Perhaps the greatest measure of the evolution of mankind is the development that has been achieved through advanced technology that makes life even simpler. We transitioned from the Agrarian age to the industrial age and now the information age that is proving to be a double-edged sword. While information is literally on the palm of our hands, it’s the consumption of a load of it at a go, that has numbed people.
Case in point, the recent flooding of news of young women being killed by either suitors or their partners has exposed an insensitive side of our society. On one hand are the numb ones, who’d just keep swiping on the phone and not feel a thing and on the other are those who’d propagate unverified information about the victim, unfairly stereotyping them.
Unfortunately, the affected families have had to endure even more pain while coming to terms with the news that they picked on social media first and fighting the rumors flying around about their loved one. The mother to the slain student of medicine, Winfred Waithera had to come to the defense of Ivy Wangeci whose name has been dragged in the mud with all sorts of accusations and justifications for the horrific way her life came to an end.
Lest we forget that the Constitution states that “Every Person has the Right to Life”. The law isn’t gender-biased and therefore no female life should abruptly come to an end in the name of “love”. As a society we have a long way to go when it comes to beating backward patriarchal beliefs and start valuing life, whether male or female. As a society, we have to do some soul-searching and get to the root of this madness. During this time when many Kenyans, women especially, are standing together with Ivy’s family and all those who’ve been killed in the same context, we should objectively reevaluate ourselves and see what role the society has in causing this.
On the question of stalking or harassment that has emerged in most of the femicides recently, we need to question the manner in which we address these accusations. Unfortunately, the casual approach we have when one opens up about a stalker is being replicated by the police. Enough personal accounts on social media attest to how police dismiss women’s reports on being harassed or stalked as being minor cases. This demoralizes the victim as they see no light at the end of this tunnel of justice. The problem with this is that the inaction by the law systems in Kenya encourages the culprits to keep being a nightmare to innocent Kenyans, with most cases escalating into something horrific.
When a Kenyan on Twitter suggested that Ivy should have acquired a restraining order to stop the stalker turned killer, he brought to question the matter of the effectiveness and ease of acquiring one. Much as we have this provision available in our constitution, as a society we still struggle with the definition of a stalker. We have glorified marriage to the point where a stalker is excused for a persistent suitor.
It therefore becomes increasingly difficult for a Kenyan who needs protection to consider the Protection against Domestic Violence Act, 2015 that spells out ways through which he/she can seek protection from a person’s action that could amount to harm. Section 19 1(e) of this Act states, a respondent shall not engage, or threaten to engage, in behavior including intimidation, harassment or stalking which amounts to emotional, verbal or psychological abuse of the protected person. It is paramount that we, Kenyans and the judicial system, start addressing domestic violence and threats to prevent any more deaths that are sadly becoming a norm.
That said, we should desist from sensationalizing these deaths and look at the bigger picture where as a society we need to start addressing underlying mental issues, family values, and patriarchy that have resulted in an unsafe environment for most women.