By Agnes Odhiambo
An article in Kenya’s Daily Nation recently profiled 10 women who were found murdered and warned other women they could be at risk of “a crime of passion.” “It appears that being young and upwardly mobile could put you at high risk of falling victim of a cold-blooded murder,” the article read, adding that none of the 10 victims profiled received any justice.
Violence against women is a serious problem in Kenya that affects women and girls from all walks of life. All too often, the media carries gruesome stories of women who have been burned, had their hands chopped off, or harassed and even undressed in public. While some of these cases have attracted widespread condemnation by Kenyans, often victims have been ridiculed and verbally abused for speaking out.
The 2014 Kenya Demographic and Health Survey said 42 percent of women and 36 percent of men believe that a husband is justified in beating his wife for at least one of these reasons: if the wife burns the food, argues with him, goes out without telling him, neglects the children, or refuses sexual relations. According to the survey, 45 percent of women and girls aged 15-49 have experienced physical violence and 14 percent have experienced sexual violence.
Sexual violence against women and girls featured heavily in the post-elections violence, both in 2007-2008, and most recently in 2017. The Kenyan government response to violence against women and girls is inadequate. Many victims do not get justice, medical assistance, or counseling following sexual violence.
The Kenyan government should set up an Office of the Special Rapporteur on Sexual Violence, as recommended by both the Commission of Inquiry into the 2007-2008 Post-Election Violence and the Truth, Justice, and Reconciliation Commission. Both bodies recognized the widespread nature of and lack of consequences for crimes against women and girls.
If effectively set up, such an office could help strengthen efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women and girls, help people deal with the aftereffects of violence, and help make sure perpetrators are brought to justice.
The Kenyan government should not continue to tolerate crimes against women and girls.