This newspaper has taken some flak for publishing graphic photos on its front page of a man beating a woman, his wife. The woman had evidently indicated to the man that she wanted to leave the relationship. Over the years there has been much noise made about the issue of ‘domestic violence’ in general, and of ‘wife beating” in particular. But even though new laws have been enacted and sensitivity training given to all and sundry, the phenomenon keeps growing.
In publishing the pictures, intention was to bring home the seriousness of the disorder: it was not something that we should read about and then mutter “Tsk!Tsk!” Something has to be done. We hope that all those goodly citizens who have taken time to write letters reproving us would now at least write letters to the press denouncing their neighbours or even their own spouses for brutalising women. They cannot escape responsibility by merely seeking to silence the messenger.
Better yet, we hope they have become motivated enough to perhaps join or form a group that would assist battered women to escape their humiliation and also to take action against their tormentors. We would then not mind the opprobrium. The issue of wife beating knows no boundary of race, class or geographical location: all wives are involved, all are consumed. It is just that so many have no room to turn.
Only in the last few days, the violence reached its denouement with two husbands murdering their wives and then committing suicide. In both cases the husbands feared that their wives ‘would not be theirs” any longer. These two gruesome incidents illustrate two important facets in the specific instance of women being harmed by their husbands/lovers/companions.
It appears these acts of violence are quite akin to the ‘honour killings’ we see in some societies. The woman seeking to act in accordance with her own will is considered to be in some way violating the ‘honour’ of her husband – and in the most extreme cases, other males in her family. In these instances, the woman is seen to be merely an extension of the male will and any action not in accordance with that will is considered an affront.
The male has been ‘shamed’ and the woman must receive an appropriate punishment – in the extreme, death. Let us look at the situation presented by the two recent murders. The first woman wanted to go to Barbados to work. She had already tested this water and the husband probably concluded that ‘out of sight’ might cause him to be ‘out of mind’. It all had to do with the male and his ego. That the woman had a right to make her own decisions did not enter the picture. In the second murder, the same syndrome played out more starkly: the man felt his lover was seeing someone else. His “honour” was wounded.
The suicides by the two murderers show that somewhere in the minds of these men, they were remorseful. This is the case with most of these wife beaters: after less final actions, they would generally most tearfully confess to the women they have battered how much they ‘loved’ them. The men therefore didn’t want the women to leave and felt that even if they remained under physical duress – in fear – they would be satisfied. Unless such men are sadists – and there would be some – to have women remain with them in such circumstances reveals that it is more a case of not being ‘shamed’ in the eyes of society. It all has to do with the male ego again.
In our estimation, this problem will not even be reduced, much less eradicated, unless we start teaching from kindergarten that no one can own another human being. Females and males are all equal and must be given the autonomy to make their own decisions.
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