2016 original call for national femicide watches

Western Europe


In her September 2016 report to the UNGA, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Dubravka Simonovic,  addresses the topic of femicide, or the gender-related killing of women, and proposes the establishment at the global, national and regional levels of a “femicide watch” and observatories on violence against women.

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Excerpt from the original Report of the Special Rapporteur on VAW, Dubravka Simonovic, A/71/398, in which she proposed the establishment of Femicide Watches

Thematic focus: modalities for the establishment of femicide or gender-related killings watch

A. Introduction: the call for the establishment of a femicide watch.

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.5 The issue of femicide has received serious attention since the establishment of the mandate of the Special Rapporteur. It is examined systematically during country visits.

In 1995, the Special Rapporteur presented a thematic report on violence in the family to the Commission on Human Rights, in which it was highlighted that the dominance of a familial ideology entrenched women’s roles as wives and mothers and impeded them from gaining access to non-traditional roles and exposed women who did not fit within or ascribe to traditional sex roles to gender-based hate crimes.

The Special Rapporteur emphasized that such an ideology legitimated violence against women, including honour killings and other forms of femicide (see E/CN.4/1999/68). In 2002, the Special Rapporteur presented a thematic report on cultural practices in the family that were violent towards women, referring to honour killings, and noted that those types of crimes were carried out by husbands, fathers, brothers or uncles, sometimes on behalf of tribal councils (see E/CN.4/2002/83).

The Special Rapporteur organized an expert meeting on the gender-motivated killing of women in New York in 2011 in order to consolidate and build on national, regional and international expertise with regard to the manifestations and root causes of and State responses to gender-motivated killings of women, discuss policy, legal and institutional challenges at the national, regional and international levels and identify good practices and lessons learned in that regard in various regions (see A/HRC/2016/Add.4).

The 2012 thematic report of the Special Rapporteur to the Human Rights Council was focused on the issue of the gender-related killing of women (see A/HRC/20/16). The gender-motivated killing of women is a clear violation of women’s rights, including the right to life, freedom from torture and to a life free from violence and discrimination. It is a global phenomenon that takes place in both the private and public spheres and results from, among other things, intimate partner violence, armed conflict, dowry disputes and the protection of family “honour”. The gender-motivated killing of women is often the final and most serious consequence of pervasive discrimination, in particular acts of violence.

In the 2012 thematic report, the Special Rapporteur drew attention to the fact that the gender-related killing of women was not an isolated phenomenon that had arisen suddenly and unexpectedly but was instead the final stage of violence after an extended and ignored continuum of violence that had progressively escalated. In the report, it was noted that the prevalence of such killings was increasing globally.

The current Special Rapporteur has decided that one of her immediate priorities is the prevention of femicide and the use of data on violence against women as a tool to that end (see A/HRC/32/42). On 25 November 2015, to mark International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, she called upon all States to establish a femicide watch or a “gender-related killing of women watch”.6

She proposed that data on the number of femicides or cases of the gender-related killing of women, disaggregated by the age and the ethnicity of victims and the sex of the perpetrators and indicating the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim or victims, should be published annually, on 25 November, along with information concerning the prosecution and punishment of perpetrators. Given the shortcomings of many national prevention systems, the lack of reliable data and risk assessments and the consequent misidentification, concealment and underreporting of gender-related killings, including of women belonging to ethnic minorities, the proposal would facilitate the collection of crucial information for the development of effective strategies to address this serious human rights violation.

Each gender-related killing of women should be analysed carefully to identify any failure of protection, with a view to improving and developing further preventive measures. In the collection, analysis and publication of such data, States should cooperate with non-governmental organizations and independent human rights institutions working in the field, representatives of victims and other relevant international organizations and stakeholders.

Building on work and action undertaken at the international, regional, national and local levels, the Special Rapporteur proposes the adoption of a flexible methodology that would be workable for all States to assist them in establishing a femicide watch or gender-related killing of women watch as a separate mechanism or mechanisms attached to existing national mechanisms or observatories on violence against women.

Her work on the prevention of femicide and other forms of violence against women also fits into the broader context of the gathering and analysis of data on violence against women envisaged in the Sustainable Development Goals, targets and indicators that, for the first time, include the elimination of violence against women as a target for the achievement of gender equality and the empowerment of women.

Research on homicide resulting from intimate partner violence makes clear that, almost without exception, women are at greater risk than men and that the majority of women homicide victims are killed by intimate partners who are men. Studies by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) also confirm that, in many countries, intimate partner or family-related homicide is the major cause of homicide against women and that their homicide rates are much more likely to be driven by this type of violence than by the organized crime-related  homicide typology that disproportionately affects men.

In 2012, almost half of all women who were murdered worldwide (47 per cent) were killed by a family member or intimate partner, compared with 6 per cent of homicide victims who were men.7 As with all forms of intimate partner violence, intimate partner femicide is likely to be significantly undetected and underreported. Prosecutions usually do not integrate a gender perspective. There is a clear need to focus on femicide for the purpose of establishing modalities for a national femicide watch and observatories on violence against women.

To assist the Special Rapporteur in defining modalities for the establishment of such mechanisms at the national level, which would, beyond the systematic and detailed recording of femicides, underpin the development of effective measures and strategies needed to prevent femicides, the Centre for Women, Peace and Security at the London School of Economics convened an expert group meeting on femicide on 1 June 2016. It brought together 16 experts from the academic world, civil society organizations and United Nations agencies and bodies with technical and practical expertise and experience in working on violence against women, including on statistics and crime prevention, who discussed recent global and regional initiatives in the area of femicide. The discussion and material shared by the participants informed the present report to a large degree, as did contributions by other experts and United Nations agencies, especially UNODC.

5 For the purpose of the present report, the terms “femicide” and “gender-related killing” are used interchangeably. A/71/398 16-16456 11/24

6 See www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=16796&LangID=E. A/71/398 12/24 16-16456




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