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On this #DarkValentines Day, the Government of Kenya Must End the Femicide Surge

As more cases of femicide are being reported in Kenya, the government must take concrete steps to stop this surge of gender-based violence and bring the perpetrators to justice, said Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) today.    

At least 500 women have been murdered in Kenya since 2016. In January 2024 alone, over 10 cases of femicide were reported and not all perpetrators have been brought to account yet.  

“The government’s failure to hold the perpetrators  accountable has led to a culture of impunity and impedes deterrence,” said Naitore Nyamu-Mathenge, LLM, MA, head of office for Physicians for Human Rights-Kenya. “Femicide violates Kenyan women’s fundamental constitutional and human rights to life and freedom from violence. The government of Kenya must ensure all cases of femicide are properly investigated and perpetrators are held to account. The State Department of Gender and Affirmative Action must address the discriminatory norms that underpin such violence and send a clear message that femicide will not be tolerated.” 

It is incumbent on the government of Kenya to implement the Constitution of Kenya 2010, the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), and the Convention on Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Women, to ensure women and girls are safe and free from all forms of gender-based violence. 

While Kenyan government agencies have made various commitments and pledges, few have been followed by concrete actions that end the surge of femicide in the country. PHR calls on the Director of Criminal Prosecution to keep the public updated on the ongoing probe and share information on perpetrators who have been arrested. The judiciary must expedite the hearing and determination of the cases to ensure access to justice for the survivors of attempted femicide.  

“Accountability is key in putting a stop to these unacceptable and targeted killings of women,” said Nyamu-Mathenge. “PHR will continue to urge the Kenyan government at national and local levels to uphold their obligations to protect women from violence, and we are standing by to support the relevant government authorities in this regard.” 

As the world marks Valentine’s Day today, PHR joins other human rights organizations in the #DarkValentines campaign, in remembrance of all lives lost as a result of femicide. In January, PHR in partnership with the Coalition Against Sexual Violence issued a statement calling on key actors to prioritize investigation and prosecution of cases of gender-based violence. The #DarkValentines campaign is aimed at ensuring that Kenya’s County Assemblies and Parliament enact laws that explicitly recognize femicide as a specific criminal offence.

Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) is a New York-based advocacy organization that uses science and medicine to prevent mass atrocities and severe human rights violations. Learn more here.

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