The rising number of reported femicide cases in Kenya in January 2024 continues to raise concerns among women.
As is expected of Kenya, everyone became experts on the issue, many giving unsolicited advice about what women ‘should do’ or what the victims ‘would have done’ to prevent their deaths.
In a patriarchal society, women bear the burden of being in charge of their own security! The masses have had their share of advice, some asking women not to go on dates with strangers (yet it’s the stranger that you meet that becomes a friend), returning home early, others condemning the women for being women, and to the extent of slut-shaming the victims… That was too much!
Analysis undertaken by OdipoDev and published by Africa Uncensored has shown a trend over the years: the highest numbers of women are killed by their husbands as compared to strangers, at a ratio of 2:1. It dwarfs the alarm bells over strangers.
Digitally unhygienic practices
We actively participate in violating the privacy of victims of femicide and other women in digital spaces by interacting with crime scene content by liking, retweeting, and sharing the raw footage and pictures. Making light of the moment and making funny comments has fueled the validation that the perpetrators need to take matters into their own hands. This action in turn increases the rating of such posts according to the social platform algorithms.
Femicide is not a unique case but rather an escalation of online gender-based violence. This crime does not spare any woman; a good example was the high number of female politicians who faced a lot of online harassment during the 2022 election to discourage them from vying for political seats.
It is through doxing, personal relationships, or even stalking that you find these cases escalate from online platforms to physical attacks and, unfortunately, murder cases.
The most cringing part about femicide is how it has been glorified as a form of ‘correcting societal wrongs’. Talking about lost ethics and how girls are ‘actively selling themselves’ to strangers. How many times have you witnessed a woman or girl posting some beautiful picture of themselves, and the next thing you know, it’s the harassment that follows in the comment section?
One may start with ‘Women like you need to be taught a lesson’, or ‘It is a shame that you need to display your body to get likes and followers’, or ‘This behaviour needs to be corrected by ripping off clothes so that you stay naked as you wish’. The funny bit is that it is the same men from the public comment section that go to the inbox and want to have more personal information and relationships with the lady.
Some perpetrators get ideas from such comments and start planning their attacks. The sad bit is that even with the arrest of the perpetrators, you find that the cases are either delayed in courts or the perpetrators are released back into society due to ‘lack of more evidence for investigation’. Grieving families that need closure will find themselves dropping the case and pursuing justice. A lack of funds to keep the case going also drains them to the point of dropping the case. It is this inaction that fuels femicide.
The community judgment also never spares the victim’s family. You find raw and disturbing pictures being shared on various social media platforms in the rush of getting the ‘raw’ news. What people forget is the hurt of loved ones seeing their family member, friend, or sister being socially ridiculed and judged by a crowd that doesn’t know even half of the story! We need to change this!
We can participate in reducing online gender-based violence and eventually stopping the cases of femicide by being involved. Encourage positive online relationships by promoting and building supportive online communities and social networks where women feel safe and empowered Advocate for strong online moderation against cyberbullying, harassment, and violence against women, with an emphasis on local languages.
Before posting anything, fact-check and apply critical thinking and scepticism to every piece of information found online. Personal information shared online can be misused; minimizing the online footprint and controlling data sharing will reduce privacy risks.
In instances where you witness active harassment, guide the victim to trusted offline resources and support networks for additional help and guidance in dealing with the attacks. Always offer support and resources to victims of online violence without sensationalizing or re-victimizing them.
Practice digital safety and protect society. #EndFemicideKE