Femicide is a violation of the basic human rights to life, liberty and personal security, as well as an obstacle to social and economic development. The term indicates the act of intentionally killing a female person, either woman or girl, because of her gender, and it is the end-result of combined risk factors existing at the level of the individual, interpersonal relations, community and society. This crime displays three prominent characteristics: women are disproportionately killed by men; victims have previously experienced non-lethal violence; the rate at which women are killed tends to remain steady over time. Estimates indicate that 87 000 women were intentionally killed in 2017, but the exact number is unknown and suspected to be higher. The COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the situation and reduced access to services.
Femicide’s classification differs according to context, but most significantly includes: killing by an intimate partner or family member; honour, dowry and witch-hunting deaths; femicide-suicide; pre- and post-natal excess female mortality; infanticide; and deliberate neglect, rooted in a preference for sons over daughters. Collecting accurate data is a strategic goal and necessary to facilitate the design of effective policies.
BRIEFING Femicide, its causes and recent trends: What do we know?