Femicide Unveiled: Shedding Light on a Global Human Rights Issue

by | Feb 28, 2024

Trigger Warning: sexual violence, femicides, gender-based violence

This blog post investigates the topic of femicides (the killing of a woman or a girl on account of their gender, usually perpetrated by men), a global problem occurring shockingly often. Violence against women and girls varies from cyber-harassment to femicide. Actions have been taken to prevent the issue; however, with practices also ingrained in cultures, it is hard to detect the cases, let alone the prevention.

Femicides as Deadly Trail of Gender-Based Violence

Femicides, even though a universal and timeless problem, have been on the rise in recent years. UN Women and UNODC report that in 2022, more than 89,000 girls and women worldwide have been intentionally killed. The number of the ones who were killed by their intimate partners or other family members was 48,800 in the same year. Although 80% of all killing victims are male, girls and women victims are overrepresented, with 53% in household killings and 66% in partner killings.

By 2023, 1 in every three women and girls have been victims of intimate partner violence. This rate can be significantly higher, considering the severe underreporting of the cases of gender-based violence (GBV), especially sexual violence. Almost 1 in 4 adolescent (aged 15-19) girls have experienced intimate partner violence by 2018. Although it is hard to come up with the details, research shows that femicides are related to other types of GBV experiences. It is more likely for a girl or a woman to be killed in case they are already a victim of GBV.

Among these cases, honor killings can be an example. Honor killings can be the result of a woman or a girl seeking a divorce, refusing an arranged marriage, or being in a relationship disapproved by the family. In other cases, however, the said woman or girl may be a victim of GBV, particularly sexual abuse, and because of the patriarchal norms, held responsible for their victimhood. The perpetrator can also kill the victim with the aim of covering up the rape case.

Dark Realities of Femicide of Girls

There are various contributors resulting in the intentional killing of girls, such as the end of other types of GBV, child marriages, honor killings, human trafficking, and sexual violence. Many of the killers act with the motivation of hiding another crime; however, it can also be a result of the patriarchal mentality preferring having boys over girls. In this regard, selective intentional abortions and the killing of infants can also be evaluated within this frame. The killing of girl babies due to the One-Child Policy adopted in China on top of the starvation and violent killing of girls in India can be given as examples of these cases.

Sexual assault of children still remains a taboo in most of the world, and therefore, few victims of this type of violence are provided with the necessary support mechanisms. Among survivors of forced sex during childhood, it is not common to report the cases due to inability to comprehend, shame, or fear. One must also consider the perpetrators are usually male members of the household or someone the victim child already knew, which adds to the risk of leading to femicide.

Empowering Strategies for Prevention

It must be noted that femicides are usually a result of other methods of (GBV), and thus, they are preventable if there are effective interventions such as reporting, creating public awareness, and providing legal punitive mechanisms. Especially the education of children and adolescents on the issue carries vital importance for them to protect themselves as well as build a society respecting consent and values human rights. Civil society organizations also play a significant role in prevention as they can be the communication and support platform for victims and the contact point for legal authorities.

For instance, the Pragya India organization opened kiosks offering legal counsel for the victims of GBV as well as their mentorship program aiming to educate women and girls about GBV and child marriages, practices often observe within the traditions of the region.

ALAFIA organization in Togo, which is working to end the “widow cleansing” tradition consisting of sexual assault, also discovered that when human rights law is put into the context of their traditional belief, the prevention of this practice gets more accessible. To that end, they contacted local religious representatives and built a community awareness system.

Additionally, numerous countries, including Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Portugal, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have set up committees involving multiple sectors regularly reviewing cases of domestic violence-related deaths or homicides. They actively involve families and support networks of victims in these reviews with the goal of improving how institutions respond to such incidents and preventing similar tragedies from happening in the future.

Today, we stand with the opportunity to create a future where no women or girls would be live in fear of gender-based violence. It is achievable by continuous efforts of individuals, organizations, and states. Through eliminating the root causes, educating the community, and persistent prevention mechanisms, such a future is far from being a dream.