Two femicides and media bias: A story of two femicides

Media prefers to cover female murder victims over others.

Two femicides and media bias: A story of two femicides

Media prefers to cover female murder victims over others. One killing is often covered in broad strokes, while the other is quickly dismissed. If the UN can convince countries to use a more comprehensive framework for identifying cases, crimes of femicide, which is when a woman dies because she is a female victim, may be counted better.

Alexandra Inshina, her friend, told her on 5 Jun 2021 that she was in love.

Alexandra was thrilled to be sunbathing with Yulia on Saturday afternoon in Beryozovsky. This is a small Russian town east of Moscow's Ural Mountains. Alexandra, a 35-year old single mother to a 10-year old boy, had settled down in life after her divorce. There was so much to be joyful about. She was already a leader in the auto parts factory, and had just two days before booked a vacation to Egypt for herself and her son.

The fizz of love is now. She was meeting a man from Yekaterinburg, a nearby city, to go on a date that night.

While she was speaking, her phone vibrated and displayed a text message. He was there, but the news wasn't good. After all, he wasn't certain if he would be released. It seemed like a simple brush-off.

Yulia said that Yulia was "upset by it". They sat by the lake talking about men's unreliability until 8 p.m., when they headed home. Alexandra returned home to an empty apartment, while her son was at her parents' for the weekend.

Later, Alexandra made a decision. After all, she decided to go to Yekaterinburg to the Rosy Jane, an English-themed all night pub. She ordered a taxi at 01:30. CCTV footage shows her alone at the pub by 03:00. Alexandra sent her boyfriend a text inviting him to join her.

Yulia was devastated by guilt when he said, "I'm such an idiot," later. "I didn't reply."

Alexandra fled at 05:00 and was approached in her car by a man who was working as a taxi driver. CCTV photos show that she initially refused to go in but then changed her mind.

"I believe she was tired at that point." Yulia says that she just wanted to go home.

Alexandra Inshina was stabbed six more times and her hands were tied behind her back thirty minutes later. Her body would not be found until two days later, when it was discovered in nettles and bushes 25 miles away.

Marina, a friend of Marina, says to the BBC that it was a horrible, hateful death.

Six years ago, Olga shared with friends that she wanted TV.

She was 21 years old and very glamorous. She had just moved to Russia from Bryansk in the west, leaving behind her daughter, whom her mother had raised as a teenager.

In Moscow, Olga attracted admirers. Part-time modeling was her career. She experimented with her looks, dyeing her naturally dark hair blonde. Dmitry, her neighbor, asked her if she would like to appear on Dom-2, a reality television show that is based on Big Brother.

Dmitry would often see videos of her showing Dmitry the children swinging from the rings. She also taught gymnastics to children at a local community hall. Her daughter would often visit her on weekends and she would record their adventures around the city via social media. Olga snuggles her daughter, then eight years old, in several photos. They laugh with crinkled faces into the camera. Olga captioned the photos, "my baby".

"Olga was very sweet. Dmitry says that Olga was very innocent. "You wouldn't have predicted what would follow in her life," Dmitry says.

Dmitry lost contact with Olga after she moved from his area. However, two years later in July 2020, he found photos of her on VKontakte. Russia's most popular social networking site.

One headline read: "Grandpa kills 27 year-old prostitute in Moscow."

It is not clear when Olga got involved in prostitution. This was not something she shared with her friends. Three of the three people interviewed by BBC said that Olga was likely to have walked this path on her way to being a TV star. They may have been introduced to it by someone from the modeling world. She would have been told that it was elite escortwork that could lead to high-profile entertainment opportunities, which was her dream. One person described her as "very charming, very naive, and very trusting."

The day before her murder, 20 July 2020, Olga was a profiler on an online escort website where she went under the name Margo.

Oleg Tochilkin, a 53-year-old ex-convict who was released on parole having served part of a 20 year sentence for domestic violence and murder, clicked on Olga’s profile and invited Olga to his Mytishchi flat, north-east Moscow. BBC obtained court documents from Mytishchi City Court that show that Tochilkin beat and strangled Olga after an argument. Then, he moved Olga's naked body out of the flat and dumped it at the entrance to his building. It was found hours later.

Alexandra's murderer Marat Imashev was also an ex-convict who was released after spending 28 years in prison for crimes such as murder, rape and fraud.

The police took around a week to locate him. Alexandra's friends say that the viral nature of the story was a major factor in their success.

Alexandra disappeared on the day that her friends organized search parties. Alexandra failed to return to her mother's house or show up at work.

Marina, Marina's friend, says that she was "very fun and very energetic but also very responsible." "She was always on time and would show up to work, no matter what." She may take some medicine if she is ill, but she will always be there.

They also created community pages on VKontakte and WhatsApp groups, where they could communicate throughout the day. They reached out to the media early and made sure that they received constant news coverage.

Alexandra was "the young Blonde Beryozovsky", or the "missing mom" - these stories are now archived under "blonde murder". Marina said that she was puzzled by the way her friend was promoted, but that it was well-received in the press.

The killer initially claimed that he dropped Alexandra at a cafe but then admitted to having stolen her jewellery and stabbed her. In a trial that began 7 April, he is now pleading guilty. When asked by a journalist what he felt, the man replied "I regret" and then turned his back.

Anastasia Rovnushkina (Russian journalist for E1 News) says that Alexandra's story was easily covered because it resonated with the public. The story was a huge success on the website, and quickly spread on social media.

She says that Alexandra was young, beautiful, popular, and very responsible. Her murder was shockingly brutal because it was committed by someone who was convicted of multiple crimes and had spent close to 30 years in prison. Because women are easier to murder, he killed a woman.

"Alexandra was a normal young mother. She could have been any one of us."

Olga was popular and young, and she was mother to Alexandra's daughter. A man who spent years in prison for violence against females also killed her. However, the public was far less interested and sympathetic to her passing.

One headline said, "Does this make you feel sorry for such a victim of violence?" Another headline read, "The horrific details of the murder of a Bryansk prostitute." The other one called Olga "a whore" and referred her killer as "grandpa". Alexandra's case was similar. Some reports reduced her to "the blonde".

Olga’s mother, Olga, told BBC that her daughter Olga was 11 years old when the report caused great pain for the family.

Our calls for comment were not returned by the news outlets that reported on Olga’s murder. Moscow's RenTV stated that they couldn't recall the case or who they assigned as a journalist.

Anastasia Rovnushkina reported on Alexandra Inshina’s murder for E1 News. She suggests that Olga’s circumstances explain the differing coverage.

"The media reflect our values. When it comes to cases involving sex workers, the logic is that if you choose a criminal pathway like that, that's your choice. She says that it is against Russian law and that there are higher risks associated with that type of work.

"But if your life is normal, as any other, I believe the language used in the media for you, is different. Although anyone could be in Alexandra's shoes, most people can't picture themselves in that position.

She is now based in London and adds, "And it's the same in UK media." It's the same everywhere."

There are many ways to define femicide. Femicide can be described as the murder of a woman because she is a female. Lyubava Malysheva, a Russian researcher, defines it as killing a woman by someone who knows he's killing a woman. All definitions share the same idea: the victim's gender plays a role in her death.

The UN did not recognize Olga and Alexandra's deaths as femicide until recently. It only recognized cases in which the killer was an intimate partner. The UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), however, presented a new framework in March that allows for strangers to be convicted of the crime.

If a murder is committed in public, such as Alexandra's, or if it was done in a public place (as Alexandra was), then it should be considered femicide.

Angela Me, UNODC Statistics and Surveys chief, says that "We are expanding our framework now because it has become clear that we don't count all women who have been killed simply because they were women."

She says it's an important moment because countries will be able to measure global female femicide if they follow the framework.

She hopes that it will be an equalizer for women who have been murdered, and free them from the narratives being projected onto them by the media.

It's to ensure every woman is counted a victim regardless of their socio-economic status, whether they are a mother or sex worker.

The new framework has been adopted by 95 countries, including Brazil, South Korea, Russia, and the UK.

If they do, it will be clearer which country is doing a better job of tackling the problem.

However, that is the end of it. It will not encourage countries to amend their laws.

Campaigners are skeptical that Russia will collect this data. This task was completed by Lyubava Malysheva (a dedicated volunteer who relied on Russian news sites as her sources) until now.

She receives 60 Google alerts per day that ping her to inform her about a new article. She reads 500 to 1,000 articles per day and adds the names of murdered women to her website Femicid.Net. She recorded 1,312 cases in 2021. There have been 425 cases so far in 2022.

Ms Malysheva states that "femicide is a problem in all of Russian society" and "the government refuses to recognize that it is a problem."

Mari Davtyan, a Moscow lawyer, agrees. She points out that Russian law does not provide restraining orders nor mandatory anger management training for men with violent tendencies.

The horror is that there is no way to keep control of men with a history of violence against women. These men continue to commit these crimes.

The same was true for Olga and Alexandra. Both were sentenced and released. They were then both murdered again.

Although they lived in different places and had different goals, their friends said that Alexandra and Olga shared many commonalities. Both had lively personalities and shared loud laughs. They were reliable and helpful friends. They were at their best when they were with their children, who currently live with their devastated and loving grandmothers.

Both women's friends insist that their children will seek out answers from their mothers when they grow up, regardless of what has been published in the media.

BBC 100 Women annually names 100 influential and inspiring women from around the globe. Follow BBC 100 Women Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Use #BBC100Women to join the conversation

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