Filicide happens all over the world but the reasons differ from society to society
I learnt a new word yesterday…filicide. It means “the deliberate act of a parent killing his or her own son or daughter.”
The murder of children by parents is in the news lately…the Aarushi murder case (where the father is the prime suspect) has still not left the headlines in India and now we hear of another case of filicide – of an Indian man killing his wife and stepchild in Australia. An earlier case – that of the a man of Indian origin, Ashok Kalyanjee, who killed his two sons (six and two years) in England last month – but it was barely reported in the Indian media.
Filicide happens all over the world and in all societies
Parents killing their children is not unusual in any society…only the motives differ. While mental instability and/or lack of control is the underlying factor of most homicides, filicide or not, the trigger/motive to commit the violent act depend on circumstances and the social milieu.
In western societies today the “reasons” if I may use that word, are thought to range from an inability to look after the child to an overwhelming loss of control over their life. Also, feelings of revenge/jealousy due to divorce and/or separation can tip a parent’s mental balance, particularly if the children are with the ex-spouse.
Germany has been rocked by baby murders of late…
…at a time when the state is pushing legislation to encourage people to have more children…experts say the rate of German mothers murdering their children is no higher than elsewhere in Europe
A woman may do it because she is single and unable to cope…and a man because he feels he is unable to provide for the child…however the article cautions that one cannot always pin down one reason for such a violent crime…the reasons are usually complex and mental illness can play a very important part.
One would have thought that this problem would be less intense in Germany because of their strong social welfare system which helps single mothers. It makes one wonder whether finances are really the critical factor. In India women don’t usually murder their babies because they can’t look after them financially…desperately poor people continue to have children…though ofcourse in the hope that one day these children will grow up and support the parents. In India when there is a baby murder, it is usually a girl as girls are thought to be a financial burden. So finances do play a part after all. In filicide cases in the west, an equal number of boys and girls are murdered by parents.
In America baby killing is more acute than in Europe, if one goes by statistics, but again motives are complex…although inability to cope is considered an important reason.
In western countries women who kill their kids are usually thought to be mentally ill while men who do so are considered criminals
It is interesting to note that women overall are not prone to violent crime…unless it comes to murdering their own children…this they do as frequently as the men. Women commit less than 13 percent of all violent crimes, but commit about 50 percent of all parental murders. I think in India this will be the case too…although no statistics are available. For example, In female feticide cases, both parents are guilty. However, courts in western countries tend to be of that view and women who kill their babies are mentally disturbed while fathers who do so are criminals. This is why more often the women who murder their kids are “hospitalized or treated, while men who do so are disproportionately jailed, even executed.”
This has been proven by various studies in America as well as in Britain.
Well, we in India know differently. Women who kill their children are not necessarily crazy…they are criminals. But courts in western countries tend to take the more lenient view towards women.
Why parents kill kids
In western countries at least the motives for killing one’s kids are not that different when it comes to men and women. While women do it because they don’t want the child because they can’t look after it, men too can do it because they don’t want the child. They might feel unable to provide for it. Both men and women also do it because of some idea that they are committing an act of “mercy” because they themselves are planning to commit suicide. Men usually have other reasons too…they can do it because they want revenge against their spouse or because the children are taken away from them after divorce or separation. The presence of another man in the life of their child can also be a cause of intense jealousy. Men also do it because of perceived infidelity.
When it comes to female feticide in India men and women are equally culpable and financial considerations are paramount.
What about murder of teenage kids?
Parents killing their children once they are teenagers sounds crazy doesn’t it. In the west this is uncommon. In fact, there are more cases of teenage children killing their parents rather than vice versa…it’s called parricide. Often these children are abused children…
In India we have these cases too, but fewer than in the west. We needn’t congratulate ourselves on this because in India abused children usually run away and try and survive on the streets. Everyday we hear of such cases. In developed nations, the system is such is that runaways are often found and returned to the parents and the children also find it difficult to survive on the streets.
In India we have a different kind of killing of grown-up children…the killing of grown up girls by their male relatives, usually the father because they feel the girl has shamed them in some way. These are known as honor killings. Most of them don’t even come to light and happen most often in rural India.
(Photographs are by me and copyrighted. They are stock pictures)