Rector’s Cup: ‘Should battered wives be prosecuted for killing husbands?’

By Nur Adilah Ramli

GOMBAK, 9 April 2016: Domestic violence is not a new issue. Often, it is highlighted, but more than ever, it is just a too late an action. If the wife could have defended herself, she would have done so. But to help herself was easier said than done. Trapped in a torture chamber, how could she escape?

“This House would not prosecute battered wives who kill their husbands” was the motion debated during the grand final of IIUM Rector’s Cup 2016 held at Moot Court AIKOL on 29 March 2016. The government bench was ‘Not Your Team’, represented by Alya Zahira, Amshar Aziz and Cellini Basri. The team went against Aidil Aizuddin, Ameera Moore and Naufal Nasrullah, representing ‘Aideally Moore Donuts’.

The “Prime Minister”, Alya, began by stating that in the case of the battered wives, killing is not a crime but a cry for help. To start with, battered wives are categorised as those who are continuously tortured by their husbands, both physically and mentally. They have been pushed to a corner, forcing them to defend themselves using the only way available to them, that is, to kill their husbands. It is not an act of crime; rather, it is a form of self-defence in which the sole way to save themselves is to kill the abusers. In that critical condition, they are akin to slaves who want freedom which is rightfully theirs. In a sense, the battered wives are indeed modern slaves, because how are the two even different? Thus, the battered wives who merely claim their rights should not be prosecuted.

The “Leader of Opposition”, Aidil, turned down the motion due to the belief that domestic violence should be handled by court. Also, he believed killing should not be in the list of the alternatives. Aidil went on to say that killing the husband would only result in double punishment. First, when the husband died, no one would know his side of story. Second, the wife would likely be blamed for murdering her husband, even if it was done to save herself. That said, the wife taking the matter – domestic violence – in her own hand, through killing, will not solve the problem. Therefore, prosecution is necessary to avoid further victimization. In fact, the wives’ rights would be championed by the moderates, thus prosecuting them is actually a way to help them start anew. Starting a new life will be more bearable with the presence of a support system, which can be attained when the case is proven by laws, and when it is made known to people what has actually happened. Only then, the wife can truly be relieved of torture.

Amshar, as the “Deputy Prime Minister”, again reaffirmed the status quo in which the wife, in the attempt of protecting herself, practically has no other viable alternatives, other than killing the husband. Given that circumstance, the law should forgive the wife. The act of killing the husband, in that condition, is, again, a form of self-defence, thus the prosecution of the wife should not take place.

The “Deputy Leader of Opposition”, Ameera, firmly stated that the wife killing the husband is principally not justified. Not prosecuting the wife means that the wife is assumed to be innocent, effectively taking away the right of the deceased husband. There should be a room for the husband to be fairly treated, and it can only be fair if the wife is tried in court. Not prosecuting the wife will only allow more victims blaming and the one who will suffer from that is the wife herself.

Cellini as the “Government Whip” reiterated the stance that in the horrible condition of being abused by the husband, the wife is left with no options but to kill the husband. Cellini also mentioned that in replace of court trial, there will be a judicial review which will present records showing that the wife was a victim of domestic violence, having been abused by her own husband.

Naufal acting as the “Opposition Whip” began his speech by conjuring the situation in which the wife is placed in a box surrounded by ignorants who have no knowledge of the basis of the case. Is the wife free in that box? She is not, for people around her, who are clueless about the reason why she killed her husband, might be making all sorts of assumptions. And those people can’t be easily silenced unless they can see the facts. And this is where prosecution comes in. Prosecuting the wife is, therefore, not to punish the wife; rather, it is to give the wife a chance to prove herself right. If she is right, then there is nothing to be afraid of. And not to mention, the fact that laws should be impartial means that the husband should be given the same chance.

In the reply speech, Ameera, on behalf of the “Opposition”, once against stood to defend their case. Firstly, one is innocent until he is proven guilty. In a similar manner, one cannot assume the innocence of an individual. Thus the wife, having killed the husband, should be answerable to laws. The case that the “Government” brought up, that is, there will be a judicial review to calculate the case, is still not a fair measure as there is no cross-examination in a judicial review. Moreover, her being abused can be classified as a mitigating circumstance in that she was forced to kill the husband for the sake of protecting herself. If she is prosecuted, and if she is proven not guilty, then the punishment may be reduced. The point of the matter is, evaluation should be given due process particularly in this case, which involves the life of other.

Amshar, who had the last voice to speak for the “Government”, elaborated the effects of prosecuting the wife who would be pressured from all directions. The case characterisation remains: the battered wife who is trapped with the perpetrator, is left with no options at all. It is either she kills the husband, or she gets killed. In that dire condition, killing is the only weapon she has. Having gone through the state, imagine she gets prosecuted for defending herself: it will put more burden on her shoulder and pressure her and make her life even more complicated. Given the consequences, the battered wife who killed the husband to defend herself from being killed, should not be prosecuted.***

Photo by @iiudebate on Twitter

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