Femicide: The Painful Specter Haunting Women Worldwide

Femicide: The Painful Specter Haunting Women Worldwide

“femina”: woman
“-cide”: act of killing

United States citizens aren’t very acquainted with the term “femicide”, but one can infer from breaking down the word into prefixes and suffixes that a rough meaning of the term would be this: the act of killing a woman.

At its most basic level, this is what femicide is – but that simple definition leaves a lot to be desired. How is it different from a crime being categorized as homicide directed at women? How often does femicide happen? Where is it most prevalent? Are there different types of femicide that exist? Is anyone doing anything about it? I’m going to give a rundown of the answers to all of those questions so that we can understand this very dangerous circumstance affecting women worldwide.

How Is Femicide Different From A Homicide Directed At Women And Girls?

Femicide and homicide are certainly similar, but whereas homicide is “the killing of another person”, femicide refers specifically to the murder of women and girls – generally for gender-related purposes. Many (but not all) of these murders are committed by either current partners, ex-partners, or family members. The United States often classifies such killings under domestic violence, but that leaves out a host of other areas that are encompassed within the femicide spectrum.

What Are The Different Types Of Femicide That Exist?

Domestic violence is the first area that comes to mind when we think of femicide. It is one with which those of us in the States are aware because of this harrowing number that we’ve likely seen associated with it:

1 in 3 women have experienced domestic violence at some point in life

That means that 33% of U.S. women have been abused. If you look at three of your female friends in this country, one of them has likely experienced some form of domestic violence. It is important to point out that domestic violence is a global issue stretching across cultures, economic boundaries, and continents. For example, the European Union – which many think of as a progressive group of nations – has serious problems in its own right. Numbers the world over are likely much higher because domestic violence is vastly underreported, in part due to the stigma associated with being a survivor.

Honor killings are a truly horrific practice that entails women being murdered by male or female family members because of any of the following:

– Being raped
– Committing adultery
– Sexual intercourse/pregnancy outside of marriage

The perpetrators of these killings will murder women and girls for any of the above reasons to save the honor of the family. So, imagine being a female in Pakistan, a country where an estimated 1,000 honor killings occur each year. You are raped; quite obviously, this is not your fault. Your family decides that you have brought shame upon them because of this, and you must die as a result. You are wronged twice – once by a rapist, and again by your family that ends your life because of an occurrence that is not your fault. It is an injustice.

Dowry-related killings happen primarily in India and occur despite the Dowry Prohibition Act of 1961 making the request, payment, or acceptance of dowries illegal as a condition of marriage. There were around 25,000 dowry deaths that happened in India between 2012-2015. A dowry, for reference, is “the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband or his family in marriage.” It would follow that if you are from a family lineage that is not wealthy, you could face significant hardship up to, and including, death at the hands of your in-laws. Despite there being laws against this cruel practice, 21 women per day are being murdered because of it.

Female infanticide is the practice of killing infant girls. It’s ultimately rooted in the belief in male superiority, and societies that are highly patriarchal see many instances of female infanticide – including, among others, China, India, & Pakistan. If men are seen as workers & women are seen as homemakers, then women aren’t going to have as much value to your country. Also, if you are a country that engages in the institution of dowries, then you’d likely see it as being to your advantage to have a son, as having a daughter would place a financial strain on your family when the time for marriage comes.

How Often Does Femicide Occur?

It’s different for every country, but there is a very relevant statistic from which we can glean an answer. According to the United Nations Office On Drugs And Crime, 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017. While that might not seem like an exceedingly large number, keep in mind that violence against women is often underreported; the number is likely much higher than this.

Where Is Femicide Most Prevalent?

That’s a difficult question to answer because, though there are numbers that correlate with certain regions having a higher rate of femicide, femicide is sometimes not separated from overall homicide numbers in certain countries. What has been studied, however, is that of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide, 14 are from Latin America and the Caribbean.

Is Anyone Doing Anything About It?

Many countries have their own actions that they are taking, but what is clear is that laws that are enacted to combat femicide actually have to be enforced or they will prove to be ultimately ineffective. France recently created a series of laws that would serve to fight femicide within its borders. The United States has the Violence Against Women Act of 1994, which has not been re-authorized for 2019. And many countries in Latin America have strict laws pertaining to violence against women. Again, laws are just words if the actions aren’t taken to bolster those words.

Femicide is a wide-ranging and complex issue to understand, and this article attempted to do it justice. If you have any questions about anything that I didn’t include in the article, let me know and I’ll try to get you an answer.

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