Global → femicide

What do we mean by femicide? | Editorial Team

January 1, 2018 — Femicide Definitions
Femicide Vol X

Trying to agree upon a global homogeneous definition of the killing of women and girls based on their gender is highly complex: its meaning varies according to the point of view, context, and discipline from which it is being examined, as well as its scope, content and implications rely on how it is being addressed. However, the following definition results from the various documents and efforts that stakeholders, concerned with this heinous multi-layered phenomenon, have touched upon.


Author(s) / Source: FWP Editorial TEam


General definition and aspects

The term femicide refers to the killing of women and girls because they are females, i.e. because of their gender.

  • Femicide/feminicide are are not “isolated” or “sporadic” cases of violence, but result from unequal power structures—rooted in “traditional” gender roles, customs and mindsets—where women and girls often find themselves in a subordinated and/or marginalized position.
  • Femicide/feminicide is not only the most extreme form of violence against women, but also the most violent manifestation of discrimination against them and their inequality.
  • Femicide/feminicide occurs both in the private and in the public sphere, by an intimate-partner, or by any other member of the community and, in some contexts, it might be perpetrated or tolerated by the States’ actions or omissions.
  • Femicide/feminicide includes a wide range of categories of killings. The former SRVAW, professor Rashida Manjoo, generated a knowledge base surrounding this phenomenon in her thematic reports.


Different notions by different actors


UN: "In contrast to my final definition of femicide -- the killing of females by males because they are female -- the United Nations kept their original definition of femicide as "the killing of a woman, because she is a woman"." (Diana Russell)

WHO: "Femicide is generally understood to involve intentional murder of women because they are women, but broader definitions include any killings of women or girls. This information sheet focuses on the narrower definition commonly used in policies, laws and research: intentional murder of women. Femicide is usually perpetrated by men, but sometimes female family members may be involved. Femicide differs from male homicide in specific ways. For example, most cases of femicide are committed by partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse
in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner..."


The different categories

The previous UN Special Rapporteur on VAW, professor Rashida Manjoo, started to create a knowledge base surrounding this phenomenon in her thematic reports, arguing that it “represents the extreme manifestation of existing forms of violence against women […] gender-related killings are not isolated incidents which arise suddenly and unexpectedly, but are rather the ultimate act of violence which is experienced in a continuum of violence”(A/HRC/20/16).

She further identified an extensive set of categories of femicide perpetrated directly and indirectly. The direct category includes: killings as a result of intimate-partner violence; sorcery/witchcraft-related killings; honour-related killings; armed conflict-related killings; dowry-related killings; gender identity- and sexual orientation-related killings; and ethnic- and indigenous identity-related killings.

The indirect category includes: deaths due to poorly conducted or clandestine abortions; maternal mortality; deaths from harmful practices; deaths linked to human trafficking, drug dealing, organized crime and gang-related activities; the death of girls or women from simple neglect, through starvation or ill-treatment; and deliberate acts or omissions by the State.

This list is ultimately non-exhaustive, since society is fluid and constantly changing, hence other forms of violence against women can emerge. New forms of femicide that are now receiving more attention include extremism, fundamentalism, and the killing of women and girls in  flight.