Someone close to me has died and by his hands another also lost her life too. The deed which he committed is termed passion killing – a form of gender-based violence where one partner ends the life of the other.
During the National Gender-Based Violence Conference of 2014, the law reform commissioner at the time spoke about the use of the right nomenclature, stressing that there was nothing passionate about the act and that it was in fact murder. I concur with this notion; passion killing is murder and in this particular case the accused ended his life as well.
Now the question arose: To mourn or not to mourn? Every case of gender-based violence has a subtle victim. People left behind to introspect. For every article you read about a crime of passion, there are parents left with no closure, siblings left dismayed, a family stunted and silenced. Almost as though by pact, we shied away from discourse of what actually happened; dammed interactions with censored speech and undecided emotions.
It is as if there was this disconnect; a form of cognitive dissonance. An inability to reconcile the actual act with the person involved. Society cried for the victim, while we cried for the wrongdoer.
Passion killing is unbelievable. There is the background information that keeps repelling the existing fact. That part in your brain that keeps repeating almost like a record that you knew him; that he was not like that; the positive aspects of his character are heightened and highlighted in your mind on a consistent basis. There was this haunting question: how could the situation have elevated to such a level, causing him to revolt in such a manner? Revolt is a good word; it made it appear as though his actions were not his own but rather done as a response to a circumstance that we shall never know about. It was almost a form of rationalization, softening of the blow. There was this element of blame, where you, as the callow bystander replays moments of interaction with the accused and you ask yourself if there was anything at all that you could have done differently to somewhat alter the current. Sadly no, the past remains static and can never be changed.
Today’s society tends to dehumanize criminal offenders. There is this loss of identity, the child whom you once nursed becomes known as “that guy”; his name becomes substituted by the method of his victim’s demise. Nonetheless, there is pain in loss, at both ends for those left behind.
Hence today I preach forgiveness and the need for compassion for the ill within our society. I strongly believe that any form of deviation of a person from a state of normalcy is in itself a form of frailty. No one is born a thief, a rapist or a murderer. No one is innately “bad” by our definitions. Research suggests that all human behaviour is nurtured, be it by environment or one or another form of stimulus, exposure, thus one could conclude that it was not his innate intent to do that which he did. There is a need for us to have compassion for both the wronged and the wrongdoers within our society. A need to identify the underlying problems; to look at the situation as opposed to the person or persons involved in the said crimes. Prison is meant to act as a transformative platform, an institute for rehabilitation. The purpose is to reform and reintroduce those that deviated, back into society as law-abiding citizens. However, society must as well become more receptive, forgiving, exercising empathy, even in situations that test our moral compass. We have the responsibility of ensuring that those who offend do not become victims of civil retribution but instead are helped to once again become functional members of society. As a nation we cannot allow gender-based violence to keep destroying our families or any other social structure. The burden of loss is too heavy for anyone carry. To the affected families of “passion killing” who mourn the loss of loved ones; may you find peace, and to those, like me, also affected by passion killing, may we too find peace.
• Hallo Angala is president of the National Young Women Association