Jealous Men but Evil Women: The Double Standard in Cases of Domestic Homicide

Helen Gavin

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


In 1989, Sara Thornton killed her abusive husband with a knife, after years of abuse and threats to her daughter. She was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment. Also in 1989, Kiranjit Ahluwalia soaked her husband’s bedclothes with petrol and set them alight. He died from burns 10 days later, and she was subsequently convicted of murder and sentenced to life in prison. In 1991, Joseph McGrail kicked his alcoholic common-law wife to death whilst she lay unconscious. He walked free from court, the judge telling him that ‘this lady would have tried the patience of a saint’. In 1992, Les Humes told a court that he ‘saw a red mist’ after his wife admitted loving someone else. He fatally stabbed her whilst their teenage children struggled with him. He was convicted of manslaughter due to provocation and was imprisoned for 7 years. Double standards in judicial processes are notorious. Chivalric justice is the case in which women are given lighter sentences for similar offences to men. This does not apply in the case of domestic homicide, where women are seen as evil and calculating when killing a spouse, men are seen as provoked beyond reason. Women who kill husbands do so with weapons that they need to acquire, men do it with their hands or weapons that are immediately available. So it is seems the defence of crime passionnel is reserved for men; women, it is implied, premeditate the murder of abusive husbands and are justifiably punished. This chapter explores the double standard in uxoricide vs. mariticide, and why it appears that killing a wife is justified and killing a husband is evil.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationPerceiving Evil
Subtitle of host publicationEvil, Women and the Feminine
EditorsDavid Farnell, Rute Noiva, Kristen Smith
PublisherInter-Disciplinary Press
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9781848880054
ISBN (Print)9789004373839
Publication statusPublished - 4 Jan 2015


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