When men kill women, who do we blame? Is it the killers or the societies that nurture the killers? Should we blame the men or blame the social constructs that feed into their behavior? Femicide is a gendered crime and gender is a social construct. Subsequently, femicide is a social consequence of social constructs.
Kenyan, Lucy was burnt alive by her husband for returning home late. According to Nairobi News journalist Phyllis Musasia, Lucy, was a woman who was making ends meet by selling bale clothes. Her husband expected her to be available to him when he wanted and refused to listen to her reasoning. He killed her because she was out late instead of at home, carrying out her wifely duties.
The Daily Monitor reports that Ugandan, Sarah Neliima’s dead body was found in a banana garden. She never returned from work one night . Neliima was abducted and killed while trying to make ends meet. In a society that shuns women’s productivity, Neliima’s attempt to be economically independent was met with her being killed.
Nzuki Salome Nthenya writes in Wellbeing, Stop Killing Women! The rise of femicide cases in Kenya call for urgent intervention by authorities because Kenyan women are gang raped, sodomized, maimed, assaulted with acid and eventually murdered on a daily basis. Counting Dead Women is a feminist campaign that sheds light on the numbers of women killed in Kenya. According to this campaign, more than 108 women have already been killed by men since January 2019 to date. Unless societies act against femicide, these killings will not stop. Women continue to be killed as societies do not pay attention to the toxic constructions of male superiority that they feed into. Newspapers like the Daily Nation continue to report macabre cases of lives taken by men who had romantic relationships with the women they killed. When societies put men first and at the center of all activities and thoughts, such social constructs, according to psychologist Dr April Bailey are defines as androcentric. The androcentric nature of East African societies is what makes the fight against femicide challenging as men control these societies. While men are humanized and aggrandized, women are measured by their usefulness to the wellbeing of men.
A 2016 study, When Men Murder Women, by researchers Rebecca Emmerson and Russell Dobash of the University of Manchester revealed that most of the 105 men they studied had conflicts with the women they murdered. Most of these men blamed their victims for what they viewed as immoral acts (e.g. suspicions of infidelity). This study, showed that the ongoing murder of women is exacerbated when women speak up against oppression in relationships. This means that women’s agency is targeted by men who cannot handle women being free thinkers and rational individuals. When women rise up, men strike them down. This is not just an individual defect. It is woven into the East African societies. "Where a woman has been murdered out of romantic jealousy, the society may express some remorse, but appear to condone the action by justifying why the victim deserved what they got, and, or why the perpetrator was pushed to such limits," says Dr Reuben Wasilwa, a Nairobi-based consultant psychologist. "Where children [are involved] people may justify it with phrases such as, 'the children were killed because their mother pushed him to the edge!’” Society sympathises with men who kill their women, it generally finds a way to shift the blame to the victims. It finds a way to defend the man owing to social constructs that privilege men over women.
These tendencies must be deconstructed. It is evident that femicide is a product of unequal societies that are centred around empowering men and their authority while relegating women to positions of inferiority to men. This is why when women speak against men they are involved with they are more likely to be killed. Society sympathises with the man who has been disempowered by a woman more than a woman that has been killed by a man.
In 2018, while marching for their lives, Ugandian women chanted , “Tulibakazi temutukwaata,” (we are women, stop raping us). “Tukooye” (We are tired). “We want security, now.” “Women’s lives matter.”
All discourses of society must instill the imperative that women’s lives matter and should be protected by all means. This a call for society to unravel the fibres that hold femicide in place, making it “normal” to kill women. Gender constructions are creations of society; they can be dismantled by the same mechanisms that put them in place.. Society must socialize people from birth to protect the lives of women and to value them as much as they value the lives of men. As the authors of When Men Murder Women state, it is societies that can put an end to the cycle of femicide. Societal problems are best solved with societal solutions. Thus, it is imperative that societies work towards reforming gender inequality.
IN NEED OF HELP CONTACT THE FOLLOWING
Kilimanjaro Women Information Exchange and Consultancy Organization (KWIECO)
Phone: +255 754444200 / +255622917077
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org / email@example.com
Phone: +256 392-174242
Located in north-central Kenya in Samburu country