Defend Truth


Come on Kenya and SA, when will GBV protests trigger an effective action plan?


Zukiswa Pikoli is a journalist and columnist at Daily Maverick and is part of the founding team of Maverick Citizen. Prior to Daily Maverick she worked as a communications and advocacy officer at Public Interest Law Centre SECTION27.

In South Africa, we have had and continue to have protests against GBV, yet a decisive response to the problem hasn’t been forthcoming.

‘We’re going to kill you! We’re going to kill you… You are going to die! You women are going to die, let me tell you!”

I came across this alarming video posted on social media as women in Kenya were holding protests against femicide across the country, including in Nairobi. In the video, a group of men shout at the protesters and threaten that they will “slice” them. Horrified, I did a search to see what sparked this.

The protests were caused by the rising number of femicides in Kenya and the gruesome killing of 20-year-old Rita Waeni, who was decapitated and dismembered on 14 January, and 26-year-old Starlet Wahu, who was stabbed and bled to death on 3 January.

What struck me the most was how the men angrily mocking the women felt justified in saying what they did and didn’t fear recrimination. This served to underscore what the women claimed was the authorities’ attitude towards the problem, which is one of not taking the women seriously and not acting against the perpetrators.

Gender-based violence is a problem the world over. Living in a country with one of the worst femicide rates, the video struck a particularly strong chord. In South Africa, we have had and continue to have protests of our own (in some of which I have participated), yet a decisive response to the problem hasn’t been forthcoming.

I wonder if men, especially those claiming not to be abusers, ask themselves what it must feel like to have someone look you in the eye and say with great conviction and gusto, “I will kill you”, simply because you are a woman.

They say it confidently, knowing they will get away with it – feeling empowered to threaten someone’s life simply because you feel offended defies comprehension.

The act of femicide committed by intimate partners is rife in Africa. A 2022 UN Women report found that “Africa recorded the largest absolute number of female intimate partner and family-related killings with an estimated 20,000 victims; followed by 18,400 in Asia; 7,900 in the Americas; 2,300 in Europe; and 200 in Oceania”. The report also cautions that, although the recorded numbers are high, many of these incidents go unreported.

With these killings seemingly on the rise, the other question that arises is how effective protesting really is. This is not to say that there is no value in protest action, but we need to consider the gains that have or have not been made.

In our country, we have had many “shutdowns” decrying GBV. Protest actions create a spectacle, but gains have yet to be felt. I can only stand in solidarity with Kenyan women and urge their government to clamp down on the violence — an action that I would urge my own government to take. DM

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R29.

DM168 front page


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Tim Bester says:

    I would like the author to spend some time thinking about what government, the police (or society) should do to put a stop to this form of interpersonal violence. Having done that she can draft a practical plan, rather than repeat the terrible statistics and rage on about the “many “shutdowns decrying GBV. Protest actions create a spectacle, but gains have yet to be felt”.

  • Vic Mash says:

    There is no such thing as GBV if it is used selectively, a man was chased down the street by here police officer’s wife, shot five times in the street and it was said to be a domestic dispute. would it have been called that if it was the man who did that? how many men have been killed by their wives who cried self defence?

  • Angus Summers says:

    Communities and families need to have this uncomfortable discussion regarding GBV.
    This comes back to how parents raise their children.
    Its about parents setting examples for their children on how women are treated.
    Yes, shelters can be built and counselling can be provided to abused women, this,
    however, is not going to fix the problem.

  • Andre Swart says:

    Hot air!

    … spoken words directed at sober individuals is a waste of time!

    Loving fathers, husbands, brothers and friends are the foundation that supports healthy family life and society in general.

    But alcohol and drug abuse turn the same loving men into raging SAVAGES that assault, rape and kill other people (not just women).


    1. First shut down the shebeens and drug dens in the neighbourhood, then the liquor stores!

    2. Avoid places where alcohol and drugs are abused!

    3. Avoid all people that are inclined to abuse alcohol and drugs … UNFRIEND them.

    All murders, including femicide, will decline with 70% if individuals and society do the above.

    Save the hot air (shouting!) and DO the above … to prevent violence! Be pro-active!

    There’s no cure after the damage is done …

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