By Jessie Ngoma-Simengwa –
KILLINGS resulting from soured love relationships have reached alarming proportions both in Zambia and other countries around the world.
The rising number of love-related murders has proved to be more prevalent than many people may think, hence the need to be treated with urgency.
A case of a teacher in Ndola, on the Copperbelt, who was charged with attempted murder for setting her boyfriend ablaze following disagreements over her pregnancy is a good example of relationships that have exploded as a result of poor handling skills.
According to the Legal Dictionary, a ‘crime of passion’ refers to a criminal act that a person commits out of heartbreak or anger.
It refers to a criminal act in which the perpetrator commits a crime, especially murder or assault, against someone because of a strong impulse such as sudden rage rather than as a premeditated crime.
In such instances, individuals make decisions either based on reason or emotions. When emotions take over, individuals may act on impulse and ignore the rational voice in their head that is telling them that what they are about to do is wrong.
Some commonest causes of crimes of passion include fear, revenge, anger, and jealousy.
It is important to note that both women and men have become victims and perpetrators of crimes of passion, with some perpetrators, particularly men, committing suicide after killing their victims.
A 2019 third quarter Zambia Police Service report indicated 6,788 cases of gender-based violence (GBV) countrywide, with 23 cases being murder-related.
Of these murder cases, 10 victims were male, nine female, three boys and one girl.
A Lusaka-based lawyer defines ‘crime of passion’ as a violent criminal act that a person commits out of heartbreak or anger.
The lawyer, who preferred to remain anonymous, said in an interview that such crimes in the home set-up indicated the rising levels of insecurity in couples.
“Some people are blinded by emotions and will do something that seems to be completely outside of their character,” said the lawyer.
The lack of trust has usually compromised relationships, and led to disastrous outcomes.
He lamented that where murder occurred, suicide by the perpetrator was likely to follow, with children being harmed in the process.
According to the lawyer, ‘accidental’ marriages were also to blame for passion killings.
“A young man may enter a relationship without the intention of marriage, while the lady involved in such an affair may be expecting marriage.
“If not well defined from the beginning, with time when the obvious is irreversible, there is bound to be heartbreak,” he said.
Women and Law in Southern Africa (WLSA) is saddened by the increasing number of crimes of passion, describing them as unacceptable.
WLSA national director, Maureen Tresha says men have lately been reported to have killed their wives and children while some women have killed their spouses too.
“Where the disputes cannot be settled by the two parties, we recommend counselling or even staying apart until a solution is found.
“Families of survivors are also advised to stop sending survivors back to their abusive homes before a matter is resolved,” she said in an interview.
Ms Tresha said Zambia had legislation that addressed GBV issues, adding that no-one should take the law in their hands.
The Act, according to Ms Tresha, also allows a person who suspects that GBV is being committed to report the matter to the police who, in turn, are expected to conduct an investigation.
A survivor could also protect oneself from GBV by obtaining a protection order and occupation order provided under the Anti-GBV Act. This is easily obtained from any subordinate court.
Ms Tresha said the GBV Act also facilitates for those married under the statutes to obtain a matrimonial injunction if they were continually being abused by their partners.
“The list is not exhaustive; these are just some of the avenues that can help save a life. As WLSA, we have taken the opportunity to advocate for the building of shelters where survivors can run to and funding of the Anti-GBV fund which can aid survivors to start afresh financially,” she said.
Similarly, the Women in Law and Development in Africa (WiLDAF) says it is unfortunate that Zambia has recorded an increase in passion killings, largely attributed to failure to handle misunderstandings.
WiLDAF gender and legal specialist, Namuchana Mushabati observed that unequal power dynamics in relationships between men and women was a trigger in crimes of passion.
Ms Mushabati said many women had kept anger within themselves for a long time due to the abuse they had endured, resulting in irreversible damage to their spouses.
“The sad truth is that women are more often the target of these crimes than men, and in an attempt to defend themselves, some women have also murdered their partners, making them perpetrators of passion killings too,” she said.
In certain instances, women have been aggressive and fail to manage their anger and other negative emotions.
Today, a number of women have also taken to drinking alcohol, which has led to misunderstandings in relationships.
Ms Mushabati said some women who had been abused for a long time had held on to anger without seeking any help, only to respond in a violent manner when the situation became worse.
She said WiLDAF had intensified awareness in communities and schools where young people were being educated on GBV.
“We have programmes in schools in partnership with organisations such as the Forum for African Women Educationists of Zambia (FAWEZA) and CAMFED to reach out to learners in schools with information on GBV and also intervene in abuse cases involving children,” She said.
Ms Mushabati, said WiLDF provides legal advice and also conduct mobile legal clinics in the community to enable provision of free legal advice and access to justice for the poor and vulnerable women and girls.
“We also engage traditional leaders by training headpersons as champions of zero tolerance to GBV a violence free nation in areas where we operate from,” Ms Mushabati explained.
She said like any other problem, GBV should be tackled by addressing both the perpetrators and victims.
Clearly, an improvement in conflict management and resolution among couples is needed to avoid crimes of passion besetting the Zambian and other societies.