NAIROBI, Kenya – The recent brutal murders of two Kenyan women have put a spotlight on the alarming regularity of gender-based violence in the East African country, leading to calls for more government measures to protect women.
The first victim was 20-year-old student Rita Waeni, who was killed and dismembered in a short-term rental apartment in the capital city of Nairobi on January 14. Just days before, 26-year-old Instagram personality Starlet Wahu was found dead in an Airbnb room, bleeding out from a fatal stab wound inflicted by a man she met online.
These two cases are just a small part of at least four reported gender-based murders in Kenya since the beginning of the year, indicating an alarming increase in violence against women, according to rights groups. In response to these horrific incidents, women are planning to gather for a protest on January 27 to demand stronger action from the authorities.
CCTV footage captured Starlet Wahu walking with a male figure into a short-term rental in Nairobi on the evening of January 3. The man left the premises the next morning with bloodied clothes and a possible leg injury, according to a guard who spoke to the police. Wahu’s lifeless body was found with stab wounds and bite marks, with police discovering HIV test kits and a bloodied knife in the room. A suspect, believed to be a serial offender, has since been arrested.
Rita Waeni’s dismembered body was found dumped in a bag at a trash collection point in the central business district of Nairobi on January 14. Eyewitnesses reported that only the man she had entered the short-term rental with left the room, and that blood traces led them to the bag. Waeni’s family also received text messages asking for a ransom after her murder. It is reported that Waeni may have been lured by her murderer through the social app, Instagram. Three male suspects are currently in custody, one of whom was arrested at the airport on his way out of the country.
In addition to these tragic murders, Kenyan media has reported the killings of two other women in the past week, further highlighting the severity of the situation. According to activists in Kenya, the country is experiencing a rise in femicide, with a significant number of women and girls falling victim to intentional murders primarily because of their gender.
Apart from physical violence, reports also document cases of women being beaten, stabbed, and raped. According to the nonprofit organization, Usikimye, which runs a helpline for female survivors of violence, they receive over 150 calls daily, including from individuals reporting third-party abuse cases.
Despite existing national laws and treaties aimed at addressing gender-based violence, activists argue that government policies remain largely ineffective in protecting women and prosecuting perpetrators. The prevalent “misogynistic” culture in Kenya sees women as objects to be “owned,” leading to widespread victim-blaming and a lack of justice for women who fall victim to violence.
Women’s groups in Kenya are demanding that femicide be recognized as a distinct crime, with heavier sentences for perpetrators, as well as training for health and law enforcement officers to proactively identify and protect vulnerable individuals. The ongoing investigations into the recent murders have sparked a nation-wide call for action, with women mobilizing for demonstrations later in January, using hashtags like #EndFemicideKE, #StopKillingUs, and #TotalShutdownKE.
The increasing rates of femicide in Kenya are a cause for major concern, as the country’s government grapples with the urgent need to address gender-based violence and ensure the safety and protection of women.