The media narrative around the killing of three Jamaican women by their intimate partner has been nothing short of victim blaming with an almost hysterical insistence that the three women who were killed by the men who loved them and shared intimacies with them, somehow are to be blamed for their own murder. Between December 31, 2019 and January 13, 2020, three (3) women were killed by their male intimate partner. The news in each case was shocking and staggering. The murder of each of the women occurred in very different ways and under unique circumstances. As usual, no sooner had the tragedy been reported than the expected conversation which follows femicides in Jamaica was rolled out; and the question asked what did she do to get herself killed?
In Jamaica when a man kills his spouse, we do not all condemn the actions and look to solutions, we begin a destructive narrative of what the woman did to deserve being killed. Perhaps, the narrative goes, he spent money sending her to school or he invested a lot of money on her. Having spent money on her he now ‘owns’ her; she should recognize that ending the relationship, choosing to get involved with another person, or saying no to him is no longer an option that is available to her. She is now the man’s property, for God’s sake any one of the actions above means that murder is justified. The telling of the story puts the responsibility on women to not provoke men, they shouldn’t take money from men, they should learn how to be respectful to the man who ‘owns’ them because it could result in their murder. To be honest in each of the case we have seen these last two weeks have been explained away with this very same narrative with very little focus on the truth of the three women.
The national narrative is bereft of a true understanding of the factors which ultimately lead to the death of a woman in an intimate relationship. Any serious investigation would lead to the surfacing of information which would indicate that when a relationship ends in murder then violence didn’t enter the relationship in that one act of murder. A man didn’t just lose control and spontaneously kill his partner. Power and control were always a feature of the relationship and that woman would have spoken to family and friends and others who were close to them would have seen the signs. Unfortunately, when reporters, journalists and the media carry a story the way your paper did on Saturday, January 4, 2020 it doesn’t help to raise awareness, neither does it help a society plagued by a crippling murder rate to understand the complexities of the situation. The story plays into a narrative of victim-blaming and shuts down the conversation which needs to take place for a solution to be found. Victim-blaming dehumanizes the victim and sells her to the world as an unconscionable woman who is money hungry; an immoral woman who got what she deserves. The story that I saw in your paper lacked empathy and a deep understanding of the crushing problem of violence against women which is one of the intractable realities of gender inequality.
In 2017 a UN Report found that that while men are more likely to be killed in an act of homicide, they are more likely to be killed by a stranger than a woman who is more likely to be killed by someone she knows. 16 countries in Latin America have changed their laws to recognize femicides as a unique and particular crime affecting women and are developing a unique protocol to guide the security forces in the region in investigating the issues and collecting information that could chart a way forward. The UN Woman reports that Latin America and the Caribbean are experiencing concerning rates of femicides. The media cannot continue to perpetuate the ‘he said’ ‘she said’ old style gender war controversy. It sells papers and attracts viewers, but the media is more than entertainment, or at least I would hope so.
I encourage a more sensitive, reasoned and progressive approach to matters of violence against women and girls. This is an important response to the problem.