Homicide is described as one of the most serious form of violent crime which is uniquely harmful to victims. Its effects not only affect the victims but are far reaching to family and friends of the victim, offenders themselves and the community as a whole. Whilst homicide is undoubtedly a tragic event, at the same time it holds, for many, great interest and, in some cases, fascination. The term homicide refers to the killing of human being, whether the killing is lawful or unlawful. Examples of lawful homicide would include the killing of another human being during wartime combat, the implementation of death penalty or the accidental killing of a boxer by his opponent. Where homicide is defined as unlawful it may be legally classified in classes such as murder, manslaughter or infancide (Fisher, & Steven, 2010).
The concept of gender as far as homicide is concerned has had an assumption that male and female offenders are qualitatively distinct, killing under different circumstances and situations. Historically, female offenders have been associated with higher rates of infanticide and killings that occur within intimate partner relations (Miethe, et al., 2004). Male-perpetrated homicides have long been linked with notions of masculine competitiveness and subculture of young, single, poor and transient males. Studies of intimate partner homicides by women and men indicate differences in circumstances prior to and at the time of the homicide, the motivations for the lethal assault, and the location of the crime. Differences in weapon use by gender have also been observed in various situations, with greater use of knives occurring among female-perpetrated homicides (Miethe, et al., 2004).
Homicides committed by women are argued to be predominantly motivated by self-protection against aggressive and threatening behavior by males. History also tells that women kill somebody that they know (Brookman, 2005).
Theories of homicide can be distinguished in terms of their emphasis on the offender or the situational context of the crime. Offender-based theories focus on the sources of criminal motivation across contexts, whereas theories of homicide situations explore the interplay of particular offender, victim and offense attributes that underlie violent acts (Brookman, 2005).
Theories of Homicide offending
The disproportionate involvement of males as homicide offenders has been explained by a number of biological, psychological and sociological theories. Some researches have linked male violence to testosterone and other biological factors. Sociological theories emphasize differential opportunity, social learning, sub cultural influences and value conflict, lifestyles and gender roles or masculine socialization as contributory factors for higher levels of male homicide. Evolutionally perspectives have also been developed to account for the over representation of males in homicide offending. These theories however have some limitations in that they either ignore or cannot account for variation in these patterns across different situational contexts (Brookman, 2005).
Theories of the structure of homicide situations
The question of whether male and female perpetrated homicides are distinct really focuses n whether men and women kill in qualitatively unique situations. If homicide situations are defined by combinations of offender, victim and offence characteristics, it is easy to see that most theories of offender motivation are limited for answering questions about unique or common signatures because they often exclude two of the three basic structural elements of homicide situations (Brookman, 2005).
There are certain predispositional factors that can either work alone or in combination to influence offender behavior. One of the major factors that have been pointed out is dysfunctional family surroundings during childhood. This well been understood as developmental failure and the interpersonal problem s that result from it represent psychological predispositional factors. The limbic system in the brain has highly been investigated in an attempt to understand why some people commit the crimes of murder. One study observed that with the disease of sexual sadism, the brain was pathologically activated to transmit messages of attack simultaneously with messages of sexual arousal and mating behavior. Other predisposing factors include traumatic events, low self-esteem, early fantasy and paraphilic development, orgasmic conditioning process. These factors mostly apply in homicides that are sexual in nature (Fisher, & Steven, 2010).
Gay and Lesbian Violence
This topic interests me because I never completely understood how a person could kill someone they love regardless of what was done to them (with the exception of being abused). Also, I'm a lesbian and have been with my partner for 8 years and couldn't fathom committing homicide. Being the victim of physical assault is known to be one of the greatest health risks that homosexuals and lesbians can suffer. Since the federal regulations do not require the recording of homophobic violence, such cases go unnoticed (Fisher, & Steven, 2010). Traditionally the issue of gay and lesbian domestic violence was ignored and its extent undocumented. That law enforcement once considered abuse within a heterosexual couple’s relationship a private and personal matter makes understandable the lack of police concern regarding violence between homosexual partners (Miethe, et al., 2004).
Today, however, limited research on the topic has shown that domestic violence does exist within gay and lesbian relationships. A report by the National Coalition of Anti-violence programs released in 1998 revealed that 3,327 domestic violence cases self-reported among gays in 12 U.S cities, where about half involved lesbians, bisexual and transgender women. It was pointed out that “gay men and lesbians are more likely to be injured by an intimate partner than a stranger”. In the U.S, femicide have been recognized as the seventh leading cause of premature death for women (Miethe, et al., 2004). It is also on record that intimate partner homicide accounts for about 40% - 50% of femicides committed in the U.S. Male partners are responsible for the largest percentage of homicides while about 0.5% of intimate partner femicides were committed by female partners.
Brazil has been ranked as the leading country in cases related to killing of homosexuals with an average of one murder after every 36 hours. A report released by the Group Gay da Bahia revealed that in 2010 only, 260 gay men, transvestites and lesbians were murdered in Brazil. According to the centers for disease control and prevention in 2008, the proportion of intimate partner homicides committed by same sex partners is greater for gay men than for lesbians (Fisher, & Steven, 2010). After analyzing the contributing factors to this kind of violence among the gays and the lesbians, CDC reported that prior physical violence, controlling behaviors, jealousy, alcohol and drugs and ending the relationship were consistently reported antecedents to the murder (Daniella, 2011).
Generally, cases of domestic homicide are on the rise in many parts of the world. Among African American women between ages of 15 and 44 years, femicide is the leading cause of premature death. Hispanic women have the second highest rate of homicide victimization. The risk factors that have been linked to this high rise in homicide related cases among intimate partners show that poverty, low educational level, partner unemployment and young age are associated with a group’s increased intimate partner homicide experiences (Brookman, 2005). Among the few intra-group studies examining the risk factors and intimate partner homicide rates among African American women, low socio-economic status, lack of employment of the partner and establishment of limited social networks within a community have been found to be significant risk factors for intimate partner violence.
Similarly, Hispanic women often find that the context of their lives is characterized by poverty, lower levels of education, discrimination and an environment with high use of alcohol and drugs, often by their male intimate partners. In many instances, both the African American and Hispanic women live in communities where there is high level of violence and are limited resources in general and even fewer resources to protect women and children from intimate partner violence and ultimate partner homicide. Of all the identified risk factors, unemployment appeared to be the strongest risk factor compared to ethnicity or race (Fisher, & Steven, 2010).
Through this research, it has come to my understanding that very little research has been done on homicide among the homosexuals. Several factors are responsible for this phenomenon one being that homosexuality is regarded as an immoral practice in many communities which makes the government institutions to fail to protect homosexuals. The other factor is that, even homosexuals shy away from reporting any cases of domestic violence which eventually culminates to homicide. On the other hand, the issue of domestic homicide among the heterosexual partners has been well studied and properly researched on.
Most researches that have been carried out on heterosexuals have pointed out that intimate violence continues to be a major public issue for all women meaning that women suffer the most. Many risk factors that predispose women to domestic homicide have been pointed out and are for the opinion that some of this factor can as well be applicable to the rising cases of domestic homicide among the homosexuals. I would also like to point out that there is a great need for a research to be carried out domestic homicide among the homosexuals since they are part and parcel of our society and they do also have their own rights just like any other member of the society.