The must-knows on femicide
This reading list compiles all key information, including definitions, facts and figures, pertaining to the femicide phenomenon. We will update this dossier as we gather and select new content that we deem relevant and illustrative.


1. What do we mean by femicide? | Editorial Team

Friday, March 27, 2020 — Femicide Definitions

Trying to agree on a "global" 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. We agree that knowledge reflects particular conditions of possibility that allow it to be produced in the first place. In this sense, we acknowledge that the differences between "femicide" and "feminicidio" are not only linguistic but also, and perhaps more importantly, cultural.

Therefore, the idea of conceptually using "fem(in)icide" (rather than "femicide" or "feminicide") not only intends to recognise this conceptual multiplicity but also for our readers to immerse (in)side the different knowledge makings around this topic as they navigate through the information available in our repository. 

Instead of coming up with a specific definition ourselves, below you will find various significant key elements coming from activists, practitioners, and scholars concerned with fem(in)icide. 

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.

  • Fem(in)icide is not an “isolated” or “sporadic” case of violence but results 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.
  • Fem(in)icide is not only the most extreme form of violence against women and girls but also the most violent manifestation of discrimination against them and their inequality.
  • Fem(in)icide occurs both in the private and in the public sphere, by an intimate-partner, or by any other member of the family or community and, in some contexts, it might be perpetrated or tolerated by the States’ actions or omissions.
  • Fem(in)icide 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.

Definitions given by different actors:

  • UNSRVAW: "The Special Rapporteur has defined femicide, or the gender-related killing of women, as the killing of women because of their sex and/or gender. It constitutes the most extreme form of violence against women and the most violent manifestation of discrimination against women and their inequality" (A/71/398). 
  • UNODC: In the "Recommendations for action against gender-related killing of women and girs" booklet fem(in)icide is referred to as the "gender-related killing of women" and it argues that it "occurs in all our societies, be it as a result of intimate partner violence, in the name of “honour”, in connection with accusations of sorcery or witchcraft, or in the context of armed conflict. In many cases, the killing is the final step in a continuum of violence against women and girls. Too often, perpetrators are not held accountable and impunity prevails". 
  • 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."
  • Mexican General Law on Women's Access to a Life Free of Violence: "Femicide violence is the most extreme form of gender violence against women, produced by the violation of their human rights in public and private spheres and formed by the set of misogynist actions that can lead to the impunity of society and the State and culminate in homicide and other forms of the violent death of women." 
  • Fregoso and Bejarano (eds). 2010. Terrorizing women feminicide in the Américas: "Building on the generic definition of "femicide" as "the murder of women and girls because they are female" (Russell 2001), we define "feminicide" as the murders of women and girls founded on a gender power structure. Second, feminicide is gender-based violence that is both public and private, implicating both the state (directly or indirectly) and individual perpetrators (private or state actors); it this encompasses systematic, widespread, and everyday interpersonal violence. Third, feminicide is systemic violence rooted in social, political, economic, and cultural inequalities. In this sense, the focus of our analysis is not just a gender but also on the intersection of gender dynamics with the cruelties of racism and economic injustices in local as well as global contexts." (Fregoso and Bejarano 2010: 5).  

The different categories

The previous UN Special Rapporteur on VAWG, 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.


2. What data do we have on femicide? Editorial Team

Thursday, November 29, 2018 — Official Data, Facts, Statistics

The key question that we all seek to answer is: How many women and girls are getting killed because of their gender -- also: why, by whom, and where? There are limitations to the efforts to collect comparable, reliable, gender-disaggregated data for each country or region in the world. We would like to use this platform to sensitize our readers for these limitations, but also inform them about existing data and the possibilities to improve the international community's, national statistical bodies' and NGO data collection efforts.

The challenge of collecting data on femicide

In the context of data collection on femicide, it is important to distinguish between data collected at the national and at the international level. Some forms of femicide are more prevalent in some countries than in others, as this depends on the socio-cultural background. Furthermore, depending on the institutional and administrative capacities of a given country or region, there are states which only collect data on homicide, and others, particularly in Latin America, which do collect data on femicide, according to the way in which this type of criminal offense has been classified in the country’s legal framework.

Hence, when it comes to having statistics on this phenomenon at the global level it is important to stick to a framework that enables us to have the most comprehensive coverage of countries that are adequately covered. Moreover, it is important to operate within a statistical framework accepted by states, acknowledging the great diversity of legal systems that exist.

UNODC methodology as key reference

When it comes to presenting statistics on femicide at the global level, this platform will operate within the broader framework of homicide, presenting data on the subset categories of homicide by intimate partners and family members. This approach is in line with the methodology adopted by UNODC in its 2018 and 2013 Global Studies on Homicide and also in its International Classification of Crime for Statistical Purposes (2015). This by no means denies the existence of other forms of femicide: information on other direct and indirect categories of femicide will also be collected.

The work of observatories and NGOs

Census UK


European Observatory

Latin America Observatory


3. 2019 Study on Global Homicide: Gender-related killings of women and girls | UNODC

Monday, July 8, 2019 — Official Data, Facts, Statistics

This landmark study, first released for the 2018 International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, examines available homicide data to analyse the gender-related killing of women and girls, with a specific focus on intimate partner and family-related homicide and how this relates to the status and roles of women in society and the domestic sphere.

The study was re-published in Summer 2019 as booklet #5 of a series of 6 booklets constituting the 2019 Global Study on Homicide.

Andrada Filip, Angela Me

Data basis (page 7)

The data presented in this booklet are based on homicide statistics produced by national statistical systems in which the relationship between the victim and perpetrator and/or the motive are reported. While the disaggregation of homicide data at the country level has improved over the years, regional and global estimates are based on a limited number of countries, with Africa and Asia accounting for most of the gaps.

Key findings and figures (pages 10 and 11)

  1. Killings by intimate partners or family members 2017: A total of 87,000 women were intentionally killed in 2017. More than half of them (58 per cent)  ̶  50,000  ̶  were killed by intimate partners or family members. This means that 137 women across the world are killed by a member of their own family every day. This amounts to some six women being killed every hour by people they know.
  2. Killings by intimate partners 2017: by More than a third (30,000) of the women intentionally killed in 2017 were killed by their current or former intimate partner  ̶  someone they would normally expect to trust.
  3. Comparison with 2012: Based on revised data, the estimated number of women killed by intimate partners or family members in 2012 was 48,000 (47 per cent of all female homicide victims). The annual number of female deaths worldwide resulting from intimate partner/family-related homicide therefore seems be on the increase.
  4. Killings by region: The largest number (20,000) of all women killed worldwide by intimate partners or family members in 2017 was in Asia, followed by Africa (19,000), the Americas (8,000) Europe (3,000) and Oceania (300). However, with an intimate partner/family-related homicide rate of 3.1 per 100,000 female population, Africa is the region where women run the greatest risk of being killed by their intimate partner or family members, while Europe (0.7 per 100,000 population) is the region where the risk is lowest. The intimate partner/family-related homicide rate was also high in the Americas in 2017, at 1.6 per 100,000 female population, as well as Oceania, at 1.3, and Asia, at 0.9.
  5. Shares of female vs. male victimes: The disparity between the shares of male and female victims of homicide perpetrated exclusively by an intimate partner is substantially larger than of victims of homicide perpetrated by intimate partners or family members: roughly 82 per cent female victims versus 18 percent male victims.

4. "Femicide"—The Power of a Name | Diana Russell

Wednesday, May 1, 2013 — Femicide Definitions

Sociologist Diana Russell has organized campaigns for decades to end violence against women. In this text she argues that labeling the most extreme form of such violence is essential to combat it. The following full text passage is part of the ACUNS Vienna Femicide Report Volume 1, pages 19-20.

Diana Russell


"Sociologist Diana Russell has organized campaigns for decades to end violence against women. Here she argues that labeling the most extreme form of such violence is essential to combating it.

"The first good-looking girl I see tonight is going to die."—Edward Kemper, serial killer

Public awareness about violence against women has increased dramatically over the last four decades in the United States, thanks to women's multi-faceted activism. However, despite extensive media coverage on male-perpetrated murders of women—including what appear to be increasing numbers of serial killers who target women and girls—few people seem to register that most of these murders are extreme manifestations of male dominance and sexism. In contrast, many individuals recognize that some of the murders of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans and other people of color are racist, that some of the murders of Jews are anti-Semitic, and that some of the murders of lesbians and gay men are homophobic.

As long ago as 1976, I chose the new term femicide to refer to the killing of females by males because they are female. I cited numerous examples of these lethal forms of male violence against women and girls in my testimony on femicide at the FIRST INTERNATIONAL TRIBUNAL ON CRIMES AGAINST WOMEN5 that took place in Belgium that year. I hoped that introducing this new concept would facilitate people's recognition of the misogynistic motivation of such crimes. Since then, I have engaged in many different strategies in the hope that one or other of them would inspire feminists in the United States to adopt this term instead of the gender-neutral words murder or homicide. However, most American feminists, including those who have focused their efforts on combating violence against women, continue to use terms—such as domestic homicides—that obscure the misogynist factor in virtually all these crimes.

Although women's male partners are by far the most frequent perpetrators of femicides (about 40 to 50 percent), it is vital to recognize that femicides are also perpetrated by strangers, acquaintances, dates, friends, colleagues, johns, and other family members. Thousands of men who murder women every year in this country are motivated by misogyny. Indeed, the vast majority of all murders of women are femicides. In contrast, the relatively few women who murder men are usually motivated by self-defense. Thus, the eradication of sexism—what feminists have been striving for since our beginning—would eliminate this most powerful motive, and few men would murder women.

In contrast to the continuing failure of efforts to get U.S. feminists to adopt the term femicide, the concept is now widely used in many Latin American countries.6 Sometimes referred to as feminicide in these countries, feminists in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Nicaragua, and Honduras have adopted one or other of these terms. Anti-femicide organizations have also been formed, eight of which have so far succeeded in getting their governments to pass laws against femicide. What accounts for the differences in the responses of U.S. and Latin American feminists to the term femicide—and the activism that it has inspired—is a total mystery to me.

On a more positive note, there are a few researchers on femicide in the United States, including a team led by feminist Jacqueline Campbell7, who discovered that the percentage of what they call "intimate partner" femicides increased from 54 to 72 percent between 1976 and 1996. That span of years included intense periods of feminist activity, suggesting that women's growing independence has resulted in some men reacting with lethal violence. Feeling their power threatened or challenged, these men appear to feel entitled to use whatever force is necessary to maintain dominance over those they consider their inferiors. MALE SUPREMACY continues to render all women chronically and profoundly unsafe. In Campbell’s words8, "all women are at risk of femicide." The fear of being murdered by a man is probably felt by most women at some time in their lives.

Femicides are frequently trivialized and depoliticized by the claim that the perpetrators are "crazy." In contrast, it is generally accepted that the lynching of African Americans and the torture and murder of concentration camp inmates were political hate crimes, the goals of which were to preserve white dominance and Aryan/Nazi supremacy, regardless of the psychopathology of the perpetrators. In any case, being mentally ill does not free men from their misogyny or racism. Femicides are lethal hate crimes. While the FEDERAL HATE CRIME LAW includes crimes motivated by actual or perceived gender, and 28 states have statutes that include gender, the only gender-based hate murder (femicide) that I have located was charged by the U.S. Justice Department in 2002. The perpetrator had bound, gagged, and slit the throats of two lesbians while they were camping in a National Park. "They DESERVED TO DIE because they were lesbian whores," he said, revealing that his hate crime was based on lesbiphobia as well as misogyny. It's clear that other strategies are needed to combat femicides in this country.

In the post-9/11 era, terrorism has become a major preoccupation of the U.S. government. However, there is no recognition of the fact that women have been living with male terrorism—manifesting in high magnitudes of rape, beatings, and femicides, as well as threats of these acts—hanging over our heads on a daily basis for eons. Unlike victims of national terrorism, victims of male terror are often blamed for their deaths—while having no way to identify which men are a danger to them. Worse still, those who kill their would-be perpetrators in self-defense are frequently accused of murder and incarcerated for many years.

Despite the fact that most women are also in denial about this reality, I am hoping that increasing numbers of U.S. feminists will soon embrace the concept of femicide, and organize to combat it. And were my hope not realized, I am optimistic that the term femicide, and the activism it usually inspires, will eventually spread from Latin America to the United States and the rest of the world.

Diana E. H. Russell has a Ph.D. from Harvard University and is a Professor Emerita at Mills College in Oakland, California, in the United States. She is one of the foremost experts on violence against women and girls in the world -- especially sexual violence. For the past 40 years she has been deeply engaged in pioneering research and has authored, co-authored, edited, and/or co-edited 17 books and numerous articles."


5. Understanding Femicide | WHO

Sunday, January 1, 2012 — Femicide Definitions

This 2012 information sheet on femicide, including a definition and an overview of the different types of femicide, is part of a series produced by WHO and PAHO to review the evidence base on aspects of violence against women.

"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..."

6. Linguistic Cracks in the use of the term femicide | Oxford Human Rights Hub

Friday, June 24, 2016 — Femicide Definitions

In this article, the author explains how the terms femicide and feminicide have developed along different lines, why the Western notion of femicide tends to overlook the cause and reason of a women's death, and argues for a narrower understanding.

Alec Cunningham

7. 2013 Global Study on Homicide | UNODC

Monday, January 1, 2018 — Official Data, Facts, Statistics

The Global Study on Homicide 2013 seeks to shed light on the worst of crimes - the "unlawful death purposefully inflicted on a person by another person."

In 2012, intentional homicide took the lives of almost half a million people. The study of intentional homicide is relevant not only because it is the study of the ultimate crime, whose ripple effect goes far beyond the initial loss of human life, but because lethal violence can create a climate of fear and uncertainty. Intentional homicide also victimizes the family and community of the victim, who can be considered secondary victims, and when justice is not served, impunity can lead to further victimization in the form of the denial of the basic human right to justice.