You went out on epic dates, took strolls hand-in-hand, and cared about each other like any loving couple would do. You talked about the future and finally, you both felt it right to make things official. You later walked down the aisle looking forward to a happily-ever-after life. Little did you know that the one you thought was the love of your life, the person who meant the world to you, would eventually be the one to take your life?
Earlier this month, a one Drake Mugisha was remanded over murdering his wife, pastor Maggie Mutesi, the founder of Heavens Gates Ministries. Preliminary investigations showed that Mutesi was strangled and her body was found on the couple’s bed.
Another incident happened a few weeks ago where another individual, Alfred Karegeya, killed his wife with whom they had two children, buried the body in their compound and planted vegetables on the grave.
He cited a seven-year-long dispute he had with his wife as the reason behind the wicked act. On the fateful morning, Karegeya hit his wife with a cement brick on the head and strangled her. This happened in Nyabisindu, Gasabo District.
What could be fuelling the crime of passion?
Olive Uwamariya, a women activist says that the causes of spousal homicide are not far from those of intimate partner’s violence in the Rwandan context.
“These include poverty and unemployment; the more a family is unable to make ends meet the more this puts a strain on the spouses and this is likely to result into violence, (abasangiye ubusa bitana ibisambo),” she says.
She adds that gender inequalities reinforced through negative traditional and religious norms are another cause of spousal homicide, where women are socialised to be submissive and men to be aggressive (negative masculinity).
However, she observes that for homicide to occur, there has to be a long and vicious cycle of violence; “For instance, this recent case of the man in Nyabisindu who killed his wife, there had been repeated violence and bickering for quite some time before he tragically killed her,” Uwamariya says.
Police records show that cases of spousal homicide still prevail, with women being the main victims.
According to Theo Badege, the Police spokesperson, statistics from Police indicate that for the first nine months of 2017, cases of assault resulting in death were 25, with 15 being female and 10 being males. With cases of spousal homicide, in the first nine months of 2017, about 69 cases were reported with 50 of the victims being female and 19 male.
Badege explains that the cause of domestic violence and or crimes of passion is mostly related to property ownership, and that conflicts related to this at times result into murder.
He cites infidelity and drug abuse as another major cause.
Badege notes that though women are the main victims, men too are victims of spousal homicide.
“We actually receive cases of women murdering their spouses, like in 2017; we have so far received 19 cases. But to me this is a result of failure in the family structure,” he says.
“We have always advised people to seek justice in cases of conflict or try to settle matters amicably by involving family members,” Badege notes.
Badege, however, says that measures are being taken using community policing to prevent this problem.
“We have a committee of five members at every village in charge of preventing family conflict. This will help in fighting such vices right from the grass root,” he says.
Fidele Rutayisire, the chairman of Rwanda Men’s Resource Centre, says that several studies done over the past years point to high levels of domestic violence, citing the 2010 Demographic Health Survey that showed the percentage of women who have ever experienced domestic violence ranging from 35 per cent in the City of Kigali to 46 per cent in the Eastern province.
The same report shows that more than one in five women has experienced sexual violence including spousal killing (22%).
“Currently spousal murder is one of the serious issues related to gender-based violence. According to various studies conducted in Rwanda, the main causes of spousal killing include, but are not limited to, negative masculinity perceptions rooted in the gender socialisation of boys, witnessing violence during childhood, conflict over resources and mental health disorders among others,” Rutayisire says.
Rutayisire says that a number of factors need to be considered if such a vice is to be curbed.
He articulates that collective awareness by increasing campaigns on fighting spousal killing, family mediation in cases of domestic violence leading to spousal killing can be of great help when fighting this vice.
“Increase awareness among men and transform them into agents of change. Engage the youth and parents in the fight against spousal killings and domestic violence in general,” he adds.
He also calls for development of strategies to prevent spousal killings focusing on the family and community, and also revitalise anti-GBV interventions at the community level.
What research says
Aaron Ben-Zeév, a professor of Philosophy at the University of Haifa in Israel, in his article Why Do (Some) Men Murder the Wives They Love? says that the simplicity of prevailing views evade the question of why certain men murder their wives.
He indicates that the murder is not an unintended result of violence that went too far as most of these murders are well-planned. Furthermore, wife murder cannot be understood in terms of loss of control or local insanity. It is rather a deliberate act which is the result of emotional ripeness that created mental readiness for committing the murder as an act of profound despair that is ready to destroy the other even if this means destroying oneself.
He points out complex conditions of risk, many of which are part and parcel of romantic ideology. Here are the major conditions of risk as he points them out;
The man perceives the woman to be his whole world so that he feels that any separation from her entails a loss of his own identity.
The man’s life lacks other sources of meaning and reasons for living.
The man’s traditional perception of masculinity, which dictates that the male has full power, honour, and control, runs counter to his dependency upon his wife, making that reliance appear evidence of his weakness and humiliation, and an affront to masculine honour.
The man’s personal behaviour is rigid and uncompromising; the man’s prevailing beliefs about love appear to justify the sacrifice of his wife on the one hand and of persistence on the other.
“When all the above conditions pertain, the risk of wife murder significantly increases. The specific event that ignites the explosive barrel often revolves around the woman threatening to or actually separating from her partner. Knowing these conditions of risk will enable us to read the writing on the wall, thereby preventing many wife murders,”Ben-Zeév’s article states.
What is the way forward?
Uwamariya says that a lot has been done, particularly in enforcing laws either in cases of domestic violence or homicide, but cases of homicide that still prevail are an indicator that a lot still needs to be done.
She recommends that more should be done to continue sensitising Rwandans that accepting violence is not a norm.
People should speak up and report to the responsible authorities before violence results into death, the women’s activist counsels.
“We need to continue empowering communities especially women and girls to economically be independent. Heavy dependence on the man as the sole or main provider puts a strain on the relationship and the family in general.
“Finally, we need to continue calling for a change in attitude by educating women, men, boys and girls that we are all equal, that violence is never the solution,” Uwamariya says.