Jamaica holds many records, a lot of them are enviable and some are avoided by other nations. Some of these negatives include corruption and our murder rate. But what rarely gets spoken about — that is until an incident takes place then it lasts for 9 days — is our record in the area of femicide and abuse of women and girls in general, be it sexual, physical, mental, financial or even emotional.
We are a land where it is common to wake up to reports of men murdering their lovers, wives, children and in-laws and the rate at which it happens necessitates us addressing it daily until it ends.
So, what is it that drives a man to murder his spouse, children and then commit suicide? Of course, many of these men may suffer from mental issues. Things such as schizophrenia and other manic disorders are, after all, common in the country — according to at least one reputable psychologist — and many people remain undiagnosed and therefore out of the treatment net.
But that alone can’t be the answer to the question and worse still it cannot be tested. Many people suffering from these illnesses don’t act in these ways, even when off medication, and it can’t be accurately tested as many — damn near all — the people (read men) involved in these crimes kill themselves shortly after.
So, what is it that drives a man to these actions? The issues are many, but a few things are societal breakdown (emotional maturity), the loss of face and the otherwise loss of power which the Jamaican male feels is taking place.
What is face and why is the loss of face important when it comes to this discussion? And what powers did the men have which they are now losing which has led us to this mass orgy of murder and abuse?
Face, according to Horace Levy, is linked intimately with respect as noted in his book Community Revival: Community Stories 70s-80s, as well as in research done by the Peace Management Initiative (PMI). This research has linked the murder toll, mainly gang violence, in part to young impoverished men in this nation attempting to restore their lost respect through violent means. Things like the insulting of a mother, the constant grinding down of an individual’s ‘manhood’ as well as the loss of a loved one due to violence can lead to a loss of face and result in the disrespected individual taking up violence to regain his lost respect.
This can be expanded to include femicide as we see what the men suffer what they feel to be ‘disrespect’, have lost face (sometimes publicly) and now need to seek redress and save face. This often takes the form of violence, leading to murder, as the Jamaican male has really only been trained in dealing with a loss of face in one way and that fact is across class. What is the huge disrespect that has befallen these men? Often it is ‘bun’, their inability to accept the cheating of their spouses despite their prolific cheating themselves. Sometimes it is the partner leaving the man after he ‘invested’ in her education. Sometimes it is even because the man wants the woman back, but she has moved on, and in his fit of rage he murders her.
In all of these incidents we can see where some form of face is lost, where some perceived disrespect is meted out. However, we can only accept that these are actual insults worthy of murder if we accept that we as a society are akin to dogs and other wild animals who can’t truly assess situations. This is the area of femicide which is often spoken about when the topic is broached. This is where the sticky issue of societal breakdown, how the society is actually set up and the definition of manhood comes in to play, topics which though spoken of are not gone into in-depth and never attached to face and the loss of power.
Something as simple as what it means to be a man is deeper than what we have been speaking of. Why are these women cheating? Could it be that the adage “bun fi bun” remains true? If a woman is not satisfied either sexually, emotionally or intellectually she will cheat and all of these are in one way or another a serious loss of face and areas where counselling (marriage, couple and even sex) would come into play and could truly save lives.
But the biggest issue is the slow and then rapid breakdown of society that has left us in a Mad Max world that champions the bad traits and toxic masculinity which we have always had as a society but have managed to keep somewhat in check.
Jamaica has always had a rape culture and a culture which glorifies sexual violence. But things such as the community, which then was all powerful and intrusive, keeping everyone on their toes, existed. There was evil, but only so much, as sooner or later neighbours would be involved and someone (usually the lady) would be shipped out. Not anywhere near perfect but note that there is no dead spouse.
A lack of a future for these men is the biggest area of societal breakdown which I can think of that is causing these crimes. This is not woman bashing. They, after all, have put in the hours and done the school grind to make the money and occupy the jobs. But with the prospects being jail, the grave, or digging out the hand-middle waiting to be a shotta, the outlook for men is bleak. With sex being their only refuge — most won’t go to the gun — they get offended when they can’t even be the top dog in that arena. It is pitiful and represents the area of societal breakdown which will be the hardest to remedy.
While the ladies are almost, and in many cases are, forced by circumstances to view education and skill training as the best opportunity, men and boys shun both school and vocational training. It’s not cool, not done, badman is fully dunce, and there is no vision and future without education and/or training. That, more than anything, needs to be dealt with — a total reprograming of boys to understand what sex is, why education is important. An end to the glorification of violence and sexual violence and mass counselling and treatment for the obvious psychological ailments afflicting our men needs to be done. Nothing short of a societal restructuring will end the scourge of femicide. We need to protect ladies.
Talking and wringing of hands mean nothing when the system allows and calls for it. Let us please change it. They can’t take it, and above anything else shouldn’t be subjected to this trauma. They are people, not objects for possessing, using and disposing. Let’s drill that into our boys’ heads if we are serious about ending this scourge.