Shallow grave

The killings took the form of strangulation, poisoning, setting victims on fire,  hacking using weapons such as knives and machetes. Worse still, 15 per cent of the victims were raped before being killed.

 Besides Wangari’s killing, other cases of femicide have this year dominated newspaper headlines.  

Last month, a military officer Major Peter Mugure—now discharged from duties—led police to the cemetery where the bodies of his former wife Joyce Syombua and their two children were buried in a shallow grave.

The three were reported missing after spending two days at Mugure’s place at the Laikipia Airbase, Nanyuki.

Postmortem test revealed that Syombua died as a result of multiple blows on the head while her children were strangled. Mugure is the main suspect in the triple murder.

 And in Nakuru, the body of 25-year-old Faith Wangui was found on November 19. Like Joyce, Faith had disappeared after she went to visit her estranged lover Joseph Muchiri in an attempt to reconcile.

Her decomposing body was found dumped at Menengai Crater, with her left hand and breast missing. Her face had been doused with acid.

 In April, the killing of Moi University student Ivy Wangeci shook the country. 

The 25-year-old sixth-year medical student was hacked to death with a machete by a stalker who claimed to be her jilted boyfriend.

Wangeci had just completed her ward rounds at the Moi Teaching and Referral Hospital in Eldoret when the man ambushed her, killing her on the spot.

The man would later confess killing Wangeci because she had rejected him and claimed to have “invested” in her financially.

In May, a 24-year-old prison warder Pauline Wangari was killed at her home in Kiharu, Murang’ a county. A suspect identified as Joseph Ochieng’, who was reportedly her lover, confessed to the murder.

  The killings, especially love-related caused uproar, with civil society groups calling for action.

 On March 8, during the International Women’s Day, Kenyan women held a demonstration to protest the rising cases of femicide in the country.

The event, organised by Feminists in Kenya—a women rights group led by Vivian Ouya, demanded the government declare the killings a crisis.

The women petitioned the Office of the President, the Judiciary and Parliament to declare femicide a national emergency.

UN report

  The crisis is not unique to Kenya, with a high number of women losing their lives at the hands of their loved ones globally.

An average 137 women across the world are killed by a partner or a family member daily, with an average of five women every 60 minutes according to a 2018 report by United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

 The report also showed that 87,000 women were killed intentionally in 2017, with 30,000 of these killings dying at the hands of their current or former partners. It shows women are most at risk in their own homes.

UNODC also indicated that Kenya was among the countries with the highest cases of female homicides.

Titled ‘Global study on homicide: Gender-related killings of women and girls’, the study found that women are more likely to die in the hands of someone they know.

 According to the report, 38.5 per cent of girls and women aged 15 to 49 in Kenya have experienced physical violence at least once in their lifetime, while 24 per cent experienced physical violence in 2018.

The report listed jealousy and fear of abandonment as among the prime motives.

Physical violence

 The distribution of these incidences differed depending on the region of the country.

This year, the Rift Valley region, for instance, recorded the highest number of women killings at 26 per cent followed by Nairobi, Nyanza, and Central with each recording 12 per cent of the deaths.

Coast region had the lowest number of incidents at five per cent. There were three women killed outside the country in India, Australia, and Canada.

According to Kenya’s Demographic and Health Survey, among ever-married women, the most commonly reported perpetrator of physical violence is the current husband or partner (57 per cent) followed by the former husband/partner (24 per cent). 

By contrast, only about one in 10 men who have experienced physical violence since age 15 mention their current spouse as a perpetrator of physical violence.

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