“At first he was sweet, considerate and kind. Then he started drinking after he lost his job. When I got pregnant with our first kid, things worsened. I tried to leave him but he always came looking for me, demanding that we made vows and that we had to honour them. I tried to give it a try but every time he took alcohol, he just became violent.”
“One night, he came back drunk, asked for food and then threw it in my face because it wasn’t as hot as he wanted it to be. I got angry. I was fed up. So I fought back. In the scuffle, because he could barely stand, I hit him hard and he hit his head on the coffee table which broke. He bled profusely. I actually took him to the hospital and had I not done that immediately, he could have died. I realised I could have killed him and ended up in prison. I was cleared eventually and got a divorce but that memory still haunts me because I don’t know how I would have lived after if he had died.”
This is the testimony of 36-year-old Beatrice (not real name) who found herself on the wrong side of the law because of domestic fights that end in bloodshed. Why would a woman kill a man she has shared the same bed with for years and fathered her children?
While Rwandans are still coming to terms with reports about the growing problem of domestic violence, last week a woman in Ngoma district was held over the murder of her husband. The murder of the 34-year-old husband followed a domestic dispute.
The incident which occurred at the couple’s home in Bukokoza village has left gender activists baffled on the current trend of domestic violence.
Why a woman would kill her spouse?
Domestic Violence Prevention activists say many couples stay in violent homes silently for years just to fit within the cultural and society norms. Psychiatrists warn that this trend has kept domestic violence under the wraps until it explodes out in form of homicides, infanticide and suicide.
Pastor Maurice Klebert Rukimbira of St Etienne Anglican Church and a counsellor says this is linked to ‘our culture where people don’t want to talk or expose what they are dealing with in the closed confines of their homes.’
Human right advocates say when a woman is battered; they tend to keep the abuse out of sight of the community. Studies have shown that most of the women who commit homicide do it out of self defence.
Christine Tuyisenge, the Executive Secretary of National Women Council, says the council is trying to solve the issue through raising awareness in prevention of Gender Based Violence.
According to psychiatrists, some women kill their husbands after long periods of being tortured. Spousal homicide has a lot to do with anger, rivalry and misunderstandings. Spousal homicide is more of revenge. Most women commit homicide because of extreme feelings of worthlessness.
Gender experts say for a woman to kill the husband, usually they have gone through tremendous abuse, have been battered, trampled on and denied their rightful position in a home. Battered women often contemplate homicide or suicide because they see no other escape from the cycle of abuse.
What is the way forward?
“We are carrying out these awareness programmes through what we call “Umugoroba w’ababyeyi” initiative which can be literally translated as “Evening parental talk”. We target not only women but men as well. The initiative is done at the Village level, although in some villages it’s not yet operational,” Tuyisenge explained.
She further said that during the celebration of Rural Women’s Day celebrated on October 26th, 2013, the National Women Council will launch the operations of “Umugoroba w’ababyeyi” initiative at different levels nation wide.
“We believe this initiative will act as a forum where couples share experiences on how they can prevent conflict as well as how to resolve conflict without fighting that ends up in murder. We also do sensitisation while using media outlets trough broadcasting drama on how to resolve conflicts in family,” Tuyisenge added.
She said, “We use testimonies of different couples especially around different events and also disseminate messages discouraging Gender Based Violence (GBV) during Umuganda (Community service).”
Tuyisenge also said that when these Gender Based Violence cases are detected in the communities, the council members collaborate with the security organs on what should be done to respond to the cases discovered.
“We have women who report to us about the issues they have with their husbands and where we fail to resolve the conflict, we link them with competent organs, like police, community members like the anti –violence committee to help them resolve the conflict,” Tuyisenge revealed.
She also said that as more people especially women get to know their rights, they do report when there is a conflict.
“Women are now reporting the GBV cases which was not the culture before, so we are hoping to continue creating more awareness thus conflicts in families will be resolved hence ending these killings amongst spouses,” Tuyisenge said.
Marriage counselling has been seen as one of the best solutions to end the so called marital conflicts that have led to domestic violence and rise in crimes of passion.
Pastor Rukimbira says failure to resolve conflicts in marriage is a result of most couples not fully getting time to go for premarital counselling.
“I think the first source of the problem is the poor preparation of people planning to get married which is premarital counselling. Normally premarital counselling should be done in 8-10 sessions of about two hours. During those sessions, we open the minds of the couple so that they understand marriage as an institution as well as life and the management of different issues such as finances, family and anger management,” Rukimbira notes.
Pastor Rukimbira who doubles as a marriage counsellor at St Etienne, notes that with premarital counselling, couples can know what to do in cases of conflict.
“Based on research I conducted in a Church in the United States of America, they told me that one out of ten couples after good premarital counselling, decide to postpone the wedding or even call it off. This means that if the premarital counselling is not done well, we will have couples going on with the wedding thus facing those trying issues when they are already married,” Rukimbira explains.
He further said that the problems that may arise include divorce, separation or even fighting to the extreme, leading to murder.
He advises couples to have the premarital counselling atleast six months before the wedding.
“They can have three months for counselling and when they decide that they are able to deal with each other and the challenges of life, they can then proceed with setting the date of the wedding and booking the reception hall. Some times when the couple comes for premarital counselling during last minute preparations and we talk about the reality of life and marriage and they notice they are not compatible, sometimes they consider the investment already made in the preparations and they just go on with the wedding knowing they are starting a marriage which is very fragile.”
He further advises that counselling should be prioritised. Couples should also go back to counsellors when a problem arises.
“Due to our culture, people don’t want to talk or expose what they are dealing with. They also don’t know that other people can help in solving conflicts especially experts like counsellors or psychologists. Platforms should be created for people to get psychological help.
“I can compare this to mental instability, at the extreme levels, when the person takes the decision to commit murder or suicide, it’s because they have a lot of problems that piled in the mind and didn’t know how to deal with it. I think if sessions or platforms are put in place, it will motivate people to come and talk about problems that are going on in their lives thus reduce crimes of passion and violence of any kind,” he concludes.