Femicide as a gender-based violence is a human rights issue that is globally overlooked. Oh wait! Have I confused you?
The term “femicide” or “feminicide” refers to the intentional killing of women and girls because they are females. It is a sex-based hate crime term, broadly defined as “the intentional killing of females (women or girls) because they are females”
I mean because of their gender. It occurs in all our societies, be it as a result of intimate partner violence, in the name of “honour”, in connection with accusations of sorcery or witchcraft, or in the context of armed conflict. In many cases, the killing is the final step in a continuum of violence against women and girls. Too often, perpetrators are not held accountable and impunity prevails.
Diana Russell, Feminist author believes her definition of femicide applies to all forms of sexist killing, whether they be motivated by misogyny (the hatred of females), by a sense of superiority over females, by sexual pleasure, or by assumption of ownership over women. Her broader definition of femicide is stated as this,
“Femicide is on the extreme end of a continuum of anti-female terror that includes a wide variety of verbal and physical abuse, such as rape, torture, sexual slavery (particularly in prostitution), incestuous and extrafamilial child sexual abuse, physical and emotional battery, sexual harassment (on the phone, in the streets, at the office, and in the classroom), genital mutilation (clitoridectomies, excision, infibulations), unnecessary gynecological operations (gratuitous hysterectomies), forced heterosexuality, forced sterilization, forced motherhood (by criminalizing contraception and abortion), psychosurgery, denial of food to women in some cultures, cosmetic surgery, and other mutilations in the name of beautification. Whenever these forms of terrorism result in death, they become femicides.”
She includes covert killings of women as well, such as the mass murder of female babies due to male preference in cultures such as India and China, as well as deaths related to the failure of social institutions, such as the criminalization of abortion or the prevalence of female genital mutilation.
According to WHO, Femicide is generally understood to involve intentional murder of women because they are women, but broader definitions include any killings of women or girls or infants.
Femicide is usually perpetrated by men, but sometimes female family members may be involved. Most cases of femicide are committed by partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner.”
There are numerous categories of femicide:
intimate femicide; non-intimate femicide; honor killings; sexual-orientation-hate crimes; murder of aboriginal women and girls; dowry-related femicide; organized crime femicide; and targeted killings of women in armed conflict, among others.
Intimate partner violence affects 3 in 10 women over a lifetime, and it is estimated that 13.5% of homicides globally involved intimate partners, and these percentage of killings are gendered.
According to A Gendered Analysis of Violent Deaths, a report published in 2016 by the Small Arms Survey, among 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world, 14 are from Latin America and the Caribbean.
Between 2012 and 2015 there were an estimated 24,771 dowry deaths in India. In Jordan, there are 15–20 reported “honor” killings every year.
In Mexico, 2,318 women have been murdered over nine years, according to the watchdog group National Citizen Femicide Observatory (OCNF).
Dowry deaths are responsible for the murders of thousands of women every year, especially in South Asia.
The Global Burden of Armed Violence 2014 database shows that between 2007 and 2012, on average, 60,000 women were killed violently around the world.
Globally, El Salvador and Honduras stand out with rates of more than 10 female homicides per 100,000 women. The level of violence affecting women in El Salvador and Honduras exceeds the combined rate of male and female homicides in some of the 40 countries with the highest murder rates in the world, such as Ecuador, Nicaragua and Tanzania.
According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), on average 12 women are murdered a day across the region. However due to data limitations, the ECLAC numbers do not include Brazil, a country with one of the worst records of gender-based violence.
Official information for 15 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean shows that at least 3,287 women have been victims of femicide or femicide in 2018. If to these are added data from ten countries in the region that only record femicides committed by the victim’s partner or ex-partner, it can be stated that the number of femicides for the year 2018 has been of at least 3,529 women.
The Latin American countries with the highest rate of femicide per 100,000 women are: El Salvador (6.8), Honduras (5.1), Bolivia (2.3), Guatemala (2.0) and the Dominican Republic (1.9).
In the Caribbean, Saint Lucia had a rate of 4.4 femicides per 100,000 women in 2017, while in Trinidad and Tobago the rate was 3.4 in 2018.
Every year 66,000 women are violently killed globally, accounting for approximately 17% of all victims of intentional homicides. According to a 2000 report by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), approximately 5,000 women are murdered each year in honor killings. The rates of femicide differ depending on the specific country, but countries with the top 25 highest femicide rates, 50% are in Latin America, with number one being El Salvador. Also included in the top 25 are seven European countries, three Asian countries, and one African country, South Africa. It has been found that as the rate of femicide increases, the ratio of intimate partner femicide decreases, pointing to the idea that as violence in a society increases, so does the femicide rate due to violence outside the home.
The killing of women by intimate partners is on the rise especially in South Africa, it became worse during and after the lock-down.
South Africa has one of the highest rates of violence against women in the world, with reports indicating that a woman is murdered every three hours. Between 2018 and 2019, the police recorded nearly 178,000 crimes against women, according to the country’s most recent crime statistics. Of these, 82,728 cases were assault while 54,142 were assault with intent to cause grievous bodily harm. In addition, 2,771 women were murdered, with a further 3,445 attempted murders. In 2019 alone, the police crimes department received 87,000 cases of gender-based violence complaints.
South African men often hold patriarchal views about women, seeing them as inferior. In a country with dramatic crime rates, women fear not only a lack of social equality but also for their safety.
In Nigeria, after an outcry and protest against death and rape of a 22 year old and a 12-year-old girl raped by 11men in northern Nigeria, the Nigerian governors’ forum said it has resolved to declare a state of emergency on violence against women and promised to set up sex offenders register in the wake of the protests and movements.
Female genital mutilation is defined by the World Health Organization as “the removal of part or all of the external female genitalia and/or injury to the female genetic organs for cultural or other non-therapeutic reasons”. Female genital mutilation results in femicide when women and girls die due to unhygienic practices of FGM that result in infection or death as well as the increased likelihood of contracting HIV/AIDS because of FGM
Everywhere across the globe, women continually fear for their lives, it would interest you to know that feminicides are particularly endemic in Latin America, where we find more than half of the 25 countries with the highest levels of feminicides in the world. Ciudad Juárez in Mexico attracted international attention in 1993 following the discovery of the mutilated bodies of women who were raped, tortured, and murdered.
Also unique to Ciudad Juárez is the rate of feminicides, and the treatment of the victims’ bodies. In general, the number of homicides is constantly on the rise and affects mostly men. Yet, the level of violence against women per capita is significantly higher in Juarez than in any other city in the country. Between 1993 and 2011, approximately 1300 women were murdered. Feminicides have risen dramatically since 2008, with 87 feminicides in 2008 and 306 in 2010.
Women not only face discriminatory policies from the government, the society, at work and home but are more prone to attacks than men.
Are men revolting against the fight for empowerment or financial independence and justice?
Social media users constantly remind us on what’s happening in Mexico and I should say, it’s a sad sight. The media isn’t talking about it loud enough, women days are numbered either by being raped or gruesomely murdered.
The message also on tiktok
In 2014, UN Women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights launched the Latin American Model Protocol for the investigation of gender-related killings of women. UN Women’s goal was to support the countries that adopted the protocol to develop specialized legislation on femicide—specifically to properly investigate and punish all forms of violence against women.
In spite of recent legal progress to help and protect women, there is still so much work to be done in campaigning to raise public awareness to know that women are being murdered and are not safe so as to reach a definition and a better understanding of these types of crimes with the ultimate aim of eradicating them completely.