WOMEN: THE FORGOTTEN CHILD MURDERERS
Montreal, Quebec, by David MacRae, Feb. 3, 2001
Women who kill their children are given sympathy and sentenced to "treatment" while men who do the same thing are charged with murder and sentenced to life.
Perhaps it is not a coincidence that women are many times more likely to murder their offspring than men.
A hospital in Great Britain installed hidden cameras to survey children who they feared to be at risk of abuse by their parents. They found dozens of cases and made headlines about abuse by "parents" and "step-parents". The Life Channel chronicled the story (this version was translated and ran on Canal Vie as well).
What all the commentators carefully hid was who these "parents" were: there was one grandmother, one father... and thirty-seven mothers. Judging from the references to "step-parents", I suspect that the man wasn't really a father either.
How did the hospital choose the people to watch? Every case involved previous children who had died in mysterious circumstances. To be more precise, 37 killer moms murdered 40 children. Total jail sentences imposed: 0, even though some of the women confessed when confronted afterwards.
About 1300 child murders took place in the US last year. About 500 perpetrators were non-parents, roughly divided between men and women. Of the rest, only 30 (!) were fathers. In other words, mothers were more than 25 times more likely to kill their progeny than fathers. Yet somehow, men are viewed as being more dangerous to their children than women.
In Canada, many crime statistics are presented in such a way as to hide female malevolence. As an example, we do not break down statistics on child murder by sex of the offender. Consequently, this information is not available here. However, there is no reason to assume that things are any different north of the border.
This favoured treatment of women is not limited to child murder. Rose Cece and Mary Taylor, a lesbian couple in Toronto, decided on a lark to kill a police officer. Had a man done so, he would have been convicted with first-degree murder almost without regard to the facts. If not, police associations across the country would have been outraged. In fact, Cece and Taylor were convicted of manslaughter and no one commented.
At least they went to jail. Women are often let off with suspended sentences. As the Ottawa Citizen said in one case, "husband-killer Lilian Getkate's sentence of two years less a day at home is an insult to our sense of natural justice." The murderer herself reacted by saying: "I was startled. I took someone's life and I'm not going to jail. Of course I'm surprised by that." Once again, the Crown did not appeal.
Getting away with murder
This reluctance to convict women murderers goes back a long way. In fact, it is the reason for the invention of the crime of infanticide at the turn of the last century. Juries refused to convict women of murdering their own children.
Or their parents, it would appear.
Lizzie Borden took an axe
Gave her mother forty whacks
When she saw what she had done
She gave her father forty-one.
What the ditty doesn't mention is that the 1892 Boston jury let Lizzie off. One of the main reasons for this is that her judge, like the one in the Getkate case, practically directed the jury to acquit. Plus a change...
One difference between women who are committed to jail and those who are not appears to be familial relationships. Only two women have ever been convicted of first-degree murder in this country. Yvonne Johnson killed a man she barely knew. Sarabjit Kaur Minhas strangled her nephew. In other words, women are given greater latitude when they kill their husbands, parents or children. Of course, they always get some slack Cece and Taylor are proof enough of that.
The discrimination of the courts in favour of women is not limited to murder. It is true of all crimes. Officially, women commit 15% of serious crimes in Canada, almost certainly an understatement of the facts. Whatever the real number, they form approximately 1% of the people in our prisons. Texas statistics indicate that women are actually more likely to commit fraud than men. Despite this, men are ten times more likely to serve time for the offence.
There seems to be a fundamental refusal to admit that women are capable of committing crimes. When they do, we tend to downplay the act and to view her as the victim, not as the victimizer. A book has been written about the Johnson case. Its title is Stolen Life. Guess whose life the author feels was robbed. It isn't the man she killed.
While feminism may be partially responsible for this, the answer appears to be more profound. Lizzy Borden's parents died long before the appearance of this form of collective insanity. The reality is that people, in all societies, assume that the female of the species must be protected, even from the consequences of her own actions.
Whatever. The bottom line is that male misbehaviour, however you to define this word, is treated far more severely than equivalent female crimes.