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Femicide or feminicide is a sex-based hate crime term, broadly defined as the killing of women but definitions vary depending on the cultural context. Feminist author Diana E. H. Russell is one of the early pioneers of the term, and she currently defines the word as "the killing of females by males because they are females". Other feminists place emphasis on the intention or purpose of the act being directed at females specifically because they are female; others include the killing of females by females.
Often, the necessity of defining the murder of females separately from overall homicide is questioned. Opponents argue that over 80% of all murders are of men, so the term places too much emphasis on the less prevalent murder of females.
An alternative term offered is gendercide which is more ambiguous and inclusive. However, some feminists argue that the term gendercide perpetrates the taboo of the subject of the murder of females. Feminists also argue that the motives for femicide are vastly different than those for androcide. Instead of centering in street violence, much of femicide is centered within the home.
- 1 Overview of femicide
- 2 Types of femicide
- 3 Femicide worldwide
- 4 Policy implications
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes and references
- 7 External links
Overview of femicide
Feminist author Diana Russell narrows the definition of femicide to "the killing of females by males because they are female." Russell places emphasis on the idea that males commit femicide with sexist motives. She also chooses to replace the word woman with female to show that femicide can occur to both girls and infants as well. Russell 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. Russell's broader definition of femicide is stated as this,
- "Femicide is on the extreme end of a continuum of antifemale 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.
Historical development of the term
The term femicide was first used in England in 1801 to signify "the killing of a woman." In 1848, this term was published in Wharton's Law Lexicon. Another term used is feminicide, which is properly formed from the Latin femina, meaning "woman" ("femicide" being truncated).
The current usage emerged with the 1970s feminist movements, which aimed to raise feminine consciousness and resistance against gender oppression. American author, Carol Orlock, is widely credited with initiating the usage of the term in this context in her unpublished anthology on femicide. Diana Russell publicised the term at the Crimes Against Women Tribunal in 1976. Here is part of what she wrote for the proceedings: "We must realize that a lot of homicide is in fact femicide. We must recognize the sexual politics of murder. From the burning of witches in the past, to the more recent widespread custom of female infanticide in many societies, to the killing of women for "honor," we realize that femicide has been going on a long time. But since it involves mere females, there was no name for it until Carol Orlock invented the word 'femicide.'"
Distinction from homicide
According to the Online Encyclopedia of Mass Violence, "...[Femicide] is proposed as an alternative to the gender-neutral term of 'homicide'. As such, it seeks to highlight the killing of women for being women, a phenomenon linked closely with sexual violence enacted to punish, blame and control the actions, emotions and behaviour of women." Feminists and proponents of the word believe it is prudent to make the distinction between homicide and femicide. The distinction is not meant to denigrate or render invisible the murder of men because they make up 80% of the victims of global murders and are the vast majority of perpetrators. Femicide is distinct from general homicide because the instances occur in domestic settings as a result of intimate partner or family violence, while policies targeting homicide often "...focus on street violence and organized crime, leaving aside domestic violence." Part of this political oversight is the lack of data on violence against women. This data is related to how thoroughly and properly their murders are investigated, prosecuted and classified. Violence against women constitutes the most common crime in the world with the highest levels of impunity for perpetrators. Often it is misreported as general manslaughter or accidental homicide showing a general tolerance for violence against women.
A common critique of femicide cites the preferred use of "gendercide," which is more gender-neutral and more widely applicable. Proponents of the term [femicide] claim that using "gendercide" benefits patriarchal power structures by preventing women from naming the violence specifically used against them and recognizing the various forms it can take. They also claim that using "gendercide" points to the largely taboo nature of femicide.
A related critique targets the dearth of rigor in the political, philosophical and legal conceptualization of the term. Some view it as too general and at risk of designating any negative action toward women as femicide and thereby diffusing its usefulness as a feminist tool. Some argue for recognition of a wide a range of practices and more contextualized terms to represent the variety of cultural contexts that the murder of women can manifest in. Culturally-specific definitions and attempts to counteract these issues with specific social practices are seen as more effective than adhering to a more universal approach.
Russell's definition is not accepted by all scholars as the standard definition for femicide. Jacquelyn Campbell and Carol Runyan use the word femicide to reference "all killings of women regardless of motive or perpetrator status" These authors argue that motive is not always empirically possible to be determined, and so must be removed from the qualification for femicide in order to gather data.
On the other hand, authors Desmond Ellis and Walter Dekesedery take a different approach by viewing the definition for femicide as "the intentional killing of females by males". These feminists require that femicide always be intentional unlike the inclusion of covert femicide in Diana Russell's definition.
Most of these definitions imply that the perpetrator of femicide is a man, but South Asian feminists differ in their definition stating that femicide is "the intentional killing of females by men and of females by other females in the interests of men." Examples of this include neglect of female children in preference of males, as well as dowry related murder where female in-laws kill women due to dowry disputes. Moreover, COST Action 1206 provides definitions of femicide.
All of these definitions refer to the idea that femicide is unique from non-gendered descriptions of murder and homicide. Instead, defining femicide exemplifies the fact that women are killed for different reasons and motives from those associated with typical descriptions of murder. Globally, femicide has seldom been investigated separately from homicide, and the goals of many of these authors is to make femicide a separate category.
The manifestations of femicide vary greatly. Using Diana Russell's definition, femicide includes intimate partner femicide, lesbicide, racial femicide, serial femicide, mass femicide, honor killing related femicide, dowry and more. Any act of sexual terrorism that results in death is considered a femicide. This includes forms of covert femicide as well, such as criminalization of abortion that leads to death from unsafe abortions, or death as a result of female genital mutilation.
One of the most common and least publicized forms of femicide is that committed by an intimate partner of a female, such as a current or former husband, boyfriend or common-law husband. This form of femicide accounts for at least 35% of all murders of woman globally
Other types of femicide include serial femicide, rape femicide, prostituted woman femicide, lesbiphobic femicide, sexual abuse-related femicide and mass femicide. Femicide can be committed by intimate partners, family members, friends, co-workers and strangers.
Different areas of the world experience varying types of femicide. For example, the Middle East and South Asia have higher rates of honor killing which is defined as the murder of women by their family due to an actual or assumed sexual or behavioral transgression such as adultery, sexual intercourse, or even rape.
Depending on the definition, femicide can also include deaths as a result of female genital mutilation, the intentional spreading of HIV/AIDS, and the unsafe abortions in countries where access to abortion is stymied or illegal.
Types of femicide
Intimate partner femicide
Intimate partner femicide, sometimes called intimate femicide, refers to "the killing of a woman by her intimate partner or her former intimate partner." These include former or current boyfriends, husbands and common-law husbands.
This form of femicide accounts for 40–50% of all deaths of American women killed, and each day in the United States results in the deaths of four women. Globally, South Africa, with the highest female murder rate, experiences intimate partner femicide every 6 hours. Spain, on the other hand, reports an intimate partner femicide rate of 1 woman every 2 days. Yearly, India's government reports the deaths of 5,000 woman to this cause, but this number is believed to be grossly underestimated due to the under-reported prevalence of honor killings and dowry-related murders. However, intimate partner homicide only accounts for 5–8% of all murders of men, disproportionately affecting women to a large extent, making it a gendered problem.
In fact, women are disproportionately represented as victims of all family violence including incest, sexual harassment, rape and battering. These acts of violence are found to escalate over time within a relationship, possibly resulting in femicide. The prevalence of intimate partner femicide dispels the myth that women have the most to fear from strangers, and instead are most often killed within the private sphere of the home, the area where they are supposedly most safe according to global ideals. One of the main motives that cause men to kill their intimate partners is jealousy, which Jacquelyn Campbell argues is the male efforts to control and possess women to display ownership and reinforce patriarchy.
Risk factors that increase the likelihood of intimate partner femicide include: when a male has previously threatened to commit suicide or kill the woman if she cheats on him and/or leaves him, when there is elevated alcohol or drug abuse by either partner, or when a male attempts to control a woman's freedom. Two-fifths of intimate partner femicide are related to use of intoxicants. Other factors commonly associated with male perpetrators of femicide include gun ownership, forcing sexual intercourse, and unemployment. Risk factors for women include: if they are pregnant, have faced prior abuse from their partner, are estranged from their partner or are attempting to leave a relationship, their likelihood of femicide increases. The presence of firearms within a home is a large factor in intimate partner femicide, and world-wide firearms are used in one-third of all femicides.
Intimate partner femicide, as reported in the media, often is presented sympathetically towards the male perpetrators. Males are seen as "being driven" to commit femicide due to a "breakdown in love attributed to the female." In defense trials, the defense of provocation is often used to reduce the time men serve in prison. This idea of provocation is that any "reasonable man can be provoked into killing by insubordination on the part of a woman." Conversely, women are not often able to use this idea of provocation in their own murder trials, and judges are less likely to accept claims of self-defense, showing biased judging standards.
Factors that decrease the risk of intimate partner femicide include a separate domicile for women and other societal factors such as more police as well as mandated arrest for violation of restraining orders related to intimate partner violence. Karen D. Stout found that there is a correlation between the number of women's shelters in a state, number of rape crisis centers and a lowered rate of femicide. One explanation of this correlation is that the implementation of these measures have had a positive effect on lowering the femicide rate. Other effective legislation against femicide include legislation that defines civil injunction relief; defines physical abuse as a criminal offense'; allows arrest without a warrant; requires data collection and reporting; and provides funds for women's shelters.
Serial femicide is defined as "the sexually sadistic killing of women," also called "sexual terrorism." Feminists emphasize that many cases of serial murder can also be considered to be cases of male-perpetrated crimes against women as a means for men to achieve sexual gratification and dominance over women. They claim that gender-neutral terms hide the reality that victims of serial murder are predominantly female and perpetrators predominantly male. Although over 90% of serial killers are male, not all are male; about 7% are female.
Male serial murderers tend to use more brutal methods of killing such as suffocation and beatings, while women use methods such as poison or less violent measures. In addition, while a large percentage of male serial killers do focus on women as their targets, female serial killers are less likely to focus exclusively on males as targets. Some male serial killers focus on males as targets, such as Jeffrey Dahmer and Wayne Williams  The ways serial murderers are portrayed in the media reflect the views on femicide and gender in society. Often, murders of prostitutes/low-income women/women of color by serial killers receive less attention in the media than the killings of younger, prettier, more affluent women, usually married, engaged, or in relationships with much handsome, affluent, younger men their age. Serial killers are almost always portrayed as monsters and sociopaths in the news.
Some examples of femicide by mass murder and serial killings would include killers like George Hennard, Lorenzo Gilyard, George Sodini, Anthony Sowell, Wesley Shermantine and Loren Herzog, Dean Carter, Rafiq Soomro, Derrick Lee, Marc Lepine, William Pickton, Russell Williams, Gerard Schaefer, Kenneth McDuff, Serhiy Fedorovich Tkach, Paul Durousseau, Cody Legebokoff, Albert DeSalvo, John Wayne Glover, Ted Bundy, John Floyd Thomas, Felix Vail, Antone Costa, Kendall Francois, Gerard John Schaefer, Rodney Alcala, Charles C. Roberts, Walter E. Ellis, Andrew Urdiales, Pedro Alonso López, Timothy Krajcir, Arthur Benton Schirmer, Gilbert Paul Jordan, Nikolai Dzhumagaliev, Lonnie David Franklin, Richard Ramirez, Alton Coleman, Drew Peterson, Lewis Beatty, Michael Carneal, Danny Harold Rolling, Terry Blair, Keith Jesperson, Henry Louis Wallace, Dennis Rader, Robert Yates, Jeffrey MacDonald, Lawrence Bittaker and Roy Norris, Jerome Barrett, Joel David Rifkin, Morris Solomon, Vincent Groves, Kenneth Bianchi and Angelo Buono, Aaron Schaffhausen, Bobby Jack Fowler, H. H. Holmes, "J.T." Ready, John Bodkin Adams, George Hill Hodel, Gary Ridgway, Maury Travis, Andrei Chikatilo, Carl Eugene Watts, Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, Chester DeWayne Turner, Robert Even Lee, Wayne Adam Ford, Craig Price, Cary Anthony Stayner, Robert Hansen, Peter Sutcliffe, John Wayne Wilson, Joseph D. (Joe) Ball and tens of thousands of other male mass murderers and serial killers who target women and girls. Many, like the Long Island, NY serial killer, the Killing Fields in Texas and the Highway of Tears killers and the Highway killings in the FBI database are still at large. Serial killers prey on women – according to FBI data, women account for 70 percent of the known victims of serial killers since 1985. By comparison, women represent only 22 percent of total homicide victims, which are usually males killing other males. According to the FBI's Supplementary Homicide Report, local police reported that about 33,000 homicides of women remain unsolved. 
Feminists such as Diana Russell and Jane Caputi believe that there is a link between the rise of serial murders and the advent of pornography. Specifically, the advent of films that eroticize violence and murder of women has been correlated to the desires of serial killers. Numerous serial murderers filmed their victims as they violently killed them. These men include: Harvey Glatman, Kenneth Bianchi, and Leonard Lake, to name a few. However, the link between pornography and serial murders is not proven.
The Hope Movement defines racist femicide as racially motivated killing of women by men of a different race. According to Diana Russell and fellow writer Jill Radford, "Racism interacts with violence against women and shapes both femicide itself and the ways it is addressed by the local community, the police, the media, and the legal system." Russell and Radford, as well as many other feminist activists, assert that when looking at femicide, within the United States specifically, one must consider the politics of both sexism and racism in the murders of black women and the little justice that is often served. Media coverage especially can exhibit bias when covering the murders of black versus white women. Jaime Grant writes on the murder of 12 young women in Boston and exposes the "...racism in media coverage, which virtually ignored these killings initially and later depicted the victims in racist and sexist stereotypes as runaways or prostitutes." In addition, police response and investigation can often differ based on race of the victim.
According to Diana Russell and Jill Radford, lesbicide, also known as homophobic femicide, has a long history exists of legalized murder of lesbians in many different cultural contexts:
- Roman civilization: a married woman convicted of engaging in any sexual activity with another woman could be killed by her husband as a "just penalty for her crime."
- Medieval Europe: secular and religious doctrine mandated death for lesbianism. "The famous 1260 Code of Orleans in France secularized the prohibition of lesbianism, mandating that for the first two offenses a woman would 'lose her member'; for the third offense she would be burned."
- Witch-hunt of the 15th century: Witchcraft was linked with heresy and homosexuality, "...the phrase femina cum feminus (woman with woman) was apparently often an accusation in witch trials.
Today, lesbianism is no longer a capital crime but it remains criminalized by many governments and condemned by most religions. Torture and murder of lesbians occurs in every part of the world, even in "developed" countries. According to Dr. Susan Hawthorne of Victoria University, "...domination is exemplified in the punishment of lesbians as outsiders in patriarchal culture..." Dr. Hawthorne goes on to elaborate that lesbians are often killed or tortured or generally denied rights because of their invisibility in terms of political power and social representation: "When it comes to campaigns on violence against women, lesbians are either left out or included only in a footnote..."
According to political scientist and women's studies scholar, Susan Hawthorne, corrective rape is a hate crime that constitutes forced sexual activity with a woman who is gender non-conforming and/or a lesbian. The goal of corrective rape is to "correct" the victim's sexual orientation and make them heterosexual and/or to make them behave in a more gender-conforming manner. This has led to death in some cases. There are documented cases of corrective rape in South Africa, Zimbabwe, Ecuador, and Thailand. Eudy Simelane was a famous soccer player who played for the South Africa women's national football team and LGBT rights activist; her murder was a highly publicized instance of simultaneous corrective rape and lesbicide in South Africa.
Every year 66,000 women are violently killed globally. The rates of femicide differ depending on the specific country, but of the 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 7 European countries, 3 Asian countries and 1 African country, South Africa. Worldwide, the ratio of murdered men to women is 1:5, but in countries with lower homicide rates this ratio eventually narrows to 1:1. This is theorized to be due to fatal domestic violence which is overwhelmingly perpetrated by men against women. 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. This is often tied to high levels of tolerance of violence against women in countries. In a UN study, 1 in 4 women in the top 25 countries agreed that it was justifiable to be beaten or hit for arguing with their husband or refusing to have sex with him. Overall, data on femicide worldwide is poor, and often countries do not report gender differences in murder statistics.
Femicide in the United States accounts for the deaths of 4 women daily. It is the leading cause of death for African American women ages 15–24 and of on-the-job death for women. Since the 1970s, the rates of femicide in the United States has fluctuated between 3.8–4.5 deaths per less than 100,000 women. One of the largest predictors of femicide in the United States is the appearance of physical abuse, which was found in 79% of all femicide cases in North Carolina. Gun availability in the United States has also had a substantial effect on femicide, correlating to 67.9% of deaths in a study by Karen D. Stout. Living in neighborhoods with increased poverty, ethnic heterogeneity and decreased collective efficacy (social cohesion among neighbors) are all found to be linked to increased femicide rates in that area. Across the nation femicide rates vary, with the highest rate in 1985 being found in Alabama and the lowest in Iowa. Geographically, the highest prevalence of femicide occurs in the Southeast and Southwest areas of the country. The perpetrators of femicide are most often the husbands of the murdered woman, followed by boyfriends and male paramours on the side. They tend to be of the same race as their victim, but generally older. The act is most often carried out with firearms, followed by knives and beatings. Feminists view the American attitude towards love as one of the reasons these intimate partner femicide occur. Feminist Hildegard Peplau states that Americans are sentimental about love and that they de-emphasize the cultural forces that shape whom you love and the dynamics of that love. She believes the United States greatly neglects the dynamics of power in a relationship, and how that power goes to the male. Because of these patriarchal values in this nation, regulation of females by males is culturally permitted inside the private and outside the public sphere of the home. In fact, the home is one of the most dangerous areas for a woman to be in terms of femicide. Also, reporting of female victims of femicide in the US is stymied due to the assumption that female victims are not an anomaly, but are driven by their perceived vulnerability and passivity.
Feminists in Latin America have been among the first to adopt the term femicide, referring to the female homicides in Juarez, Mexico. The use of this term inspired feminists in Latin America to organize anti-femicide groups to try to challenge this social injustice towards women. The use of the term femicide, and the creation of anti-femicide feminist organizations, spread from Mexico to many other Latin American countries, like Guatemala. According to Julia Estela Monárrez-Fragoso of the Colegio de la Frontera Norte based in Ciudad Juarez, victims are often blamed for being out late or hanging around "questionable" areas such as discotecas or nightclubs. Since 2000, more than five thousand women and girls have been brutally murdered in Guatemala. Guatemala's historical record reveals a long history of acceptance of gendered violence and the military government's and judiciary's role in normalizing misogyny. In a Report on the Violations of Women's Rights in Guatemala by a United Nations Human Rights Committee, the state's failure to enforce laws protecting women from femicide is seen as highly problematic. The report argues that enforcing laws against murder of women is a low priority of state governments because of patriarchal beliefs and assumptions about the role of women in society.
Many activists and scholars, such as Monárrez, have argued that connections exist between the femicides and neoliberal policies, namely North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA). The believe that the treaty has served to open trade borders and increase foreign investment…which have served to open trade borders and increase foreign investment targeted at manufacturing low-cost garments in maquiladoras. It has been observed that many of the women killed in Juarez are young mothers who migrate to this region seeking employment in maquiladoras. They then become easy targets because they are separated from their family and are typically alone when traveling home. Policy solutions in Central America have tried making transportation safer (see below for policy solutions). Other scholars, such as Itallurde, point to the culpability of corporations "...based on the concepts and doctrines of tortuous negligence, failure to protect, and aiding and abetting." Other scholars, such as historians Steven Volk and Marian Schlotterbeck, hypothesize that there may be a "macho backlash" behind these killings: "Certainly male egos, of fathers and would-be boyfriends, must suffer some deflation from this dramatic change in the economic influence of these young women."
Femicide in Colombia has become a serious issue, it is said that one woman is killed every two days. In 2014 many Colombian women were victims of acid attacks, 871 women died from these attacks; in the first 10 months of 2015, 671 women died. Between January and October 2015, 14,021 women were involved in domestic violence and brutality incidents; 10,272 of these women were under the age of 14. Cali, Colombia is one of the most dangerous cities in the world; in 2013 it was reported to have the highest rate of femicide in Colombia. It was reported that there were 144 homicides in Cali, in 2013; this is significantly higher than other major Colombian cities. Macho Culture has been a key factor to the rapid escalation of femicide in Latin America in general. Inequality of power between men and women, as well as the lack of resources provided for women prevent them from seeking help and safety. On July 6, 2015 Colombia passed a new law stating femicide is a legally defined crime with 20 to 50 years jail time. Colombia has followed 16 other Latin American Countries that have passed laws that have define and punish femicide for being a specific crime.
In Europe, agencies have funded initiatives on gender and violence but not specifically on femicide. Research is in its infancy and uncoordinated. A COST Action IS1206  has established the first pan-European coalition on femicide with researchers who are already studying the phenomenon nationally, in order to advance research clarity, agree on definitions, improve the efficacy of policies for femicide prevention, and publish guidelines for the use of national policy-makers.
Honor Killings are a type of Femicide that is pervasive throughout all areas of the world, but particularly seen in the Middle East. Honor Killings are defined as the killing of a girl or woman because she has dishonored or brought shame to her family. This gender-based discrimination mentality has led to the restriction of Turkish women's lives, deterioration of their health, and even punishment in cases of acting contrary to social expectations. A gender-based discriminatory notion of "honor" is therefore the cause of serious cases of health deterioration or mutilation among women in Turkey. According to a 2000 report by the U.N. Population Fund (UNFPA), approximately 5,000 women are murdered each year in the name of so-called "honor." In the case of Turkey, according to the Report on Custom and Honor Killings by the country's General Directorate of Security, 1,028 custom and honor killings were committed for the sake of morals or honesty between the years of 2003 and 2007.
Femicide in Africa occurs in many different forms, including intimate partner femicide, mass femicide due to AIDS, honor killings and mass femicide due to female genital mutilations. The continent varies in cultural practices greatly and the manifestations of femicide differ greatly depending on the country. Northern African countries are predominantly Islamic in belief, such as Algeria. In Algeria, as well as other African Islamist countries, women are regulated to wearing head covering or hijabs, and to behave in specific ways that are considered appropriate for women, such as not working, not divorcing, not travelling without a male companion and more. Women are experiencing a mass femicide triggered by the way they are dressed. One faction of fundamentalist men kill women who do not wear the traditional hijab, while other men who are against the Islamist government kill women who do wear the hijab. In this sense, author Rod Kilbeck explains that women become a commodity in the fight between these two factions.
One of the biggest health problems in Africa is the epidemic of HIV/AIDS which affects 22.9 million people in Sub-Saharan Africa as of 2009. Whenever AIDS results in the death of a female due to misogyny or sexist male behavior, it is considered a form of femicide according to Diana Russell's definition of femicide.
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.
Rita Banerji, feminist author and founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end female gendercide in India, has said that there are also millions of girls and women killed through various forms of femicides, that extend across various age groups. In a U.N. Symposium on Femicide in Vienna on November 26, 2012, she talked about the six most widespread forms of femicide in India. These included female infanticide, the killing of girls under six years through starvation and violence, the killing of women due to forced abortions, honor killings, dowry murders, and witch lynchings.
Despite progressive legal reforms in many parts of the region, strong patriarchal values are maintained and help perpetuate the subordination of women. According to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women for the Human Rights Council, key factors behind gender-motivated killings of women in Asia are the high level of importance placed on women's chastity and their subordination in the greater society. For example, while the Penal Code of India now specifically prohibits dowry, the reported number of dowry-related deaths of women has almost doubled from 4,836 to 8, 383 over the past twenty years (1990–2009). The code is also criticized for having a low impact on criminalization of perpetrators noted in the low conviction rate of ten per cent. Suicide is the leading cause of death for Nepalese women in the reproductive age group, with causes ranging from domestic abuse, forced marriage, casting out of widows, and lack of property rights. In this context there is minimal acceptance and respect of young girls and women and often an absence of family support, which result in a variety of context-specific versions of femicide and gender-based violence in the region: honour killings, acid burning attacks, witch-hunting, foeticide, and gender-based violence during caste and communal conflict.
Central American policymakers have experimented with the creation of "female friendly urban zones" over the past decade. "Pink" public transportation networks have been established in Mexico, Brazil, El Salvador and Guatemala to provide women-only forms of public transportation in an effort to stem the sexual harassment and provide safety for women. These efforts have received substantial praise and criticism.
Criticism from feminists and others often point to the efficacy of gender segregation in changing gender norms of oppression - specifically the Latin American cultural conventions of "machismo" and "marianismo," which are powerful social regulators throughout the region.
Ciudad mujer, the city for women
In El Salvador, a recent endeavour has been made to create multiple government centers that house many gender-specific services in one place to cut down on commute time and increase the physical safety of women as they seek necessary services: counseling, child care, reproductive health. "The first center hopes to provide access to an estimated 162,000 women from the neighboring departments of La Libertad and Sonsonate. Supported by former Chilean president and head of UN Women Michelle Bachelet, the initiative cost $3.2 million, withan additional $20 million loan from the Inter-American Development Bank earmarked for the construction of new sites."
Critics of this action point to the contradictory abortion laws in El Salvador that are some of the harshest in the world: abortion is completely illegal even in an effort to save the life a mother or to help a survivor of incest or rape. "Coupled with the judicial system's weaknesses, violence is abetted by the same government that aims to protect and defend. High levels of impunity leave many crimes unresolved or unreported."
Guatemala Decree 22
Guatemala has championed the use of femicide as a concept by incorporating the term in its constitution. Law-makers in this country passed Decree 22 in 2008 that defined Laws Against Femicide and Other Forms of Violence Against Women. These laws include 28 articles about prosecutable types of violence against women. They also created the Office of the Presidential Commission Against Femicide, enforcing the concept in the government, as well as an anti-femicide unit of the National police. Some results of the laws have proved encouraging, allowing many women to now report violence perpetrated against them. In the first month of 2010, a total of 27,000 women reported violence against them to the state, a large increase in the number of reported crimes. The laws also have helped several people jail their assailants and has increased the severity of punishments for perpetrators. However, the actual enforcement of the new laws has been varied. Few offenders are ever actually convicted for the specific crime of femicide, and there are only three public prosecution offices in the entire country able to deal with the issue of femicide. In fact, only 127 convictions in 2010 occurred for female violence even though 46,000 cases overall were registered. Also, from 2000-2008, 98 percent of all femicide cases have still remained in impunity. Some feminists argue that the culture in Guatemala is to blame. They cite that many male judges and other male government officials are sympathetic to the view that men's actions are justified because they remain within the private sphere of the home. Attorney Romeo Silverio Gonzalez argued for this viewpoint when he stated that the new laws of Decree 22 were unconstitutional. He said that the laws were in contradiction to the private affairs of marriage. Attorney General Claudia Paz countered his viewpoint ultimately defending the laws by justifying their existence because they protect women's rights. Overall, the legislation of these new laws has helped Guatemala improve the awareness of femicide and reporting of the crime, but enforcement and justice for femicide still has not been totally achieved. Femicide as the socially tolerated murder of women in Guatemala relies on the presence of systematic impunity, historically rooted gender inequalities, and the pervasive normalization of violence as a social relation.
Colombia has followed 16 other Latin American Countries by passing a law that define and punish femicide for being a specific crime. On July 6, 2015 the government of Colombia passed a law that legally defines femicide as a crime with 20 to 50 years of jail time. This new law is named after Rosa Elvira Cely, a Colombian woman who was raped and murdered in 2012. Cely’s death sparked national outrage and caused thousands to march down the streets of Bogota. Her murderer was found guilty and sentenced to 48 years in prison. The challenge now becomes implementing the law. Miguel Emilio La Rota, head of public policy and planning at Colombia’s attorney general’s office, said that the prosecutor’s office must change the way it investigates femicide.
- Missing Women of Asia
- Violence Against Women
- Gender apartheid
Notes and references
- Russell, Diana E.H. and Harmes, Roberta A, (Eds.), Femicide in Global Perspective New York: Teachers College Press, 2001, Ch. 2, p. 13-14
- Russell, Diana E.H. "The Origin and the Importance of the Term Femicide" http://www.dianarussell.com/origin_of_femicide.html Dec 2011. Accessed Mar 2013.
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