Femicide Volume Special Issue 2022 cover

Femicide 2021: What Has Changed? Development of Femicide Watches and Observatories

by the UN SRVAW Reem Alsalem

Femicide Watches
Femicide Observatories


The current UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women analyzes the development of femicide watch initiatives (including femicide observatories) since the original call was issued in 2016 by former Special Rapporteur Dubravka Simonovic. On a yearly basis, States were asked to submit information on the measures they have taken against femicide and to provide disaggregated data on femicide in general and on the number of gender-related killings of women per year



The author would  like to thank Ann Foster Monk and Eszter Horvath of the School of Oriental and African Studies of London University, who were interning with the mandate in 2022, for their support with reviewing the data this article and systematizing it.

Femicide, or gender-related killings of women, is the most extreme form of violence against women and thmost violent manifestation of discrimination against women.  lt has been a priority for the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women since this post was established, and was the focus of thematic reports in 2012 (A/HRC/20/16) and 2016 (4/71/398). In  the  latter,  thformer Special  Rapporteur,  Ms.  Dubravka  Simonovic, called on Stateto establish a  "femicide watch" and/or observatories, and elaborated on the modalities for establishing such  a mechanism.

In 2016, the Special Rapporteur established a Femicide Watch Prevention Initiative that aimed to foster the creation of such observatories or watch bodies. The mandate has also made yearly calls to States to submit information on the measures it has taken against femicide and provide data on femicide in general and on the number of gender-related killings of women per year, disaggregated  by the age  and sex  of thperpetrators,  and by the relationshibetween the perpetrator  and the  victim.  In  October  2021,  and pursuant  to  General  Assembly resolutio5/161 the Special  Rapporteur presented a  report on the Femicide WatcPrevention  Initiative, to the General Assembly (A/76/132).

Developments Regarding the Prevention of, and Response to, Femicide in 2021

In response to the 2021 call by the mandate for information on femicide, 32 Member States7 National  Human Rights lnstitutions, and 4 non-state actors responded. The following  article is based in large part on these submissions.

Compared to previous years, there has been only a very modest increase  in the number of femicide observatories. Between 2016 and 2021, there was significant progress towards the creation of different types of bodies to monitor violence against women and femicide. Yet,  in every continent, there are countries that still do not have femicide observatories  such   as  Azerbaijan,2   Cambodia,3   Switzerland,4   Turkey,5   anUkraine.6   The list includes developed countries and countries that are not in  a state of conflictbusting the myth that the presence of a femicide observatory or the lack of it is a matter primarily of resources and capacity.

In some countries, femicide observatories have been created or improved  upon by local governments, civil society, and academia, thereby filling  important gaps that exist at the national level. This has been the case in Albania, for example, where a femicide observatory has been set up  by  civil  society.7   Foexample,  in  Colombia,  the  Government's  Colombian  Observatory  of Women   has a   strong  relationship  with  the  NGO Feminicidios  Colombia  which   provides  the Observatory with  information that can help identify possible cases of femicide that are  not being investigated.8  Another  example  is the  way data  are  collected  by the  Human  Rights  Commission of the Colombian State of NuevLeon which has developed  a  femicide cartography  based on monitoring  the  news from the  local  and national  press. The data  is systematized  in a  database that contains the date of the event, name of the woman,  age, gender  identity, location, type of aggression,  identitof the  alleged aggressor,  and age and type of relationship  he had with  thwoman.9 The creation  of this  cartography  and database  has made it  possible to geographicallvisualize the violent deaths of womeand to look into whether the authorities have failed in their dutieto  prevent,  investigate,  and  punish  gender-based   violence;   it  has also  improved   the analysis of the context  in which these cases occur.10

Conscious of the fact that institutional design of the observatories may differ from  one country to another, the mandate recommended that they all have standard roles and functions which are as follows:  1) data  are collected  according to the  modalities  recommended by the  mandate,  and are therefore comparable at the regional and global levels; 2) data are analyzed and made public3)   cases   are    reviewed    to   identify   gaps   in   protection,   services,   and    legislation;   4) recommendations  for  improvement  based on local  trends  can reach legislators,  policy-makers, and   the   general   public;   and   5)   evidence-based   legislation   and   policy   reforms   can   be implemented.

The Special Rapporteur notes that femicide continues not tbe criminalized as a separate offence  in several  countries such as Albania,  Cambodia,  Malaysia,  Slovakia,  Switzerland. The list of countries includes affluent countries and ones with developed  legal frameworks and justice systems. The  mandates  position  has been  that  iis  not  necessary to have a  separate criminal  offence for  femicide as long  as the  legal  system  can adequately  identify  and prosecute these  cases, while also taking  into  account their gendered nature. However,  creating  a  separate criminal  offence  can be a  useful  strategy  in this  regard.

The collection  of disaggregated  data  continues  to  be a   challenge.  Foexample,  courts  in Hungary  still  do not  collect  data  disaggregated  by sex,  race,  nationality,  ethnicity,  or religion of victim  or perpetrator;  only by typof crime.16

The mandate  has systematically  recommended that  States  collect  data  under three  broacategories:  1. intimate-partner femicide or 2. family-related femicide,  based on the relationship between the victim and the  perpetrator,  and 3. other femicides, according to the  local  context. The centrality of data  collectioand monitoring in  State efforts to combat violence against women was reaffirmed  by the Committee on the Elimination  of Discrimination against Women, particularly  its  General  Recommendation  No.  3(2017)  ogender-based  violence  against women. Iit, the Committee recommended that States parties establish a  system to regularly collect, analyze, and publish statistical data on the number of complaints of violence. This system should include information on the sentences imposed on perpetrators and reparations, including compensation,  provided  to victims. The Committee also recommended  that datshould  be disaggregated  by type of violence,  relationshipbetween victim and perpetrator, and other relevant socio-demographic characteristics.

Furthermore,  the  mandate  has  reiterated  onumerous  occasions that the  existence  of criminalaw provisions establishing the crime of femicide  (as a standalone offence or as  an aggravating  circumstance  to  homicide)  inot  a prerequisite for the collection odata. Furthermore, when such legal definitions of femicide as a specific crime are in place,  often only prosecuted cases are counted; in those States, data collection should be broader and encompass all gender-related killings of women.

The mandate considers it problematic that, in some countries, data on femicide or gender-related  killings  of women  and girls  continuto  be limited  to  intimate-partner violence.  A comprehensive approach should include all types of femicides relevant to a  particular context, including intimate-partner and family-related killings, and others in  which, whilthere is  no relationship between victim and perpetrator, there is a gender motive.

The Special Rapporteur notes with satisfaction, however, that since 2020, there have been further moves to gather better datin several countries, even if thihas relied on different methodologies and scope. In Argentina, for example, through resolution 48/2021, the lntegrated System for Cases of Violence for Gender Reasons (SICVG) wacreated. This system is a tool for recording, processing, and analyzing information on queries and complaints of gender-based violence in order to contribute to the design and monitoring of public policies on gender-based violence. The integrated mechanism woulprevent the duplication of data and improve the gathering and analysis of data arising from diverse sources such as complaints, consultations, and legal cases.17 T

The mandate has recommended that data collected should include three broad categories: 1. intimate-partner femicide or 2. family-related femicide,  based on the relationship betweethe victim  and the  perpetrator,  and 3.  other femicides  or gender-related  killings, according to the  local context.  In Bolivia, the Ministrof Justice  and lnstitutional Transparenchas established a  national  monitorincommission  for  femicidcaseto  monitor the judicial processes on femicide. An electronic form  has been created  that allows the  effective  monitoring of criminal  proceedings and shows thareas of greatesprevalence of these  crimes.

Submissions senbdifferengovernmenttthmandati202shothafemicidcontinuetbmonitorepredominantlithe frameworodomestic violencor family violencin severacountries. Similarly, wherStatehave adopted national  plans to address femicide, many have done so through a  heavy focus on ending domestic violence and intimate-partner violence (for example Albania,18   Azerbaijan,19  lraq,20  Malaysia,21  Norway,2Serbia,2and Ukraine2are cases in point).  In  Malaysia for example, while femicide is not defined in any laws including the Penal  Code, thDomestic Violence Act of 1994 has been amended to introduce new elements, such  as immediate protection for victims of violence at harm to supplement the offences under the Penal Code; it also expands the definition of domestic violence to also include emotional, mental, and psychological abuse, the recognition of victims' rights and the right to exclusive occupation of the dwelling and access to a  rehabilitation programme.25  However, and as thmandate has emphasized onumerouoccasions, while thcategories of domestic violence, family violence, and intimate-partner violence are all relevant categories for understanding the phenomenon of femicide, none of them is sufficient as a standalone proxy for femicide.

Studies and improved data continue to show that women are the primary victims of intimate-partner killings and also the prevalence of a  prior history of violence leading up to the femicide. For example, data collected by the German  Institute for Human Rights Project in Germany fro2018 to 2020 show thamore than 79% or more of women that were killed in homicide cases had been killed by intimate partners.26  Similarly, data collected in Argentina show that, in 90% of the cases of femicide in Argentina, victims had a  previous link with their aggressor; 66% of these were committed by partners or formepartners.27 Finally, in Colombia, the data gathered shows that there is a strong  correlatiobetween domestic/gender-based violence and femicide. This shows that improvinresponseto caseof dornestic/gender-baseviolenccan reduce the incidencof femicide.28

In  the 2021 report to the General Assernbly, the mandathighlighted thdifficulty of gaining a clearer picture of the irnpact of COVID-19 on femicide, in part due to the pandemic-related lockdown measures. Anecdotal  inforrnatioreceived frorn  different partieby the mandatsince then confirrn that, while rneasuring the impact of COVID-19 continues tbe challenging, femicide and domestic violence cases appear to have increased during COVID-19  in some countries, such as Poland29 and CostRica.30 Interestingly, the number of femicides reported during COVID-19 restrictions in Argentina (frorn 20 March to 31 October 2020) were higher than in 2019. Yet, this increase in femicide was a result of an increasifemicides by perpetratorunrelated to thvictirns, while the nurnber of partner femicidedecreased.31 Similarly, iColornbia i2020, thrate ocaseassociated with femicide seernto havdecreased i2020, which coulbe attributed to the fact that courts were closed during the  mandatory isolation period in Colombia because of the COVID-19 pandemicThe number of femicide victims had also decreased by 23% between March and December 2020 compared to the same period the previous year, though the number of domestic violence reports had increased. This period corresponds to thdifferent periods of mandatory isolatiothroughout 2020.33

Several countrieadopted rneasures timnprove inforrnation to womeat risk of violence during COVID-19 as well  as improvreferral  rnechanisms. This was thcase in Argentina, where the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity improved measures to facilitate access for womeat risk or actual victims.34






While much progress has been made in establishing violence-against-women observatories or femicide watcbodiesdedicated to thissue of femicide or gender-related  killings of women, the femicide-related inforrnation that the rnandate received i2021 continues to be uneven. While sorne countries and regionhave put significant resources into setting up their Femicide watches,  in others theris very littlprogress, if any. The challenge is exacerbateby the fact that data are not yet comparable, as in many cases the modalities proposed by the mandate are not observed.

The Special  Rapporteur will  continuto call on Stateto establisfemicidwatcheor observatories on violence against women, where none exists, and collect and publish each year comparable daton femicide or gender-relatekillingof women as part of data on violencagainst women. She will also continue to encourage States to strengthen collaboration with civil societorganizations, National Human Rightlnstitutions, academia, and all other entitiein collecting data and producing information on femicide. Finally, States are reminded to strengthen the gathering of data on gender-based violence and femicide or gender-related  killings of women during the COVID-19 pandemic and to conduct a comparison between femicide data collected before and during thCOVID-19 pandemic.


Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 2021, p. 1,

3  Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia, 3 December 2021, p. 1,

4 Submission  by the Permanent Mission of the Swiss Confederation, 3 December 2021, p.1,

5 Submission  by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Turkey, 25 November 2021, p. 8

6 Submission  by the Permanent Mission of Ukraine, 2021, p. 5,

7 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Albania, 2021, p. 1,

8 Submission by the Permanent Mission of Colombia, 2021, p2

9 Submission by the State Human Rights Commission of Nuevo Leon (La Comision Estatal de Derechos Humanos de NuevLeon), 2021, p.2,

10 lbid,  p.6

11 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Albania, 2021, p4

12 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Cambodia, 3 December 2021, p4

13 Submission by the Permanent Mission of Malaysia, 6 December 2021p. 1,

14 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Slovak Republic, 2 December 2021, p3

15 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Swiss Confederation, 3 December 2021, p3

16 Submission of the Permanent Mission of Hungary, 2021, p3 pdf

17 Submission by the Permanent Mission of Argentina, 2021, p2

18 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Albania, 2021, p4

19 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Azerbaijan, 2021, p1

20 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of lraq, 23 December  2021, p2

21 Submission by the Permanent Mission of Malaysia, 6 December  2021, p2

22 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Kingdom of Norway, 2021, p1 pdf

23 Submission by the Protector of Citizens of the Republic of Serbia, 2021, p1

24 Submission by the Permanent Mission of Ukraine, 2021, p3

25 Submission of Permanent Mission of Malaysia, 6 December 2021, p2

26 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Federal Republic of Germany, 2021, p2

27 Submission by the Permanent Mission of Argentina, 2021, p. 5

28 Submission by the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Colombia, 2021, p4

29 Submission by the Womens  Rights Center Poland, 2021, p. 1

30 Submission by the Permanent Mission of Costa Rica, 2021, p8-9,

31 Submission by the Ombudsman of Argentina (La Defensoria del Pueblo de la Nacion Argentina), 2021,  p3

32 Submission by the Permanent Mission of Colombia, 2021, p11

33 ibid, p.11-12

34 Submission by the Latin American Justice and Gender Team / EI  Equipo Latinoamericano de Justicia y Genero (ELA), 2021, p.1,




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