Monthly Archives: April 2013

Femicide

Animated Cat holding red roses

Fact sheet courtesy of: http://www.genderlinks.org.za
FEMICIDE
Definition
Femicide is the killing or murder of women that occurs because the victim is a woman. However, the gender related aspect of this crime is often ignored by the media and the judiciary and is categorised as murder or homicide.
Variations
Intimate femicide – the killing of a woman by her partner. It is the most common form of femicide, and the most reported on by the media.

Racist femicide- the killing of black women by white men.
Homophobic femicide- the killing of lesbians by heterosexual men,
Sexual murder- where the rape of a woman or women is followed by murder. This is also reflected in serial killings. For example, in 1994, 11 women were raped and killed by a serial killer in South Africa,
“Witch killing”-the killing of women who are accused of being witches. They occur mainly in rural areas, and may be caused by burning or stoning of women.

Gender issues
Femicide is a gender issue because the killing of a woman is based purely on her sex, or on the fact that she is a woman. Intimate femicide could be the end result of a relationship characterised by domestic violence. In this case a.woman is abused either physically or emotionally or psychologically for a long period of time by her partner, and eventually ends up being killed by him.
Other cases of femicide may result from other forms of violence such as rape. As mentioned above racism and homophobia can also result in the killing of women, based on their race, ethnicity or sexual orientation. The nature of “witch killing” is such that only women can be accused of it.

Patriarchy and the continued oppression of women in society has resulted in men exercising considerable power over women. This power is evidenced through for example, women’s inferior status in the workplace and in the home, and through the high levels of violence against women. Gender based inequalities are therefore at the root of violence against women.

Legal issues
The law is seen as a tool of redress where crimes are committed. However, the success of the law in addressing violence against women has been brought into question by gender activists. Secondary victimisation, or discrimination against women by the criminal justice system, is influenced by societal stereotypes of women. Ultimately, this results in lesser convictions for men who perpetrate violence against women. A study conducted by Women in Law and Development in Africa (WILDAF) in 1995 has revealed that where the initial charge was murder, most , if not all are reduced to a lesser charge of culpable homicide, or even common assault on the basis of provocation as an extenuating circumstance. For example, in Botswana, 65% of perpetrators were convicted of manslaughter or homicide, while 24% of charges were either withdrawn or the accused was acquitted.

Intimate femicide is the end result of a relationship characterised by domestic violence, which escalates in severity over time. Yet this is rarely, if ever, acknowledge by the criminal justice system. Ultimately, many women are murdered at the hands of their partners, often after enduring years of physical and emotional abuse. The extent of the violence in the relationship is seldom explored by the court and the case is treated as a straightforward murder or homicide.

The inefficiency of law enforcement agents has also ensured that many cases of femicide are dismissed, or result in acquittals based on lack of evidence. A study on intimate femicide conducted South Africa has revealed that police investigation techniques leave a good deal to be desired. Instances occurred where there were no fingerprints or other evidence hove been obtained from the murder scene.

Presiding officers are also not entirely blameless, and this is reflected in the kinds of convictions handed down. It is also reflected in what they consider to be mitigating circumstonces¬ of provocation, that the accused had “high moral standards” or that the accused was called a “weakling” by his wife.

Stereotypes
Stereotypes about women influences the manner in which femicide is dealt with by the law or reported on by the media. The perpetuation of these stereotypes by such leading institutions have a bearing on the perceptions of the public, and may lead to the perpetuation of these stereotypes in all avenues of life including education, the workplace and the home.
Media stereotypes
Location- articles on the death of women killed or murdered are often not seen as newsworthy and are found towards the end af the newspaper. This is supported by studies conducted by WILDAF and POWA.
Headlines-these may highlight the way in which the media serves to perpetuate the common stereotypes that the women murdered in some way provoked the violence. Far example: “Nagging wife killer freed after custody” (Rude and Kadunga. 1995).
Vocabulary- more subtle forms of stereotyping are evident in the types of descriptions and forms of vocabulary used to describe events and circumstances behind femicide cases. In Zambia, killings that occur within the home are described as “domestic disputes”, which trivialises the issue and makes it seem much smaller than it really is. The fact that it has lead to the death of a woman does not appear to be a serious consideration for the relevant journalist.
Sensationalism- sensation sells and the media will publish a report, which is newsworthy, even if it perpetuates stereotypes. Intimate femicide does not only fulfil the criterion of negativity, it also increases its new value by the fact that it happens unexpectedly and fulfils the general expectation about the bleak state of the world. The sensationalism is enhanced by the presentation and reporting of such stories in an entertaining way.

Legal stereotypes
The manner in which judges or magistrates hand dawn sentences is influenced by their own attitudes and prejudices. This may lead to extremes in sentencing patterns and pepetrators literally get away with murder. For instance:
 “He could not reasonably be expected to be in control of his mental facilities…The husband did what any reasonable man would have done in the circumstances”. (Case of Kasuba, 1993, whose husband got a two year sentence far killing her).
 “The provocation offered by your wife was such that any self-respecting person would lose control. The facts reveal that you did not use a lethal weapon, you only used your fists. I feel this case calls for maximum leniency”. (Case of Mulampa, 1986, whose husband got a three-year suspended sentence).

Fact Box
 In Botswana, 68% of perpetrators received a sentence of less than 6 years far killing their partner.
 Suicide is 12 times as likely to have been attempted by a woman who is subject to abuse than by one who is not

This section has drawn an the following sources of information:
 Facts and Figures on Violence Against Women, Division for the Advancement of Women, Department of Economic and Social Affairs, United Nations Inter-agency Global Video Conference, March 1999.
 “Man Shoots Wife~ A pilot study detailing intimate femicide in Gauteng, South Africa, POWA.
 The Private is the Public: A study of violence against women in Southern Africa, WlLDAF, 1995.

Rape – a South African Crisis

Bee with flowers

“We need a political champion for women who will drive resources and additional budget to the issue of addressing violence against women.

The women of South Africa would be behind a champion like this 100%.

With elections approaching it’s a gift waiting to happen.”

See comments from Rape Crisis Director, Kathleen Dey, in this week’s Mail and Guardian on finding a political champion for women.

Rape in South Africa

A woman is raped every 4 minutes in South Africa

Alarm Clock Animated

On 8 Feb Lead SA launched the StopRape campaign.

Since then their platforms have become a vehicle for healing, for sharing, for seeking help and looking for solutions. They have edited some of this into an audio documentary. It is painful and humbling to hear the stories of those who were courageous enough to share their experiences.

Stop Rape Documentary

Mother and Child Reunion

Mother and Child Rocking Chair Animation

Mother And Child Reunion
No, I would not give you false hope
On this strange and mournful day
But the mother and child reunion
Is only a motion away
Oh, little darling of mine
I can’t for the life of me
Remember a sadder day
I know they say let it be
But it just don’t work out that way
And the course of a lifetime runs
Over and over again

© 1971 Words and Music by Paul Simon

The song continues . . .

I just cannot imagine the pain and anguish involved in having to give up your child for adoption. I know that most mothers who give their children up for adoption are forced, through circumstances to hand the child over to someone – usually someone in a better financial position to be able to give the child all the opportunities and resources to grow into a disciplined, responsible adult.

Thinking about this during this past week is what brought the song by Paul Simon to mind – particularly the words of the second verse: “I can’t for the life of me, remember a sadder day. I know they say let it be, but it just don’t work out that way, and the course of a lifetime runs, over and over again . . . “

I’m wondering what it feels like, knowing there is someone out there who was conceived and borne by you, someone who grew inside you for 9 months (or maybe a little less or a little more) and who is now a living, breathing human being.

On the other side of the coin, what is it like knowing that the parents who raised you wanted you so badly, they were prepared to raise someone else’s child as their own – that somewhere out there, your biological mother or father (or both) is (are) trying to find you?

Is the parent making an effort or more of an effort than the child or is it the other way around? How long have you been searching for your child? How long has your child been searching for you?

What will happen when you find your parent(s) or when you find your child? Will they want to make contact with you as much as you want to make contact with them? What will the first meeting be like? Where will you meet? At a coffee shop or in a park, maybe? What will you wear? What will you say? How will you introduce yourself? How will you know each other?

What happens after the first meeting? Will there be more meetings? Will these meetings take place in a public space like the first one or will you invite the child/parent to the place where you are living right now? What about the adoptive parent(s)? How will they respond to your need to see your child or parent(s)? Will they be willing to invite the biological parent to your house (if you are still living with your adoptive parents)?

So many questions . . .

After doing some research this past week I found out that in South Africa:
• Adoption records are kept for seventy (70) years and are the initial source of information
• The records are kept with the Registrar of Adoptions in Pretoria and the following records are kept:
– The Consent Form
– The Adoptive Parents’ Application form
– Social Workers Report on adoptive parents
– Social Workers report on birth parents (if it exists)
• If the adoptive parents and child refuse access, the biological parent can leave their details in the file so they can be contacted if the adoptive parents or child change their minds

Should you need to find your adopted child, you can contact:
The Registrar of Adoptions at National Department of Social Development in South Africa

Mrs Marikie Botha
Registrar of Adoptions
Department of Social Development
Private Bag X901, Pretoria 0001
Tel. (012) 312-7608
Fax 086-214-6749
E-mail: marikieb@dsd.gov.za

Or you could contact (if based in Cape Town):
Cape Town Child Welfare – Tel (021) 638-3127
http://www.helpkids.org.za

Domestic Violence – How to evaluate Police Response

Woman stroking cat Animation

How do you evaluate the police response and the police report on your domestic violence call? How do you identify problems with the way the police responded so that you can act quickly to get these problems corrected?

Here are a few questions you could use to provide feedback to your Police station and to your community on how well Police are responding to domestic violence cases.

The Police report is usually the most critical document a survivor will have in determining whether or not she can escape domestic violence. If the Police report is done correctly, it can serve as a solid basis for prosecuting the perpetrator and for providing the authority for putting the perpetrator under control. A good Police report can also resolve problems the survivor may encounter in many other areas, such as family court, or in problems with landlords, school, employment, immigration, etc.

An incomplete or inaccurate report can seriously undermine a survivor’s attempt to end the violence. A bad Police report makes prosecution of the perpetrator very difficult or nearly impossible and the report may be used by the perpetrator against the survivor. It’s always worth your while to make the effort to evaluate Police response and report as soon as possible, and then to seek the needed redress.

Basic elements of good Police response to domestic violence should include information based on the following questions. Please remember you don’t have to answer any question(s) you DON’T WANT TO ANSWER and you don’t have to answer any questions that are not relevant to your particular case. If more than one Officer responded to your call, you can choose to only answer to ONE OFFICER, or you could respond to both, referring to them as Officer number 1 and Officer number 2.

EVALUATION OF POLICE RESPONSE TO YOUR DOMESTIC VIOLENCE CALL:
The Interview:
• Did you feel the Officer showed concern for you and your safety?
• Did the Officer make sure that you could tell your story safely and comfortably (by giving you enough time, privacy, encouragement, or whatever else you needed to tell your story)?
• If you do not speak English well, did the Officer provide you with a professional interpreter (either a fully bilingual Officer or a telephone interpreter – not a family member or neighbour)?
• Did the Officer ask you about the history of abuse in the relationship?
• Did the Officer ask you whether the abuser had ever been abusive to the children or pets?
• Did the Officer ask you specific information about any threats made against you?
• Did the Officer ask you if your partner has ever forced you to have sex when you did not want to have sex?

Weapons:
• Did the Officer ask you if the abuser ever used weapons against you?
• Did the Officer ask if the abuser has guns or has access to guns?
• If you told the Officer the abuser has guns, did the Officer remove the guns?

Your injuries and evidence:
• Did the Officer ask about all your injuries?
• Did the Officer take pictures of all your injuries or arrange to have pictures taken?
• Did the Police make arrangements to take another set of pictures of your injuries later?
• Did the Officer collect, or take pictures of, all physical evidence (such as knives, broken furniture, broken telephone lines or telephone instruments, etc)?

Witnesses:
• Did the Officer get a statement from each of the children who are old enough to talk?
• If you were present, do you feel the Officer interviewed your children with sensitivity (away from the perpetrator, with age-appropriate questions, at eye level with the children, and with a caring tone, etc)?
• Did the Officer ask you about the possibility of other witnesses?
• Did the Police interview other possible witnesses or make an attempt to interview those witnesses?

Arrest:
• If the abuser was present, did the Officer arrest the abuser?
• If the abuser left the scene, did the Officer ask you for complete information about the possible whereabouts of the abuser?

Protection Orders:
• Did the Officer ask you if you have a Protection Order against the abuser? (A Protection Order could also be called a Restraining Order or Stay Away Order or No Contact Order)
• If you have a Protection Order, did the Officer ask to see the Order?
• If you didn’t have a Protection Order, did the Officer offer you an Emergency (Temporary) Protection Order?
• Did the Officer issue you an Emergency (Temporary) Protection Order?

Information:
• Did the Officer give you verbal information on the services available to you?
• Did the Officer give you written information on the services available to you?
• Did the Officer give you the Crime Report Number (Crime Incidence Report number)?
• Did the Officer ask you if you had any questions?
• If you had questions, did the Officer answer your questions to your satisfaction?
• Did the Officer adequately explain to you what will happen next and when it will happen?

Once Upon a Time . . .

Ancient Castle

Once upon a time, there lived a beautiful little girl . . .

The little girl grew up, met her prince, fell hopelessly in love, they got married and lived happily ever after – or did they?

What rape survivors need

Pooh and his duck

How well do you LISTEN? When someone wants to speak to you about something really important to them, do you actually listen or are you just hearing what they are saying?

Active listening takes effort and concentration. When someone wants to share an experience with you, they are putting a lot of trust in you.

Sometimes it is difficult to be a good listener because what you are being told, may bring up strong emotions in yourself. Your own inner voice may drown out what the other person is saying because you are shocked, hurt or unsure of what to say. You need to try to understand your own emotions – you will be able to concentrate more on the other person once you understand your own reactions.

There is a poem I heard many years ago that made a huge impact on me and I’ve never forgotten it. When someone wants to share an experience with me, some of the words of this poem spring to mind and I try to apply them by focussing only on the person sharing with me and I try to REALLY LISTEN!

Listen
When I ask you to listen to me and you start giving me advice, you have not done what I asked.

When I ask you to listen to me and you begin to tell me why I shouldn’t feel that way, you are trampling on my feelings.

When I ask you to listen to me and you feel you have to do something to solve my problem, you have failed me, strange as that may seem.

Listen! All I ask is that you listen.
Don’t talk or do – just hear me.

Advice is cheap; 20 cents will get you both Dear Abby and Billy Graham in the same newspaper. And I can do for myself; I am not helpless. Maybe discouraged and faltering, but not helpless.

When you do something for me that I can and need to do for myself, you contribute to my fear and inadequacy.
But when you accept as a simple fact that I feel what I feel, no matter how irrational, then I can stop trying to convince you and get about this business of understanding what’s behind this irrational feeling. And when that’s clear, the answers are obvious and I don’t need advice.

Irrational feelings make sense when we understand what’s behind them.

Perhaps that’s why prayer works, sometimes, for some people – because God is mute, and he doesn’t give advice or try to fix things. God just listens and lets you work it out for yourself.

So please listen, and just hear me.
And if you want to talk, wait a minute
for your turn – and I will listen to you.

Author Unknown