Ninety women have been killed by men so far this year. What are we doing about it?

29 Aug 2018

 

Another day, another news story. As I write, there is a huge manhunt underway for murder suspect Janbaz Tarin. In the early hours of 27 August, Tarin stabbed and killed his ex-partner, Raneem Oudeh, and her mother, Khaola Saleem, as they walked down a quiet, residential street in Solihull.

 

It is a story that has the capacity to cause a sensation, especially because the suspect is still at large. But this story is anything but sensational or exceptional. Because although Tarin’s name is in the public consciousness at the moment, he is the perpetrator of a common crime. As of the 27 August 2018, at least 90 women have been killed by men so far this year in the UK.

 

That’s 90 women too many. Because although all these stories are covered in the news, few mainstream reports consider that there are links between nearly every case. Because what, after all, could possibly connect Tarin’s victims to Claire Tavener, killed by her husband in Somerset in January? What could link either of these two crimes to the murder of Janet Scott, stabbed and then run over by her ex-boyfriend, also in January?

 

Considered individually, each of these cases represents a separate domestic drama. Each marks a unique combination of jealousies and bitternesses that have led to the murder of one or more women. But none of these 90 murders are really unique. Well-worn statistics tell us that two women every week are murdered by a partner or ex, and intimate partner murders accounted for almost 70% of femicides in 2016. A further 7.1% of murders were perpetrated by a family member, and 12.4% of killings were carried out by a man known to the victim, but not connected by an intimate or familial relationship.

 

The last thing we should do is to see these murders as inevitable, and allow the statistics to become all-consuming. These figures, in conjunction with the stories that underlie them, do in fact inform us that the reasons why women die at the hands of men are neither random nor singular. Information from the trial of Andrew Tavener, who killed Claire in January, reveals that their marriage was coming to an end because of Tavener’s violent and controlling behaviour. Friends of Claire told the court that she would often leave social occasions to prepare meals for her demanding husband. She had previously sought help from the Citizens Advice Bureau, and had reported two incidents of violence to the police.

 

Janet Scott’s murderer had already killed a former partner, Pearl Black, in 1999, and had met Janet after being released from prison in 2014 while she was temporarily separated from her husband. He refused to accept that his relationship with Janet had ended after she went back to her husband. The two cases cited indicate that both victims lost their lives to men who treated them as property. The murderers were both men who were angry at whatever independence their partners had from them. They then used this anger as a justification to kill.

 

And there are so many more cases like these. It has become clear that women are dying partly because of the deep-rooted misogynistic attitudes and behaviour of the men who kill them. This is an established pattern, but one that rarely recognised. The motivations behind this most recent murder most likely are part of that same pattern, but still, the investigating Chief Superintendent, Bas Javid, insists that ‘Tragedies like this are incredibly rare’. The statistics and stories tell us clearly that Bas Javid is wrong.

 

Each time we refuse to make a link, and insist on treating these cases of femicide as individual ‘tragedies’, we do a disservice to the victims of these crimes. Each new victim is not simply a victim of male violence, but of a system which refuses to see how deeply ingrained and connected the motivations behind all the murders are. 

 

Some recent developments mean that our understandings of femicides are now more sophisticated. Since 2015, a Femicide Census has been created, which profiles the women who have been killed by men, clearly demonstrating the many links between cases. In the mainstream media, The Guardian astutely challenged the narrative behind the murders of Claire and Charlotte Hart, who were killed by Lance Hart in July 2016. Over the course of several articles, involving interviews with Lance Hart’s sons, The Guardian attacked media coverage of the case which had described the killings as ‘understandable’, and which had tried to emphasise what a nice man Lance Hart was.

 

Although we condemn these femicides, all too often, there are attempts to rationalise the murders by searching for provocations and causes which stem from the woman herself. Was she trying to leave him? Was she having an affair? Was the marriage causing him stress? None of these are ever even remotely justifiable reasons for somebody to murder someone else, and they are certainly not understandable 'causes' for such senseless killings.

 

So as police continue to hunt for Tarin, let us focus on the fact that his crime is not unique, even if it is treated as such. When we see that women have been murdered by men, instead of treating the case as an individual ‘tragedy’, let us consider that it is part of a systemic pattern of male violence that is not gong to go away until we tackle it head-on. And that begins with recognition: recognition that although each case is individual, they are all part of a shared tragedy of misogyny, and a system that is refusing to see it.

 

 

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