Last year 66,000 women were murdered in the world. Significantly less women than men, but nonetheless a high figure, and this little Caribbean island unfortunately is one of the places where femicide is much higher than it should be, ranking at 24 in the world. Interesting Latin America, South Africa, and Russia and surrounding countries all feature highly.
The numbers of women killed have been slowly rising in the Dominican Republic from 190 in 2005, to 230 last year, and in the first five months of this year there have been 80 deaths, with 10 in 6 days a couple of weeks ago. To put it another way, every 36 hours a woman is murdered in the DR.
The majority of the women killed, and their murderers, are Dominican, but every year expat women are killed too, usually by Dominican men. Last year a German, Venezuelan, Italian, Canadian and Swiss woman were murdered.
Most murders of women happen in the large conurbations, which one would expect given that that is where the most people live, with Santo Domingo taking top spot. It is followed by Santiago, the second biggest city, and then San Cristobal, San Pedro de Macoris and then La Altagracia.
The big question is why is femicide and specfically men murdering their wives, partners, lovers, ex partners, so prevalent?
The main reason appears to be jealousy. Dominican men are known as being macho. Their machismo reflects in all aspects of male behaviour but importantly they view themselves as conquerers of women and women are often expected to play a submissive role in the household. In addition extramarital affairs are extremely common as men feel it is their right, and in some cases their duty as men, to seek the companionship of other women. But women of course don’t have this same right.
Many of the reasons for murder have been that the woman refused reconciliation, or she had another man, or she didn’t want the man who killed or, or he thought she had another man.
Often the machismo plays out in a different way as the woman may be younger than the man, and she may be brighter, be studying at university or have a better job, and the man will feel emasculated and jealous of her success.
|This body is mine. Don't touch it, don't rape it, don't kill it.|
Most of the murders are carried out by shooting – yet another reason to limit gun ownership, followed by stabbing. This being the DR, Google searches on domestic violence bring up horrendous pictures of women having been murdered with kitchen knives sticking out of their backs. I have spared you this.
The other, in my mind incredible, reason for the abuse, especially in the campos, is that the women have said to me that they would be concerned if their husband did not hit them, as by hitting them he is showing her that he loves her, as if he didn't care if she looked at another man then it meant he did not love her.
Do not think, however, that the country is doing nothing about this. There are marches in the street, and all over the country women are saying No More. Just this last week the Ministry for Women (yes there is one) has launched a hotline for women to call if they are being abused. It has been found that those who have been killed have usually been abused before so it is better to nip it in the bud if that is possible.
Hopefully there will be a reduction in the figures, but there needs to be a fundamental change in the attitude and behaviour of some men towards women here, which I don’t think will happen overnight.