‘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.