Mariticide (killing a husband) and uxoricide (killing a wife) have been in human societies as long as they have existed. It is not new. They are only popping up more frequently in the news these days.
“Close proximity of spouses makes it conducive for one to take offence against the other or fail to do,” says a criminology expert.
The situation can escalate depending on how each partner handles it, but both necessarily contribute to the outcome. But increasing media focus on the goings-on in families is bringing dirty family linens into public view.
These days, when you have the focus of society on what goes on in the family more so than you had in the past, these things are bound to come to light.
Last year, Maryam Sanda, married to the son of a former chairman of the People’s Democratic Party got in the news for stabbing her husband to death.
Investigation into the murder hasn’t thrown up hard facts, but the public has been agog on social media, debating details, conjectures and mostly speculations.
There’s no reason to assume that because they are related, it is something less than killing.
Spousal relationships means there is need to look closer because there must have been some very close contact between the individuals, some of which may excuse the offender.
Extenuating circumstances abound in the eyes of the law. Take provocation, where the offender acted because of activities of the victim. It is different from when someone just gets up and does the killing without instigation.
Nearly every wife or husband killer has claimed some provocation, but not all of them can stand as excuse.
Maryam’s story points to her finding compromising messages on her husband’s phone, which may be basis for provocation and acting in “the heat of the moment”.
Friction is fairly common in spousal relationships. Think moving a toothbrush or not replacing the water in the fridge. Not all sources of friction should call for murder or qualifies as basis of action, especially violence.
A reasonable person will not always go that far in terms of reacting to every little thing. It is the big things we are interested in, that could be the basis for provocation.
The big things start in the individual mind, psychologists say. A rule of thumb is that multiple stabbings imply rage-when one is so blind with anger, they can’t see or think clearly-and a problem managing anger.
It is a psychological issue where you haven’t controlled yourself or had help controlling your anger-to the point where you can explode and harm someone. Anger is very psychological. If your anger isn’t checked, anyone is capable of doing anything. And there is a lot of it going around these days.
Society is angry at just about everything. It is not just wife killing husband, there are so many killings that you find that the cause of killing is anger. I feel there is so much pent-up frustration and it so much going on. Mindfulness and learning how to be calm might also help.
Marriage, in months or years, can go wrong or derail. In two years, a lot can happen in a relationship, on both sides. Both parties could have felt wronged at some point. That’s how marriage is. But to get to a point where violence is the end, it feels like there might have been a building up and then an explosion.
Mindfulness requires a calm temperament. People with calmer temperament never go that way, but people who are hot headed might if they are not very good at anger management.
And society has a lot to do and say about factors that could depress a spouse to the point of violence. Psychologists look at the individual, sociology looks at factors in society that predispose individuals to mariticide or uxoricide.
In Nigeria, as elsewhere in Africa, the demands of culture and attitudes suppress women, sociologists believe. There is a limit to which you can suppress before there will be an outburst.
What we are witnessing at the moment is outburst as a result of imbalance in gender mainstreaming. If there is no balance in relationships, there is likely to be an outburst and the outburst is most likely to come from the one on the receiving side.
Cultural factors give men leverages and positional attributes to women. Sayings abound how women are to be seen, not heard; to be felt, not to feel or express themselves.
The stooge attitude we have created has created a backlog of suppressed social action.
African societies give men a right to receive incomes, keep it to themselves and use it to better themselves. The woman doesn’t even have to know about it. A woman exposed and working beside men gets to know she can earn same or even higher.
A man can dress how he likes, drink as much as he wants, enjoys as much as his wealth can carry, but a woman hasn’t got the same opportunities. Instead, she is predisposed to venereal infections, childbirth with little or no hope of surviving. And all the man puts up is, ‘I can provide income to take care of her maternal fees and if she gives birth, I can get her a home to bring back her child in. That’s all. That’s recipe for disaster, sociologists believe. What’s missing is compatibility. There is a level to which a man can express his strength and he should be able to admit his weakness, as well as the woman.
It all comes down to patriarchy, and it is dangerous when you look at the position of Africans and Nigerians in contemporary times.
Sociology proposes a couple of theorems. Acculturation. That’s adopting the culture of strange societies without knowing the consequences and placing it higher than our own culture.
Another is cultural diffusion. We have allowed the intrinsic side of western culture to penetrate our core culture, and now we are sitting on the fence.
Society has fashioned marriage in such a way that what goes on within isn’t for public consumption. And how society reacts when people open up on the goings-on, dealing out ostracism and stigma makes it certain that people go back to their marriage and continue to endure the situation.
A separation doesn’t come easy when a woman’s livelihood and identity are tied to her spouse’s.
If you stay away for a while how do you sustain a living, sustain an identity, manage the perceptions society will throw at you. That option becomes very difficult to take. Outright divorce, according to people who have gone through it, is only easier when a woman has some independence already.
So a separation isn’t easy, divorce comes with stigma, and murder comes with jail time. Why take the chances. Something happens in the brain when it comes to that now-or-never, do-or-die moment.
In rage, the forebrain which controls logical thinking is suspended. Activities there slow down, and blood supply rushes to the part of the brain responsible for fight-or-flight response. Attacking that source of danger could be you taking something to harm the person or escaping. There are several things that can go in. That’s what research shows of the brain during rage.