Shahid Mohammed a man suspected of being involved in Huddersfield’s worst-ever mass murder has been arrested in Pakistan, the – so far local – news tells us.
Almost 13 years ago, In May 2002, 8 people1, spanning three generations of one family, were killed and three others escaped, after petrol was poured through the letter box of a house, in Birkby, Hudsdersfield. The house had been destroyed by the time fire engines had arrived, just four minutes after neighbours had called them upon hearing the windows smash as petrol-bombs were thrown. The youngest killed was a six-month-old baby, the oldest 54.
News of the arrest of Shahid Mohammed immediately caught my attention. Like the killers and their victims, I’m from Huddersfield. I was living and working there for an organisation that ran women’s refuges at the time of the fire.
Three young men were arrested shortly after the incident. The following year, Shaied Iqbal was convicted of eight counts of murder whilst Shakiel Shazad Amir, and Nazar Hussain were convicted of manslaughter. Shahid Mohammed had also been arrested but ran away whilst on bail.
What I haven’t seen in the news reports is an analysis of sex. All those charged in connection with the murders were male, as is Shahid Mohammed. That seven of the eight victims were women or girls seems to have evaded anyone’s notice. Every report has included the names of the dead, those who escaped and those charged. All but one of them, their visiting grandmother, were born and grew up in Huddersfield. Their names tell us that they were of south Asian descent. I wish I could believe that the omission of mention of the race of both victims and perpetrators meant that this was not seen as important, that it was a reflection of a society where people are valued equally, but I don’t. The names say enough, the names tell us ‘other’, the names tell us Muslim. But the lack of mention of sex fails to locate this act within the context of men’s violence against women and girls.
We need to name male violence against women and girls. Identifying trends and making links is important, it helps us to identify causes and therefore – where there is the will – the potential to find solutions and create change. Men’s fatal violence against women and girls crosses boundaries of race, religion and culture but immediately when race or religion is a factor in violence, it is identified. Why isn’t it the same with sexist and misogynistic murder? Could it be that it is only when the primary aggressors are those acting against, not reinforcing the dominant ideology, that the majority make links?
1 Tayyaba Batool, 13, Rabiah Batool, 10, Ateeqa Nawaz, 6, Aneesa Nawaz, 2, Najeeba Nawaz, 6 months, their mother Nafeesa Aziz, 35, and their uncle Mohammed ateeq-ur-Rehman, 18, their grandmother, Zaib-un-Nisa, 54.
As far as I know, already this year, 10 UK women have been killed by men, they range between 25 and 67-years-old, the men who allegedly killed them between 27 and 75. 10 more women to add to the 126 killed in 2012, the 144 killed in 2013 and the 150 killed in 2014. Between 2012 and 2014, I counted and shared the names of 410 women. And now the count for 2015 begins.
Three years after starting I started recording the names of UK women killed by men, it’s with a mixture of pride, deep sadness when I think of women whose lives have been taken by men and feminist anger at the continued onslaught of male violence against women, that I’m looking forward to the launch of the Femicide Census: Profiles of Women Killed by Men at a conference in London on 12th February.
The conference will bringing together family members of women who have been killed by men and a range of speakers to support the continuation and future development of the census, including me; Polly Neate CEO of Women’s Aid; Professor Jill Radford feminist activist and academic who co-edited Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing; Dr Aisha Gill co-author of ‘Honour’ Killing and Violence; and Frank Mullane, Director of AAFDA (Advocacy After Fatal Domestic Abuse.
The Femicide Census has been developed through a partnership between Women’s Aid and me, with support from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Deloitte LLP. We intend it to be an important tool, enabling us to monitor fatal male violence against women and provide data to help analyse and reduce the number of women killed by men. It’s a growing and evolving project currently providing detailed data on femicides in England committed since 2009. If we don’t name and reveal the extent of men’s fatal violence against women and the various forms it can take, we will never be capable of a thorough enough analysis to reduce or end it.
I spoke to Tracey McVeigh from the Observer about why I started Counting Dead women and why The Femicide Census is important. Claire Colley spoke to family members of three women who were killed by men. You can read the piece here.
Title: Building the UK’s First Femicide Census: Profiles of Women Killed by Men
Time & date: 10:00 to 16:30, 12th February 2015
Venue: Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer, 65 Fleet Street, London, EC4Y 1HS
Cost: £25 per delegate, £20 for Women’s Aid members. No charge for delegates who have lost a family member or friend to femicide.
If you’d like to come along you can book a place here
In 2014, 15 UK women were killed with their son named as primary suspect:
- 30 Jan 2014: Karen Wild, was found dead through stabbing. A 22-year-old man, said to be her son, Lian Wild, was charged with her murder.
- 12 Feb 2014: A woman who cannot be named for legal reasons was found dead in Bow, London. A 15 year old boy, thought to be her son, was charged with her murder.
- 21 April 2014: Malgorzata Dantes, 54, and her husband Leszek were stabbed to death. Their son Kamil Dantes was charged with their murders.
- 9 May 2014: Tamara Holboll, 67, was found dead with multiple stab wounds following a fire at her home. Her son, Peter Holboll, 44, was charged with her murder.
- 31 May 2014: Barbara Hobbis, 79, was strangled by her 58-year-old son, Geoffrey Hobbis.
- 3 June 2014: Yvonne Fox, 87, was killed by blunt force trauma to the head. Her son, Paul Fox, was charged with her murder.
- 4 June 2014: Margaret Evans, 69, was beaten to death. Her son, Alun Evan, 32, was detained under the mental health act.
- 7 July 2014: Quoi Chang, 50, and her husband Pin Chang, 58, were both stabbed to death in their home. Their 23-year-old son, Carl Chang was charged with their murders.
- 19 September 2014: Dorothy Brown, 66, and her husband Paul Brown, 73 were stabbed to death. Their son Timothy Brown, 46, was charged with their murders.
- 30 September 2014: Catherine McDonald, 57, was found dead. She had been stabbed and asphyxiated. Her 27-year-old son, Alex McDonald, was charged with her murder.
- 11 Oct 2014: Maria Mayes, 67, was stabbed to death. Her son, Stuart Mayes, was charged with her murder.
- 18 Nov 2014: The body of Valerie Davison, 59, known locally as Jane, was discovered. Initially her death was thought to be unexplained but her son Charles Davison, 38 was charged with murdering her sometime between 3-17 November.
- 12 December 2014: Carol Ruddy, 54, and her husband Eric, 64, were found with serious injuries at their home. Their son Martin Ruddy, 28, was charged with their
- 22 December 2014 was the last day that Carol-Anne Taggart was seen alive. Her body was discovered on 12 January 2015. Her son Ross Taggart, 30, was charged with her murder.
- 31 December 2014: Sandra Brotherton, 60, was found stabbed to death. Her 29 year-old son was arrested on suspicion of murder and detained under the mental health act
In addition, one woman was killed by her grandson, one by her step-grandson and a third woman’s stepson was charged with her murder:
- 11 Feb 2014: Clara Patterson, 82, and her son Ray, 61, were found dead. Their grandson/son was found guilty of manslaughter and detained indefinitely.
- 18 June 2014: Una Dorney, 87, was found dead in the care home in which she lived. Her step-grandson, Ryan Guest, 33, pleaded guilty to her murder.
- 1 November 2014: Ann Cluysenaar (Jackson), 78, was found dead. Her stepson, Timothy Jackson, has been charged with her murder.
Hooray! Feminists have managed to make inequality between the sexes so obviously ludicrous, so obviously discriminatory, so unpalatable, that even men want in on the act. Sadly though, I think this is more an ‘own goal’ than a cause for celebration. It’s not unusual any more for a man to say that he’s a feminist, and it’s even less unusual for women to say that men can and should be involved in feminism. But for this to have become possible, it has been necessary for a shift in the understanding of what feminism is. Feminism, women’s fight for liberation from male oppression, has become widely understood as the struggle for gender equality. That this shift has happened as men have clamoured to be involved, is not a coincidence. Invite the oppressor to the game and the goal shifts. But the shift renders feminism meaningless. Gender is a social construct, it is one of patriarchy’s best tools for maintaining inequality and the illusion that inequality between the sexes is natural and inevitable. Gender is a hierarchy, it is subordination and domination sugar coated in pink and blue. Gender equality is an oxymoron, gender is inequality. Feminism needs to fight for the eradication of gender, not for it to be enshrined and protected in legislation.
As Andrea Dworkin identified, feminism requires that which patriarchy destroys in women, our ability to confront and resist male power. As women, too many of us are caught up in societal Stockholm syndrome. As an oppressed group too many of us have bonded with those who hold power and see society though their perspective. It is an understandable survival strategy, but it is also one of the ways our collusion is created. I understand how women love their male partners, their sons, fathers, male friends and relatives. I understand that some men, maybe even many or most men, are good men who respect women and purport to or even genuinely desire equality with women. As a sentient human being I understand that masculinity encompasses ways of being that some men reject or even feel imprisoned by. As a human being, I can sympathise with and support their desire for change. Yet cries that ‘patriarchy hurts men too’ leave the feminist in me unmoved. These positions are not mutually exclusive, but feminism needs to centre on women’s oppression, tinkering with gender equality will never produce the change for women that feminism demands. Whilst feminism must ensure that the additional structural oppressions faced by some women are not ignored and cannot be blind to the ways that class and race bring advantages for some women and disadvantages for others, the focus must be on women’s oppressions, not on men.
When we look at male violence against women, the difference between a liberal and a radical feminist analysis is the difference between looking for individual or class solutions. One of the biggest gains of feminism is getting male violence against women on to the policy agenda and almost seen as a mainstream issue. The biggest threat against this gain, is that those male dominated institutions of power, under the auspices of dealing with the problem, have shaken all but the barest hint of feminist analysis from discourse on the issue. To end male violence against women, we need to end male power, and dismantle all the institutions that uphold male supremacy. It is this power that creates and is reinforced by male violence against women. We will never end male violence by believing that we can change one man at a time, though sensitising education programmes. We will never end male violence against women by being gentle to men and sympathetic to the harms of masculinity to men, not without destroying the institutions that uphold and create male supremacy. We will never end male violence against women, against children, even against other men, if we fail to recognise and name men as the overwhelming primary perpetrators of almost all forms of violence.
A 2014 study of the worldwide cost of violence, found that domestic violence against women and children costs $8 trillion each year and is the biggest single form (and cost) of violence, yet that same study fails to name the issue ‘male violence’ against women and children. Male involvement in the field of male violence against women became ‘men can be victims too’, became the failure to name male violence and this allows male violence against women as a cause and consequence of inequality to continue. How many men genuinely choose not to see the massive imbalance that is violence between the sexes, male violence against women? How many men do not know that rape, assault and murder of women are wrong? Men who want to support women in our struggle to end male violence need to join us naming the problem, they should not need to demand access to our spaces to do so. Men need to see male violence against women as the problem, not create women’s violence against men as a false equivalent and not place this as secondary to them learning how not to be harmed by masculinity. When we look at homicide, there is no sex equivalence, women are overwhelmingly killed by men; men too, are overwhelmingly killed by men. When men kill their women partners and ex-partners, it is usually after subjecting them to years of abuse, the comparatively few women who kill male partners or exes, usually do so after they themselves have been subject to years of abuse. There is no equivalence, not in rate, not in precursor to killing. Men need to learn to listen to feminists, to learn from us, rather than fight to have their voices be the ones that feminists listen to.
Men, through their socialisation, their training to be the dominant class, dominate space. Mostly they can’t see this happening, and women, through our socialisation are equality taught not to see this. Last month I attended a conference on fatal domestic violence. According the delegate list, 91 out of 101 attendees were women. After the first session of speakers, questions were invited from the floor, the first two ‘questions’ were from men. Taking the composition of delegates to be 10% men and ignoring all other differences between the sexes, the statistical probability of this happening is one percent. One percent, but any feminist attending similar conferences will be able to tell you that this isn’t unusual. Why? Gender. Male entitlement and men and women’s socialisation in to our genders make this unnoticed and accepted.
Feminism needs to be radical, not liberal. Radicalism understands that oppression is group based harm, liberalism is individualist. Not only has feminism been reset as gender equality, the notion of ‘choice’ of the individual has become one of its central tenants. This is another false lead. Of course women must have the right to choose, but our choices need to be understood in their wider social context. Women ‘choose’ to wear restrictive and uncomfortable clothes and footwear, to maximise our assets, to flaunt our curves, to sell sex, to view something called beauty as desirable and saleable because society has been constructed to maintain inequality and the best way to maintain social power is to persuade an oppressed group to collude with their oppression. Men are raised to believe in their entitlement to women’s bodies; sexual objectification, pornography and even non-sexual objectification of women create this. Women have been socialised to view ourselves through the lens that is the male gaze because society is built upon those foundations. The objectification and commodification of women, like male violence against women, like gender, are means of maintaining male supremacy.
Men, I do not want you in my feminism. I want something a bit more complex than that. I would like you to realise that feminism is not about you, it is not about what men need but it is about what your class does to women. I would like you to shut up and listen and learn. Then I would like you to take that learning and communicate with and change other men. You do need to want to change society. You do not need to call yourself feminists to do this. You do not need to be part of the women centered space that is feminism. You do not need to alter the goals of feminism so that you are included.
By the time the precious few men that ever realise that they are advantaged by patriarchy get round to realising it, they have already benefited from being socialised as men and their awareness does not prevent them from continuing to benefit from their socialisation and from how society treats women and men as a class. Every man benefits from male supremacy. Feminism cannot succeed if we allow the very goal of feminism to be hidden or extinguished. If our goal as feminists is not mass social change, the eradication of male power, but gradual blurring of the boundaries between what is deemed masculine and feminine, then sex inequality will never be erased. None of this means that men do not have a role in creating change, but that feminism has a particular role in creating how we understand the change that is needed. We can’t create equality from a system that is predicated upon inequality. We cannot afford for feminism to become the fight for gender equality rather than the end of male supremacy. This is why feminism cannot be for or about men. If our feminism does not make this obvious, which sex benefits from things staying as they are?
The bodies of Maria Jose Alvarado, 19, and her sister, Sofia Trinidad, 23, were found almost a week after they disappeared after being seen leaving a party near the city of Santa Barbara, in Honduras. Maria Alvaro was due to fly to London this week to compete in the Miss World competition as Miss Honduras. Plutarco Ruiz, Sofia’s boyfriend has confessed to killing both women, allegedly because he was angry and jealous after seeing her dance with another man.
Men’s violence against women is a cause and consequence of sex inequality between women and men. We need to make the connections between the objectification of women and violence against women. While women are seen and judged as decorative objects judged by sexist beauty standards and simultaneously as men’s possessions, women and men can never be equal; and as long as we have sex inequality, we will have male violence against women. The ‘Miss World’ competition is part of the problem.
And yet femicide – the systemic killing of women because they are women – rarely makes the news. If it does, it is usually because, as in the case of the murder of Maria Jose Alvaradom the woman herself is seen as newsworthy. Across the world, hundreds of women are violently killed every day. So far this year, in the UK, at least 131 women have been killed through suspected male violence. Ordinary women killed by ordinary men, violence so ordinary that it is rarely front-page news.