Interview with Angela Me, UNODC, about focus on perpetrators in fight against femicide | Femicide Team
Angela Me explains why UNODC’s new global homicide report on the gender-related killing of women and girls includes a chapter on perpetrators. She calls for enhanced research and data collection to better understand men who are perpetrators of violence -- what is behind the drivers of killing a partner or a daughter.
This interview has been published in FEMICIDE Volume 11 on Cyber Crimes Against Women. By Helen Hemblade, Vienna Femicide Team
Angela Me is Chief of the Research and Trend Analysis Branch at UNODC and has been working at the UN for over 20 years. She holds a Phd in statistics from the University of Padua, Italy, and before joining the UNODC, she worked for several years in the UN Statistics Division and the UN Commission for Europe. Me has authored and overseen numerous publications on a range of topics from population, gender, disability, migration to drugs and crime.
Hemblade: What are the main challenges in collecting data on the killing of women and girls? And how does this translate to being able to analyse trends on a global level?
Me: There are two main challenges: first is the capacity of the recording in general; some countries are lacking behind in terms of the structure that they have in place to record crimes. Sometimes it‘s just manual reporting and by the time this arrives to a centralized national level, the information gets lost or is not precise. In rural or remote areas of some counties, crime is simply not reported and not recorded. In other countries, the killing of women is not reported or recorded because this is not considered a crime.
The second challenge is that even when you have a system in place for recording a crime, you may not have enough specification and granularity to distinguish the type of homicide. How many people are killed and with which method is not sufficient to understand the type of violence that caused the homicide and how to prevent it. To try to understand the way homicide affects women, it is important to have data disaggregated not only by the sex of victims and the age but also by the perpetrator, the reason and the context. Although we know that the majority of women are killed by their partners or family members, we need to have a precise picture. Another challenge is comparability because each country may define different disaggregating variables.
For example, some countries in Latin America have established femicide as a specific offence but data based on this is not comparable; what is defined as femicide in one country is not the same as a femicide in another country. So when you try to put together the data for regional and global analysis, there is an issue of comparability.
Hemblade: Why is the International Classification of Crime important?
Me: This links well with how we can address the above challenges. The classification is a tool that can help each country to work with the granularity that I was talking about earlier. The classification gives a framework that qualifies and disaggregates the crime in a way that can help in understanding the reasons behind it. This is very important because it helps to isolate the crime, for example, committed by a partner, family member in the context of a gender bias. The framework also helps with comparability. If all countries adopt the classification, we can definitely put together solid, comparable figures at a regional and global level.
Hemblade: In UNODC’s new global homicide report on the gender-related killing of women and girls, there is a chapter on perpetrators. Why was it important to include this?
Me: It is important to prevent the crime. There‘s been a lot of advancement in terms of research on violence against women (VAW), which is very much welcome. Twenty years ago when the international community started discussing the mandate on VAW data and statistics, many countries used to say that this was not an area for official statistics.
We’ve come a long way and today many countries have embedded VAW surveys in their national statistical systems. This is great, but I think that now we need to move to the next step and enhance research and data collection to understand men who are perpetrators of violence. In order to understand what is behind the drivers of killing a partner or a daughter, we need to work with men.
There‘s no other way. I think women have done a lot in terms of empowering themselves through hard work and sacrifices. But empowering yourself in a culture where nobody wants you to do so is very difficult. To create better enabling environments, we need to work with men, because it is only with them that we can have sustainable changes. We need to undertake research to understand what are the impediments for eliminating VAW and enabling female empowerment.
Hemblade: Do you have any research on perpetrator prevention programmes?
Me: When producing the report on gender related killings of women and girls, we tried to look at successful policies because we believed we had to provide the knowledge about the problem and also good practices to resolve the problem. But this undertaking proved to be quite difficult because we could not find many examples where scientific evidence could support the success of these kind of policies or programmes.
There’s been very little progress in reducing the number of women killed by their partner or family member despite a lot of action from member states. Many member states have changed legislations or have created specific legislations on VAW, but the global number of killings has been stable if not increasing.
We now need to work in two streams. One with the long-term objective of changing cultural stereotypes, which requires working with boys and girls in school and family settings to break gender stereotypes. The objective is not give prescriptive cultural models for boys and girls but to promote the idea that male and female need equal opportunities to play the role they want to play in the society without impositions on pre-defined roles.
In the short term, we need to work to protect the women who are at risk of violence and to make sure that there‘s no impunity. Progress has been made. In the past honour killings, for example, were tolerated by some criminal justice systems. We need to continue to make sure that the criminal justice has a proper response to the crime.
It’s important to teach both boys and girls to look for signs of abuse in their own relationships and their friends’ relationships so that they know how to intervene when it happens to them or people they know.
Women have paid a huge price in empowering themselves if you think of the many private and public battles. Women have defined different roles for themselves. But if we want to create a truly equal society, men need to go through the same transformation and establish an idea of manhood that rejects violence and the idea that men have to dominate on women. Much of the violence against women today is related to the dominant role that men play in society.
Hemblade: What are the major gaps in prevention and criminal justice of gender-related killings of females specifically in the context of intimate partner and family member victims?
Me: There are cultural gaps and weak prevention. Although many countries have made great efforts in protecting women providing, for example, shelters and phone lines in the last 20 years, it is not enough. Not enough is being done to give strength to women to leave violent relationships - that is the most difficult part. Women need to see this as a real option.
We need to help and empower women to first identify violent relationships, to understand what is healthy and acceptable. This should be done from a young age. In too many cases, women report violence to the authorities, even several times, but no action is taken. So it‘s also about training the criminal justice system and law enforcement to understand the critical issues and not to undermine the urgency and to act straight away.
Women need a “safe haven” - not dissimilar to the idea of refuges in conflict zones. We need to create a safe space for women so that they can leave a violent relationship with economic means, protection for the children and feeling that a different future is possible. Women are often in a difficult situation because they‘re not economically independent and We must also acknowledge that this happens on a large scale and it isn’t something that happens randomly. The killings of women by partners or family members often come after a long-term pattern of violence so these killings are preventable.
Hemblade: In the next ten years, what are you hoping to achieve in terms of collecting data?
Me: Well, first of all, I hope the UN can count on more and more countries to provide data on gender-related killings of women and girls. So hopefully in the next 10 years we have enough data to make more in depth comparisons on social economic factors and better understand how killings are carried out, the history of violence and the context of the relationship. Lastly, I hope that in 10 years we can have a global analysis that explain better men's behaviour and what drives them to become violent to the point of killing women.
You can find the UNODC Global Homicide Report 2018 here: https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/GSH2018/GSH18_Gender-r... women_and_girls.pdf