The F-Word

Hey, I’m Adelle Onyango and I’m back to hijack Lwile’s blog because there’s something threatening the very existence of women globally that I think you should know about.

So here we are beginning the 16 days of activism against Gender Based Violence, (well for those of you reading this on the 25th of November) which is an international campaign where people all over the world create awareness and spark conversations on Gender Based Violence. The 16 days fall on these particular days not by chance. The 25th of November is the International Day for The Elimination of Violence Against Women and the 16th day lands on the 10th of December which is Human Rights Day.

Speaking up against violence against women is not only something I do because I am a survivor of rape, but also because the statistics are worrying to any woman. To any decent human really.

  • Did you know between 39% and 47% of Kenyan women experience Gender Based Violence in their lifetime? This is among the highest rates in the world!
  • Did you know that 1 in 3 Kenyan females has experienced an episode of sexual violence before attaining age 18!

While still on the issue of violence, there is an alarming increase in the cases of Femicide in Kenya. I follow a page on Facebook called COUNTING DEAD WOMEN KENYA where they track reported cases of Kenyan women who have been killed. So between 1st of January 2019 and 14th November 2019, 82 Kenyan women have been murdered. These are just the reported cases and one can assume the actual number is much higher.

But before I bring in more numbers let me break down what the F-word is. Femicide refers to the intentional murder of women because they are women. There are broader definitions that include any killings of women or girls. It irks me that this is such a rampant trend we not only had to define it but there are also different types of Femicide.

I’ll focus on just 3.

There is the very common INTIMATE FEMICIDE. This basically refers to the killing of a woman by a current or ex intimate partner. I say it’s common because according to the WHO, 35% of all women murdered globally, were murdered by an intimate partner. On the 11th of October the story of Susan Adhiambo hit the Kenyan press. She was murdered by her lover in Suba North, Homa Bay County. Susan was found with stab wounds on her shoulder, mouth and arm.

Also in October, there was the murder of Lucy Kanira. A 26-year-old woman from Nakuru County, who was soaked in petrol and set alight by her husband.

Still in October there was also the brutal murder of Emma Wanyota, a 21-year-old based in Eldoret. Her ex-boyfriend Mustafa hit her with a blunt object, raped her and then chopped off her legs and killed her.

There’s another type of Femicide known as HONOUR MURDERS. This refers to the killing of a woman by a man or group of men because she did something viewed as dishonorable by the community. What would be so dishonorable that would warrant death? To some communities that would be a woman having sex before marriage, committing adultery or even (and this is so heartbreaking) getting raped. So these communities claim that by murdering the woman, they are restoring their family/community’s dignity. It’s estimated that about 5,000 honor murders happen annually each year.

There is also NON-INTIMATE FEMICIDE. This is when the murder of a woman is committed by someone who has no intimate relationship with her. If such murders involve sexual violence or aggression some people will call them sexual murders.

One such incident happened in Kenya in August this year, when the body of Esther Mwikali was discovered dumped in a farm near her homestead. Her eyes had been gouged out and sticks inserted into her private parts. She was an activist who championed for land rights in Muthini village.

So this is what I’m constantly asking myself: How the fuck did we end up here?

I believe it’s a mix of many elements failing women. From policy, to state agents that are tasked to deliver justice to women but don’t and a couple of problematic “truths” that are masked behind the word culture. I want to focus on the latter today. Men just have to do better. These women are being killed by men. Just stop killing us.

The path to Femicide is paved with problematic behavior by men that has been normalized. Women are viewed as objects there for men to utilize or own and we (women) are expected to enjoy this. So what is normalized is that women have no ownership to their bodies but what is abnormal is women standing up to fight for their rights, even when we’re fighting for our right to LIVE!

An example of this is how when you’re walking down a street, men will catcall a woman and if she expresses her discomfort, there is a high chance this will result in an aggressive reaction from him. We have normalized this so much that we don’t even refer to it by what it really is – Street Harassment.

The entitlement men have over women’s bodies also manifests in the language they use when courting (do we still use this word?) a girl. Many groups of men refer to buying a girl a drink as an investment and will sometimes taunt each other asking when will said man reap the returns. It is so abnormal and almost unacceptable for a woman to own her body, to reject a man, that when she does she may end up paying for it with her life.

This year in Kenya, when cases of Intimate Femicide make it to the press, there are Kenyans who will justify the murder of a woman if there were gifts the victim was given or the murderer spent money on her. They tell us that in order to avoid being murdered we must not accept money from a man.

As Kenyan women where we go, what time we go there, how we will go there, who we will go with and what we will wear, is influenced by one thing: Our safety.

Earphones are not a luxury product but a safety product we plug in our ears to ensure we don’t engage with street harassers. Sharing our trip while using any taxi app isn’t an option but a safety option we always must use. Getting terrified when in a lift alone with a man because you know a lot can happen between 5th and 12th floor is something many of us have experienced. We are constantly adjusting our lives just so that we can be safe from men and frankly we are tired. So again, men just need to do better. Stop killing us.

 

 

 

 

 

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