The issue of domestic violence becomes bizarre when it is a woman who is accused of the crime. A seemingly invariable defence is that they were, in fact, the abused, and acted simply in self-defence. At worst, murder committed by women would only be ‘justified’ as a means of survival-a survival instinct.
That is why the sole explanation offered by criminologists for violence committed by a woman is that it is involuntary. But what is the problem exactly?
The recent murderess in police detention reminds us of several other incidents, where men were hacked to death by their wives, ostensibly to retain family property.
According to the Rwandan marital laws, couples vow to either share whatever property they have at the time of marriage, or start sharing whatever they earn after living together, or keep separately their property.
The choice is there for the couple to decide, but surprisingly, the majority of couples opt for complete sharing of the property (isaranganya mutungo rusange).
This means that whatever one owned (either a woman or a man) before living together will belong to the two of them. This is where things go wrong since some men or women, marry as a strategy to gain property, when the other dies.
It is a dangerous situation that the society has ignored, with seemingly no solutions. You know the cultural dynamics in Rwanda. A bride/or groom cannot be allowed to take what people would call unfriendly decision- to separate property with your sweetheart.
The eyes of the two families present, while couples are vowing the ‘until death do us apart’-akaramata, do not give couples a chance to think critically.
“I wish I knew what I was doing when swearing-it was a great mistake I made. I am no longer at good terms with my wife, and the unfortunate thing about it all, is that when we divorce, we shall share all the property. She may even take a bigger proportion, since women are given an upper hand in court. Yet she found me with all the property,” laments Kanamugire (not real names), as he ponders going to court to file for divorce.
What should be done in my view is not to rush people into swearing in for permanent relationship-wife and husband until nature decides otherwise.
People should instead be sensitized on the importance, and advantages of getting officially married, as the law of the land demands. Further more couples must be given time and taught the dynamics involved in taking such vows.
This will keep away regrets and possible family wrangles and, murders based on property. I am not saying that the recent murder was based on property with certainty, but we have had many murders based on the same in the past.
We cannot thus rule out more in future! We need to take precautions.
Yes, women may kill men to retain property whenever they feel threatened by their partners, but men may also kill women so that they retain property.
I talk about women killing men to retain property, just because the nature of the ‘Rwandan patriarchal’ society which, like many in Africa, has made men stronger economically than women.
It is therefore the duty of law makers and other stakeholders, to promote official marriage with care and concern, so that whoever takes a vow doesn’t end up creating problems not only to himself or herself, but also to the whole society in general.
We have gone as far as telling people to make communal vow in marriage- I am afraid such decision may have adverse effects in future.
Otherwise, the whole marriage law in Rwanda is generally good and gender sensitive, compared to many others in the region. What is lacking is proper procedure-we should not allow people to be ‘ambushed’ by laws for it works against the society.