Women’s rights activists are calling on Kenyan authorities to apply the full force of the law to a man who chopped his wife’s hands off with a machete, because she had not conceived a child. Stephen Ngila, 34, was arrested on Monday and charged with attempted murder, after attacking his wife, Jackline Mwende, 27, almost two weeks ago.
Local media reported that Ngila had cut off his wife’s hands and hacked at her head with a machete, after a conflict over her having not becoming pregnant throughout their seven-year marriage. A video posted to the Daily Nation news site showed Mwende with bandaged stumps where her hands used to be and extensive head wounds that have been stitched up.
“This is a particularly shocking case for Kenya … even though domestic violence is rampant,” Naitore Nyamu of women’s advocacy group Equality Now told Thomson Reuters Foundation. Almost half of married Kenyan women have been abused by their husbands, according to government data.
Mwende said doctors had told the couple that the problems with conception lay with her husband. Daily Nation reported that Mwende had been counseled by a local pastor to try to reconcile with her husband, and “get on her knees and pray for her marriage” when she first reported difficulties in the relationship. A church hearing, held to attempt to effect a reconciliation, also failed. Pastor Patrick Kioko told Daily Nation the church was planning to bring the couple together after a separation when the attack happened.
Mwende said the couple were happy at first, but that her husband “gradually became violent and drunk … When he attacked me on Sunday, he was drunk.”
“But I stayed because I wanted to save the marriage and my home.”
A neighbor, Susan Kaloki, came to Mwende’s aid on the night she was attacked by Ngila. “We found one of her arms on the door while the other dangled by the skin,” she said, of the gruesome scene.
A domestic violence law was passed in 2015 — that had been pending since 2002 — that criminalized a range of offenses, from verbal abuse to assault and rape. Culturally, domestic violence is widely accepted and victims rarely seek justice for social reasons as well as a distrust in the justice system, according to Nairobi’s Gender Violence Recovery Center.
“I gave [Ngila] my daughter, who was complete and well, and now she does not have hands,” Mwende’s mother told Daily Nation. “I hope the government does not release him. I am afraid that if he is let go, I will die of depression.”
See Jackline Mwende in an interview shot by Daily Nation: