The Fight Against Femicide



When you read the details about acts of femicide around the world, the stories often play out like some accounting from a horror film or an episode of Law and Order Special Victims Unit. The men involved who commit the crimes against women appear to be insane or deranged. It’s hard to believe and seems sensationalized but unfortunately the stories are real and even still as 2013 comes to a close, very prevalent as well.

What is femicide?

There are many definitions. Here are a few.

Wikipedia lays the foundation for us. 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, suggesting that it had become a prosecutable offense.

The modern term emerged in tandem with the 1970s feminist movements, which aimed to raise feminine consciousness and resistance against gender oppression.

American author, Carol Orlock, is widely credited with inventing the term in her unpublished anthology on femicide. Dr. Diana Russell is lauded as the first to instigate the usage and to facilitate the publishing of 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.” presents this definition. Femicide is the mass murder of women simply because they are women. the Advocates For Human Rights states “femicide” is used to describe the killings of women and girls because of their gender. Femicide is an extreme form of gender-based violence that culminates in the murder of women and may include torture, mutilation, cruelty, and sexual violence. The causes and risk factors of this type of violence are linked to gender inequality, discrimination, and economic disempowerment and are the result of a systematic disregard for women’s human rights. It occurs in an environment where every day acts of violence are
accepted and impunity is facilitated by the government’s refusal to deal with the problems. presents this view. For a case to be considered femicide there must be an implied intention to carry out the murder and a demonstrated connection between the crime and the female gender of the victim.

Female Competition International could present you with more definitions that we have researched but here are what seem to be the common threads.

What differentiates femicide from female homicide?

The key seems to be the woman was murdered in large part or exclusively because of her gender. There also seems to be a hate crime theme to it. Babies are murdered because they are not boys. Women are murdered because they are prostitutes are poor with little options. Then there is the possession aspect where the female involved in some ways is seen as the property of the male violator and received what she deserved. She is his woman.


Let’s travel around the world to some hot spots.

JUAREZ……… informs for more than a decade, the city of Juarez, near the US-Mexico border, has been a killing field for young women, the site of nearly 400 unsolved murders and many more abductions. Despite the horrific nature of these crimes, authorities at all levels exhibit indifference, and there is strong evidence that some officials may be involved in the crimes. Impunity and corruption has permitted the criminals, whoever they are, to continue committing these acts, knowing there will be no consequences.

A significant number of victims work in maquiladoras — sweatshops that produce items for export, with 90 percent of the products destined for the United States. The maquiladoras employ mainly young women at poverty-level wages.

In a July 19, 2013 article published in New Mexico State University’s Frontera NorteSur entitled “20 Years of Border Femicide”, a must read made possible in part by a grant from the New Mexico Humanities Council, there is chilling news.

The murders of Esmeralda Juarez and Rosa Isela Quintanilla form part of a long series of gender crimes that first became a major issue in 1993 when Ciudad Juarez women’s activists like Vicky Caraveo and the late Esther Chavez Cano began protesting killings that would become known as femicides.

Women’s homicides soared during the period of “hyper-violence” linked to the cartel wars that ravaged Juarez from early 2008 to 2012 and many murders could be connected to underworld rivalries as opposed to sex-related violence, though it is often difficult to determine exact motive since most murders have never been thoroughly investigated.

Longtime women’s activist Vicky Caraveo, who served as the first director of the official Chihuahua Women’s Institute, is disheartened by the turn of events. Asked in a recent interview if she ever imagined herself back in 1993 struggling against the same issues 20 years later, Caraveo gave an emphatic no.

“I thought there was going to be a substantial change,” she said, adding that women’s demands remain the same as two decades ago: “Return our daughters, or justice in the case of a murder.”

Currently the coordinator of Mothers in Search of Justice, a non-governmental organization of victims’ relatives, Caraveo said violence against women extends beyond the serial-like disappearances and murders and touches all walks of life. For instance, Caraveo’s group has received recent reports of women threatened and young girls raped with impunity.

“We’re very frustrated, because violence against women hasn’t diminished, it’s increasing,” Caraveo said. Women, she insisted, are “expendable” and “replaceable” in contemporary society. “We’re at the mercy of what men can do to us.”

In Juarez, where official campaigns are underway to revive the city and project a new face to the world through mega-projects and new monuments, the femicide issue has largely been forgotten, Caraveo asserted.



Forbes reports the current domestic violence crisis in Italy is so bad that Prime Minister, Enrico Letta referred to the country’s killing of women at the hands of current or former lovers as femicide. Already this year, almost a hundred women have died in cases of intimate partner violence, and in 2012 a United Nations’ report labeled domestic abuse in Italy as the “most pervasive form of violence” in the country, affecting over 30 percent of Italian women. The report also stipulated out that the majority of Italian women who were abused; almost 90% did not report the incidents to the police. Italian women are still most commonly associated with the stereotypical image of “Mama,” the always cooking, nurturing domestic woman with her endless supply of pasta and babies.

GUATEMALA……….. relates more than 3,800 women and girls have been murdered in Guatemala since the year 2000. What local activists are calling “femicide” is spreading in Guatemala and throughout Latin America.



The speaks to what’s occurring in Europe. Though statistics on femicide are hard to come by, according to the United Nations, 50 percent of women killed between 2008 and 2010 in Europe were killed by a family member. For men, that number was just 15 percent.

In other words, women are killed by those who supposedly love them. In Spain, another European country with high rates of femicide, so far, 13 women have been killed this year. Last year, 97 women were killed in Spain—35 more than in 2011.

INDIA……… peers into India. In a report just released by the UN-DESA (United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs) covering global infant and child mortality rates, the report shows that India has a shockingly high rate of mortality for female children between the ages of 1 to 5 years.

In fact it has the highest rate of female child mortality among the 150 countries surveyed, including countries classified as LDR (Less Developed Regions). The data, which covers the last 40 years, shows that India also accounts for the largest gender-based difference in child mortality than all other countries.

For every 56 boys that die in this age group, there are 100 girls who die in India. However statistically with the biological advantage that girls have over boys for survival at this stage, the normal ratio of child mortality for the rest of the world is 116 boys to 100 girls. A girl child in India, who is between the ages 1 to 5-years-old, is 75 percent more likely to die than a boy in the same age category.

Female infanticide has a long history in India and chillingly each region has had its own established, traditional way of killing infant girls, methods that include drowning the baby in a bucket of milk, or feeding her salt, or burying her alive in an earthen pot. focuses on femicide in India as well.

According to the 2011 United Nations report on gender and childhood mortality, the current risk of Indian girls dying between the ages of 1 – 5 years is 75 percent higher than boys the same age. The latest India Census also reveals that the general number of girl-children in the age group for girls who are 0-6 years of age now shows a decrease in infant girls even though population counts are rising. 927 females per 1000 males in 2001 is now showing lower figures as 914 females per 1000 males are showing as the most recent numbers for 2011.

But is gender based killing, known as femicide, the cause of the decrease in girl infants in India’s population?

Many advocates think it is. This means that with India’s current population (1.22 billion), close to 16 million additional girls today are now missing from the 2011 numbers counted for girls, compared to those counted in 2001.


Whether it was Civil Rights, Title Nine or issues in the work place, first the laws must change, be put in place and more importantly be enforced by the authorities. Changing the hearts and minds of societies often come after the enforcement of laws that send a strong message that certain behaviors are no longer going to be tolerated.

It will be a long process but there are some indicators of change.

In Italy Prime Minister Enrico Letta introduced new laws to protect women against domestic violence in hopes to make it easier to prosecute perpetrators. “We are at war against femicide,” reports Mr. Letta acknowledged at a press conference introducing the legislation which includes stricter penalties for men who attack pregnant women, harass or stalk current or ex-girlfriends and wives, and allows police to remove an abuser from the family home.

The Center For Gender and Refugee Studies (CGRS) continues to educate the public and policymakers about Guatemala’s femicides in order to encourage concrete action that will bring an end to impunity for violence committed against women and girls.

CGRS states in May 2006, 117 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to the State Department demanding that the U.S. target some of its existing aid money to Guatemala to require improved justice for Guatemalan women and human rights defenders. The State Department responded in June 2006 in a letter stating that it shared the concerns of the Congress members, and detailed its plans to work with the Guatemalan government in addressing this issue.

On May 1, 2007, the U.S. House of Representatives approved House Resolution 100 (H. Res. 100), which was authored by Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA). H. Res. 100 condemns the murders of more than 2,000 Guatemalan women and girls since 2001, and calls on the Government of Guatemala to bring an end to these crimes.

On March 11, 2008, in commemoration of International Women’s Day, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Senate Resolution 178 (S. Res. 178). Like the House Resolution, S. Res. 178 – sponsored by Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM) – encourages the US to work with Guatemala to bring an end to the femicides. confirms in April 2009, law 26,485 on Violence Against Women was enacted in Argentina. When the law was promulgated, several active feminist groups took it as a very good start. Three years later, one can say that law 26,485 is a great legal tool with no use.

The law itself is complete, though extremely long, not fully regulated, and most importantly, very difficult to implement.

Still, it’s a start even if symbolic.

Horror movie buffs would probably agree that many of the films even if found entertaining are formula based and somewhat predictable. One theme that seems consistent is that if people team together and look out for each other, they have a greater chance of survival.

Femicide is not just an issue that affects women. The women who are murdered have fathers, brothers, cousins, friends, co-workers and others who deeply loved and cared about them. Fortunately this important issue is gaining global attention and if the world community teams together to enact and support laws protecting women from these heinous crimes, this story promises to have a much better ending.


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Sources: Wikipedia,,,,,, /articles/2013/02/17/men-who-hate-women.html,,!femicide-in-india,, -years-of-border-femicide, photos thanks to Wikimedia Commons