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Nairobi — Kenya’s Rift Valley town of Iten is popular as a training base for long distance runners.
However, the town has recently seen the killing of two elite female runners — Agnes Tirop in October and Damaris Mutua earlier this month. That’s raising concerns about violence against women in Kenya’s sports.
An August 2021 report by Equality Now, a human rights organization that works to protect and promote the rights of women and girls worldwide, shows that over 40% of women in Kenya are likely to face gender-based violence in their lifetimes.
Some of that violence is perpetrated by the womens’ partners.
Wairimu Munyinyi is the executive director of the Coalition on Violence Against Women.
She said female athletes, even prominent ones, are not immune to attacks.
“There is an assumption that athletes who have an international exposure have a lot of money at their disposal,” Munyinyi said. “That has made them targets of violence in the past.”
Munyinyi said all women need to be educated about the risk of gender-based violence.
“As a country we still need to better equip our women and girls with the awareness and ability to stay out of toxic relationships that are potentially harmful to them,” Munyinyi said.
Mutua and Tirop were among Kenya’s top distance runners. 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 found Mutua was strangled to death.
Andolo Munga, director of criminal investigations in Keiyo North, where the crime was allegedly committed, said that samples were taken “from the stomach content which will reveal if there were some chemicals administered to the body.”
Police named Mutua’s Ethiopian boyfriend as a suspect in the case and are conducting a search for him.