Femicide: A global issue that can’t be ignored

In January this year, the nation was shaken by the news of the murder of Alexia Mupende. The model had been killed by a domestic worker at her father’s home in Nyarugunga Sector, Kicukiro District.

And though her death may or may not have been directly linked to femicide, the barbarian act was still violence against women.

Regardless of the strategies in place, violence against women has continued to prevail in the country and beyond. For example, in Kenya, last year, a number of cases of women being murdered emerged.

Dominican Republic women work to stop femicide. 

One outstanding case was that which involved a famous TV journalist, Jacqueline Maribe, who alongside her fiancée Joseph Irungu, was charged with the murder of one Monica Kimani, a business woman whose body had been found lying lifeless in a bathtub, with her hands tied and her throat slit.

Both Mupende and Kimani’s unfortunate fates present an insight on how rampant the case of violence against women still prevails despite efforts in place.

Embrace Women Group during a press conference. The group called on Kenyans to turn up for a vigil at the University of Nairobi in memory of femicide victims. Net photos

While femicide is a fairly conferred aspect, the crime is one among many other things denying the rights and freedom of women.

According to World Health Organisation, femicide is generally understood to involve intentional murder of women because they are women, but broader definitions include any killings of women or girls.

Statistics go on to show that a large proportion of femicide is of women in violent relationships, and are committed by current or former partners.

The ‘Global Study on Homicide: Gender-related killings of women and girls 2018’ shows women are far more likely to die at the hands of someone they know.

Women hold signs during a protest against ongoing violence against women in Cape Town, South Africa.  

A total of 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017. More than half of them were killed by intimate partners or family members, meaning that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day, the report shows.

Africa was also the region with the highest rate of females killed purely by intimate partners in 2017 (1.7 per 100,000 female population).

What could be perpetuating this vice?

Gender activist Sharon Mbabazi says culture definitely has a role to play, especially among the different societies that have normalised violence against women.

This, she says, takes a toll on the image women tend to have for themselves. 

“Such a crime creates fear in such a way that women don’t feel comfortable expressing themselves, they remain silent even when they have issues affecting them,” she says.

Ngozi Odawayi, the founder of Bookie Book Bop Club, says it is unfortunate that the issue of violence against women is still on the rise even with the many awareness campaigns.

She, on the other hand, says that the men (who are the perpetrators in most cases) who abuse women either emotionally and physically have psychological issues, noting that a man who is mentally well cannot violate a human like that.

“I think there are people who are mentally deranged. These women are mostly killed by their loved ones or their partners,” she says.

She also believes that cultural norms do have a role play, for it perpetuates some people into thinking of women as weaker and inferior.

“It’s hard to believe that those beliefs are tolerated even in this 21st Century. Believing that women don’t have any rights leads to abuse. And you know there is always an issue of violence before it gets to femicide, so when this abuse is not taken care of it eventually leads to murder.”

Bertin Ganza Kanamugire, a gender activist and founder of Afflatus Africa, agrees with Odawayi saying that it’s hard for a person without a mental illness to commit such savage acts.

“Society needs to understand that effects of such are very detrimental for they can affect generations and generations.”

Kanamugire also believes that at times people experience traumatic childhoods, something that affects their actions and perception in life as adults.

How can this be addressed?

In order to prevent such killings, a more comprehensive range of coordinated services needs to be provided by police, criminal justice systems, health and social service, according to “The ‘Global Study on Homicide.”

“Moreover, in order to prevent and tackle gender-related killing of women and girls, men need to be involved in efforts to combat intimate partner violence/family-related homicide and in changing cultural norms that move away from violent masculinity and gender stereotypes,” it goes on to state.

Odawayi is also of the view that what needs to be done is to continue creating awareness in society.

“When I talk about awareness I mean starting from the grassroots, engaging students to be aware of what is out there such that when they get there, to that time of making choices, they do the right thing and also be wise enough to choose the right partner,” she says. 

She also states that people need to be encouraged to seek psychological help. People tend to keep everything (bad experiences) yet when such feelings are bottled up, they finally explode.

“Another thing is getting men involved in the awareness, this way, they will understand that it is not right to see women as inferior. But also, policies to address such crimes need to be made harsh enough,” Odawayi says.

Kanamugire shares his view noting that there is need to make use of the media to keep on educating the masses about such evils.

“Let’s put into consideration that we are all human beings, lets treat each other with respect for we are all equal. It’s basically encouraging gender equality and promoting human rights,” he says. 

Mbabazi believes that education is one of the most powerful tools that can be used to stop femicide. This is why she suggests that both women and girls have access to education.

“This will lead to women empowerment and also create room for discussion of many issues connected to gender equality.”

Aline Nkundibiza, the chairperson of Rwanda Women In/And Mining Organisation, is of the view that there is need to first analyse the root cause of the violence against women.

And this, she says, is mainly based on social norms and gender perception that women are more of objects-submissive and thus marginalised.

“For this issue to be addressed well, there is need to address the persistent social norms and gender stereotypes by educating boys and men that women have to be respected as human beings.”

She also notes that most women accept to live under violence because all their lives depend on their husband. This, she says, takes away their power and autonomy.

“So there should be mostly an economic and financial autonomy for women to be able to provide for their needs.”

“There is also need to help men understand what gender equality means for some who feel threatened by this concept.  I am saying this because, you will realise that violence against women has increased after the gender equality wave, but this is all due to negative masculinity and this is the major cause of domestic violence,” she says.

She is, hence, of the view that laws be enforced and Isange One Stop Centre should work closely with the community by teaching and punishing those who act violent to women.

“Lastly, all stakeholders from Government, development agencies, civil societies and others should work together in promoting all those initiatives to address violence against women.”

How can violence against women be stopped?

Sensitisation, especially for men, because they don’t understand what violence really is. There is also need to increase more specialised psychologists who can deal with trauma experiences that people face, for this is one of the major cases of violence.

Regina Akarikumutima, Journalist

It’s everyone’s role to speak up and report violence against women so that perpetrators are brought to justice. Secondly, since Rwanda is a rule of law country, the judiciary should seriously deal with such cases; this will motivate victims to report perpetrators. Society should be educated on different forms of violence because to some extent, victims don’t even know if what is happening to them is unlawful.

Innocent Muvunyi, Communication specialist

People need to be aware of the different forms of violence against women. We need to educate the girl child and help them know their rights. Secondly, the Government should put strict laws and regulations against violence unto women. Girls should join clubs such as karate clubs for self-defence classes.

Nicholas Lubwama, Director, E4E IT Solutions LTD

There should be very harsh punishments for perpetrators. Also the process in which victims pass through to seek justice should be made as easy as possible; this will facilitate reporting of such cases.

Doreen Kakuru, Cashier


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