The town of Iten in Kenya’s Rift Valley is popular as a training base for long-distance runners.
However, the city has recently seen the murder of two elite runners – Agnes Tirop in October and Damaris Mutua earlier this month. This raises concerns about violence against women in sports in Kenya.
An August 2021 report by Equality Now, a human rights organization working to protect and promote the rights of women and girls globally, shows that over 40% of women in Kenya are likely to be faced with gender-based violence in their lifetime.
Some of this violence is perpetrated by women’s partners.
Wairimu Munyinyi is the executive director of the Coalition on Violence Against Women.
She said female athletes, even the most important ones, are not immune to attack.
“Athletes who have international exposure are assumed to have a lot of money at their disposal,” Munyinyi said. “It has made them targets of violence in the past.”
Munyinyi said all women must be educated about the risk of gender-based violence.
“As a country, we need to even better equip our women and girls with the awareness and ability to stay away from toxic relationships that are potentially harmful to them,” Munyinyi said.
Mutua and Tirop were among the best distance runners in Kenya. In 2010, Mutua won a bronze medal at the inaugural Youth Olympic Games in Singapore. Tirop won a bronze medal in the 5,000 meters at the Tokyo Olympics last year.
Detectives said Thursday that a post-mortem report revealed Mutua had been strangled to death.
Andolo Munga, director of criminal investigations at Keiyo North, where the crime is believed to have taken place, said samples had been taken “of stomach contents which will reveal whether chemicals were administered to the body”.
Police have named Mutua’s Ethiopian boyfriend as a suspect in the case and are conducting a search for him.