By Katy Migiro
NAIROBI, Jan 8 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Kenyans called for swift action after a man appeared in court on Friday accused of stabbing his wife in the face with a 10-inch blade which had to be removed by surgeons, amid fears she might refuse to testify against him.
The case has stirred outrage with the victim's name trending on Twitter in the East African country where violence against women is common but perpetrators often go unpunished.
Photos of the woman in hospital with the handle of the knife protruding from her right cheek and of an x-ray, showing the blade passing from one side of her skull to the other, circulated on social media with calls for #JusticeforFatuma.
"Women should demonstrate to show their solidarity," Luttah Night said on Twitter. "That case should move fast."
Almost half of Kenyan women who have ever been married have been physically abused by their husbands, according to government data from 2008/9. Victims rarely seek redress due to social pressure and a lack of faith in the judicial system.
Mohamed Deeq denied stabbing his wife, Fatuma Ibrahim, during a domestic quarrel when he appeared in court in Wajir in northeastern Kenya on Friday, the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) said in a statement on Twitter.
Deeq is being held at Wajir police station and will be charged on Jan. 13, Nicholas Mutuku, acting deputy DPP, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
Photographs on social media showed Mutuku visiting the victim in a Nairobi hospital, where she was airlifted to on Thursday to have the blade removed from her face.
It is not clear whether Ibrahim, a mother of four, will testify against her husband.
One women's rights campaigner expressed fear that the matter could be settled using maslaha, a traditional form of Islamic law where cases are settled by religious leaders, usually with compensation.
"If her people come and say: 'They have said sorry and they have paid us ten camels', the chances of her standing against the whole community... to go to court and testify against her husband are quite slim," said Teresa Omondi-Adeitan, deputy director of the Federation of Women Lawyers (FIDA).
Kenyan courts can rule not to withdraw charges if cases are deemed to be in the public interest.
"When they (the DPP) go ahead and charge him, it doesn't matter if the wife decides she is going to retract because this matter now is in the hands of the state," said Kavinya Makau of the women's rights group Equality Now.
Kenya's parliament deleted sections of a bill providing public funding for shelters for victims of domestic violence last year before passing it into law.
(Reporting by Katy Migiro; Editing by Ros Russell)