This is the time of year that we remember the women killed at Ecole Polytechnique. One man hated them enough to shoot them for stepping out of what he thought was their proper role. Sometimes men murder many women at once. More often, women are murdered one by one and, although it adds up to an astonishing body count, they are quickly written off and forgotten one by one.
Society's response to these murders is frequently one of placing blame on the women who have been murdered. Particularly troublesome are murders that were clearly preventable. The Toronto Star keeps Gillian Hadley's murder by her estranged husband in the spotlight with a link to a series of stories about this preventable murder. One wonders, when reviewing this and similar cases, if the justice system views a man's freedom as worth more than a woman's life.
Some reasons men have thought their wives deserved to die ( shockingly, many in the justice system agree with them): Infidelity (actual or alleged), poor housekeeping, nagging, refusal of sex, taunting about sexual prowess, wanting a divorce or separation. In three men's own words: "Because she wanted to take away the children, I intended to kill her." She was a "two timing flirt". She had a "reputation for promiscuity".
Penalties imposed on men for the above excuses: One served 6 years for manslaughter using the provocation defense. One murderer walked free from courtroom after receiving a six month sentence suspended for two years. One served a sentence of 15 months. It did not matter if there was a documented history of violence against the wife or if he admitted his intention to murder her.
In many cases, the man claimed the provocation defense ("she made me do it") for real or alleged infidelity. In France, a man who killed his wife because of infidelity had to prove to the court that she was unfaithful. In England and Canada, allegations have been sufficient. From a victim's family: A daughter: "The overwhelming message seems to be that (my) mother deserved to die." (In this case, the killer claimed he was provoked because she called him a "bastard". His sentence was for ten years but he will be eligible for parole after serving 1/3 of his term). In England in 1877, a man murdered his wife because she would not give him a couple of pennies and he claimed that was sufficient to provoke him enough to kill her. The jury agreed. Today in Canada we find similar use of the provocation defense. In a provocation defense, it must be shown that the provocation would cause a reasonable person to commit murder.
After reading some of the reasons above, I imagine what it would be like to live with the possibility of being killed by any reasonable person for speaking my mind or acting freely. That sounds a lot like the life of a political dissident. Is it possible that all women are living with a gag rule?
The flimsy excuses given for murder leave no doubt that incurring male displeasure can be deadly. It is worthwhile to check out Kinesis Magazine regarding the Canadian cases of Bert Stone (who murdered Donna Mae in B.C. in March 1994) and Ralph Klassen (who murdered his estranged wife Susan in November 1995). Both men successfully argued "provocation". Stone was released from prison around 1999 and Klassen was to be released in 1999. In both cases, the men had a history of wife assault. In both cases, this evidence was deemed not admissible in their trials. What do these cases tell women? That their lives are worth nothing. That they did indeed belong to the man to do with as he pleased. That a man can indeed get away with murder if she says or does something that offends him (or he says that she did). That the justice system will stand back and let him kill her - and then say she had it coming.