By I Ngare via Facebook
The phenomenon of women being murdered by their intimate partners is on the rise. But it is not unique to Kenya. The global rate of femicide in 2015 was 24 per 100,000 women. This means that out of every 100,000 women, 24 are likely to be murdered by their intimate partners. The news feature on the front-page of the Standard on Saturday has captured this grim reality. But it has stopped short of explaining why men are increasingly resorting to violence as a legitimate response whenever they feel aggrieved or entitled.
But I’ll tell you why. The increase in femicide is a manifestation of patriarchal backlash. Men have morphed into weaklings. They have become petty. They have become children. A few days ago, I posed a question to a few of my colleagues. “What would you do if you found your Girlfriend cheating on you?” All but one told me unequivocally that if they had money and power, the said Girlfriend would not live to see the next day.
For a long time, men have shared this set of beliefs regarding their right to be the dominant partner in a relationship. They believe –quite fundamentally- that women should, and ought to be subservient. Unfortunately for them, this little thing called democracy happens and suddenly more power is given to the woman. She now has the right to make her own choices. She has multiple sex partners. She can do whatever she wants. The man, feeling emasculated and threatened by this tremendous power that the woman now wields turns to violence.
It speaks to how men have been socialized. The overriding mentality in most of these femicide cases is “if I can’t have you, nobody else will.” I once talked to this young Girl who had walked from an abusive marriage. She said enough is enough, took her kid, and went back to her parents. She was taken back to school, regained her esteem, fixed her life. Then the texts and menacing calls started coming from her ex-husband. She had a feeling that he was stalking her. In my opinion, the man just could not believe that a life he had wrecked could blossom again.
This country is becoming a dangerous place for women to live. A society where you can be murdered for being a woman. And what is even more unfortunate is that men you would consider educated and progressive do not have qualms legitimizing this kind of brutality meted out against women.
For the weeks that I have been following up the murder of Sharon Otieno, I have sat down with and received calls from men whose response to her death was good riddance! One argued that a young woman who leaves her peers and sleeps with an old rich man deserves to be killed. Another asserted that “prostitutes” deserve no sympathy.
But why do men feel disenchanted by the power that is shifting towards women? And why are they responding with violence? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves as society. Why do men feel delineated? Why is the average male graduate angry at the fact that his female colleague is likely to get a job before him? And why do they think feminism is to blame for this?
Is it these perspectives which we allow to take root in the minds of young men that fester and later metamorphose into the violence we are witnessing today? Can it explain the outrageous and even violent rhetoric vented out against women in social media spaces today? Can it explain why men find the philosophy of people like Cyprian Nyakundi so appealing? Why is it that an increasing number of men are openly endorsing hatred and violence against women today?
Unless we answer these questions, femicide statistics might continue experiencing an upward trajectory.