Ashling Murphy: A Victim of Misogyny
Gearóid Ó Loingsigh
19 January 2022
People hold pictures during a memorial for 23-year-old Ashling Murphy.
The recent murder of Ashling Murphy in Tullamore has focused the country’s attention on the question of male violence against women. The outpouring of grief and acts and vigils of solidarity with the family and the murdered woman show that the issue touched a nerve in Irish society, however, such killings are not new and there have been a number of recent murders of other women which went unremarked and unnoticed by the mass of society, for a variety of reasons.
According to their site:
Ireland has a comparatively low overall homicide rate compared to other countries in the world and this is reflected also in the femicides committed in the country. It is no accident that three of the countries with high femicide rates, El Salvador, Honduras and South Africa also have generally high crime rates, and high homicide rates. But one does not necessarily follow the other, countries like Japan and South Korea also have high femicide rates but lower overall murder rates than other countries.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime calculated that 47,000 women were murdered worldwide in 2020 by their intimate partners or other family members, i.e. a women is murdered in such circumstances every 11 minutes.(2) It should be borne in mind that the UN is cautious and conservative in its estimates. The report uses the misnomer of gender-based violence rather than sex, an unfortunate trend in many public documents, however, the statistics are clear as is the reasoning. The report attributes male violence against women to being motivated by “underlying factors such as the ideology of men’s entitlement and privilege over women, social norms regarding masculinity, and the need to assert male control or power, enforce gender roles, or prevent, discourage or punish what is considered to be unacceptable female behaviour.”(3) This is exactly the point and Irish society has long sought to control and punish women as have all European societies, it is not a problem unique to just any one country. The report also pointed to a decline in murders of women outside the home, but a relative stability in such numbers in a domestic setting, which is indicative of where women face the greatest danger.
When the media look at such killings in domestic settings, its racism usually comes to the fore. It is true that so called honour killings exist and dowry deaths in India, but there is no escaping that the murder of women in domestic settings or at the hands of a person known to them outside of the home is a common thread across the globe and jurisdictions.
In the case of the north of Ireland, the situation is not any better than in the south, in fact it seems that it is worse.
The case of Northern Ireland is a peculiar one. If we separate Northern Ireland from the rest of the United Kingdom, the number of femicides reaches a high level of 4.2 deaths per million inhabitants, or eight murders of women in 2017.
This is a very high figure compared to the Scottish average (0.17) or the average in England and Wales (0.13).(4)Indeed, it is very high and is a lot higher than the European average. The murder of Ashling Murphy is not an isolated incident, even though the circumstances are less common than other murders. Nor is it a particularly Irish phenomenon. In Irish society women are second class citizens, who have had to fight for very basic rights since the foundation of the state. Although progress has been made in the area of abortion, divorce, contraception and even in employment, the attitudes and power structures that fomented such ideas remain in place.
Women should be safe in the home and in the street. They should also have control over those women only spaces designed to afford them some protection, such as same sex changing rooms, prison wings, and of course refuges for women victims of male violence. All of these are under threat now. The society which saw young Ashling murdered harbours others who in the name of identity politics tell women in refuges and rape crisis centres that they must refer to their rapist as 'she', when the man decides to identify as a woman. These are not separate issues, they are part and parcel of the same fight against misogyny.
(2) See UNODC (2021) Killings of women and girls by their intimate partner or other family members: Global estimates 2020. https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/statistics/crime/UN_BriefFem_251121.pdf
(3) Ibíd., p.11 ff.