In the run up to 16 Days of Activism Muthoni Muriithi, the Africa Enough Campaigner at Oxfam International, explains their new campaign which tackles jealousy as a cause of domestic violence. Follow #JealousyIsNoExcuse on social media to keep up with the campaign.
Who are you talking to? Where were you, why did you come home late? Why did he look at you? Why did you smile at him/her? Who are you messaging on your phone?
These are just some of the questions heard in romantic love asked by possessive boyfriend/girlfriends, partners, love interests. While these questions at face value are often dismissed as harmless they often are used to control a partner’s actions and justify feelings of anger and rage that can lead to the use of violence and force against the ‘offending’ partner. Many times, these questions are brushed off by women, their friends and family members, however a deeper look into these questions exposes a sense of insecurity and need to control one’s partner and can lead to aggressive behaviour and violence. It also exposes widely held social norms around gender and intimate partner relationships, misogynist attitudes and belief on male entitlement, ownership and control over women’s bodies.
In a recent Oxfam Study across seven Latin American Countries to be launched in March 2018, 32% of young people in Bolivia said they believe that jealousy is proof of love while one in five young adults in Australia agree that jealousy is a sign that your partner loves you. This belief is common among many young people around the world where jealousy is viewed as a sign of love, and possessive behaviour is considered a valid expression of desire. Young people ideas of romantic love and relationships are influenced by the societies they live in, as well as through depictions in film, music, TV, social media and everyday use of language in their own communities. Where a society sees jealously as a legitimate excuse for the use of violence or force, young people internalize this form of behaviour as acceptable and reinforce it within their own relationships. While feelings of jealousy among young people are often considered harmless, too often jealousy is used as an excuse to exercise power and control over women and girls including using aggressive behaviour and violence.
The Oxfam study also revealed that jealousy was one of the excuses given for violence against women and girls. In the UK, a study conducted among British prisoners found in the vast majority of cases, men kill their partners because of sexual jealousy while the Kenya Demographic and Health Survey (2014), noted that about 53% of women stated that their husbands exhibited jealousy or anger if they talked to other men or insisted on knowing their whereabouts all the time and exhibited other forms of control. A quick scan of newspapers and the internet reveals many gruesome stories of intimate partner violence where jealousy or ‘crime of passion’ are cited as reasons for the use of violence against one’s partner, with headlines such as “Jealous lover detained over girlfriend’s murder” in Botswana or “40% of murder cases are crimes of passion” in Patna district India, the list goes on.
The Oxfam study also revealed that jealousy was one of the excuses given for violence against women and girls.
In these stories, the use of jealousy as an excuse for violence paints the aggressor or abuser as a victim of passionate love and infatuation with uncontrollable emotions of jealousy and is therefore viewed in a more sympathetic manner while the women who experience the violence are viewed as deserving of the abuse especially where they have behaved in ways that go against the socially accepted norms within the society. This further normalises violence as part and parcel of passionate love and reinforces negative norms around masculinity such as ownership and control over women’s bodies rather than expressing positive norms that reinforce love, mutual respect and equality.
Breaking the norms
Just ahead of the 16 days of activism to end gender-based violence, Oxfam has launched a new campaign to challenge and denounce jealousy as an excuse for any form of violence against women and girls #JealousyIsNoExcuse. This campaign seeks to challenge the idea that jealousy is a justification for the use of violence against women and girls and that control, violence and force are a normal part of romantic relationships.
It calls on young people to dismantle negative social norms that create inequality between young couples and together find positive norms that reinforce respect and bodily autonomy. It calls on young people to denounce behaviour that seeks to control their partners and challenge norms that reinforce entitlement and ownership over women’s bodies. It is recognising that using jealousy as an excuse for violence against women and girls reinforces a culture of blaming women who experience violence, because the abusive partner feels justified in his expression of rage and violence against his partner and it enables this type of violence to go unchecked and unchallenged. Young people are encouraged to cultivate healthy relationships where they are respected, not harassed or intimidated and where mutual respect and equality is the foundation of their relationship.
What can you do
Stand with us to say #JealousyIsNoExcuse, share our video, talk with your friends, colleagues, family, share information of that seeks to challenge this belief and together lets works to end violence against women and girls!