Here’s what you need to know about the term, how different parts of the world stack up against each other, and what can be done to reduce feminicides.
Feminicides fall into two categories
: intimate and not intimate femicide. The former refers to the murder of women by current or former partners, while the latter encompasses the murder of women by people with whom they had no intimate relationship. This includes women killed in armed conflict as weapons of war
; so-called “honor crimes”, where a woman is killed for allegedly shaming her family; the murder of women because of their race or sexuality; femicides perpetrated by other women, acting as “agent (s) of the patriarchy”; And the murder of transgender women.
How big is the problem?
There are no global, standardized or consistently recorded data on femicide.
The latest United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) global homicide report released in July 2019
, presenting data from 2017. In that year, 87,000 women worldwide were intentionally killed, more than half (50,000) of them by intimate partners or family members. The total number
is up from the 48,000 estimated in 2012.
But the problem is probably bigger. The “Data gaps obscure the true extent of the violence”
wrote the European Institute for Gender Equality, whose results from the EU-wide survey on gender-based violence are expected in 2023.
How do the regions of the world compare?
In the United Kingdom, between 2009 and 2018“a woman is killed by a man every three days”
, according to the decennial report of the census of feminicides, published in November 2020.
In 2017, the highest recorded number of women were killed in Asia, followed by Africa, the Americas, Europe and Oceania.
A 2016 study,“A gendered analysis of violent deaths”
, reported that although their overall number of homicides is low, Slovenia, New Zealand, Switzerland and Austria were the top four “high-income countries with higher female homicide rates or equal to the male homicide rate ”. Germany and Hong Kong are tied for fifth place, although Hong Kong is not a country but a territory.
Although UNODC reports that overall, feminicides make up a small percentage of all murders
, the global trend remains worrying. German broadcasterDW reported
in November 2020 that “every day in Germany a man tries to kill his partner or ex-partner. Every three days an attempt succeeds”.
There was an outcry across the world over the number of women killed, United States
Is femicide different from homicide in criminal law?
No, in most countries this is not the case.
Only a handful of countries legally recognize femicide as distinctly different from homicide; most of them are in Latin America where 16 countries have included femicide as a specific crime.
No EU Member State
have defined femicide in their legislation. Neither does the United States, although the Violence Against Women Act, which expired in 2018 and awaiting re-authorization from Congress
, is considered “historical legislation”
because it is the federal government’s responsibility to prosecute family violence and support victims.
The UK Parliament only recently rejected a petition calling for making femicide a crime declaring
: “It is not clear what the petition is asking the government or the UK Parliament to do. Murder is already a crime, so we don’t know what you would like to happen by creating a new offense. “
However, Ivana Milovanović, a Serbian GBV expert, told UN Women, a United Nations organization that advocates for women’s empowerment and gender equality: “Femicide should be recognized as a specific criminal offense.
“Femicide differs from other forms of murder because it is the gender-based murder of a woman only because she is a woman”, she explained.
“This indicates that the root causes of femicide differ from other types of murder and relate to the general position of women in society, discrimination against women, gender roles, unequal distribution of power between men and women, the usual gender stereotypes, prejudices and violence against women. ”
Does Putting Femicide into Law Help Women Get Justice?
He was born
that by including femicide in the penal code, there is first of all a recognition of the misogynistic nature of these crimes, but also that there will be a more precise collection of data which can, in turn, lead to best policies and practices that protect women.
In Mexico, for example, not only is femicide recognized by law, in 2020 the country’s Congress approved tougher sentences for femicide
– 45 to 65 years in prison in case of conviction.
Stay in Latin America, Guatemala
has a similar system, with specialized judges and prosecutors trained in handling femicide cases.
But these provisions and sanctions have not resulted in higher conviction rates, nor a decrease in these crimes. TheUNODC writes
: “Latin American countries have adopted legislation that criminalizes femicide as a specific offense in their penal codes. Yet there is no sign of a decrease in the number of gender-related killings of women and girls.
Looking specifically at Mexico, Meghan beatley
reports: “Paradoxically, even when the female killers are arrested and prosecuted, the category of femicide has made it more difficult to convict them. “
Indeed, prosecutors must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the crime was actually committed because the victim was female.
“The notion of gender-related murder, or ‘femicide,’ requires an understanding of acts that are gender-related – something that is subject to some degree of interpretation,” writes theUNODC in its 2019 Global Homicide Study
. “In many cases, there is a continuum of (intimate partner) violence that culminates in the murder of women even when the perpetrators have no specific (misogynistic) motive.”
How to reduce feminicides?
Well, first, here’s what goes wrong: telling women what to do or wear, and how to behave in order to avoid being abused.
After Nessa’s murder, there was outrage
after the local council distributed over 200 security alarms to women and vulnerable people in the area where the teacher’s body was found. Writer Sophie Gallagher expressed her frustrationin a column
claiming that this kind of response from authorities, as well as advice from police advising women how to stay out of harm’s way, “aggressively perpetuates[d]the position of women as second-class citizens, whose duty is to rely on the inalienable rights of violent men to exist. ”
She added, “These ‘safety rules’ are false assurances that society is giving us to rid ourselves of responsibility for what happens to us at the hands of the insidious misogyny it allows to plague.”
So what does taking responsibility look like? The Small Arms Survey report called collecting data “essential” to prevent gender-based violence. “Data disaggregated by sex, age, ethnicity, victim-perpetrator relationship and motivation for violence, as well as contextual information, such as place, time and instrument of violence, will benefit efforts to diagnose , reduce and prevent violence, including deadly violence, ”wrote its authors.
Regarding best practices, government of peru
is often cited. Its action plan includes “several agencies with specialized working groups [working] towards the reduction of femicide and the prosecution of perpetrators, including emergency centers for women, a telephone line for victims of violence against women and the police squad specializing in the prevention of domestic violence. ”
Ultimately, however, to reduce GBV in all its forms, cultural and social norms must change. Research published by Bristol University Press
suggests that societies need to take a close look at their views on “masculinity and femininity, gender equality, domestic violence and femicide laws, patriarchal ideology, traditional values, the role of religion in society and media coverage of femicide and violence against women ”.
* Header image caption: Sabina Nessa