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Femicide: a war without end.

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Image by Eliara Santos made with Canva.com

A topic that has been in the media for a while that deserves most of the attention and awareness of people is the increase of femicide cases. Every other day newspapers, TV news, digital media from all around the globe add articles, interviews, analysis and reportages either making public cases of violence against women and femicides or trying to understand the phenomena and why it occurs. Factors as age, culture, race, religion or  social class seem not to be conclusive aspects to identify the common element that interlinks all cases of femicide/violence against women, therefore some issues should be discussed and considered when analysing the problem. Prior to the examination of possible causes for the raise in (or the simply existence of) femicide cases, a clear comprehension of the term femicide and its association with violence against women cases is needed in virtue of the adamantine link both phenomena have. This shatterproof association will be illustrated on a brief analysis of reports made by the WHO and the UN in order to determine the real dimension of the matter.

The World Health Organization on its report “Understanding and addressing violence against women”, of 2012, establishes that violence against women comprises “a wide range of acts – from verbal harassment and other forms of emotional abuse, to daily physical or sexual abuse” while it describes femicide as “murder of women because they are women“, considering the latter being as the final spectrum of the of the first, thus, associating the coexistence of a strong bond of both facets of the same problem The UN “The Global Study on Homicide: Gender-related killing of women and girls” of 2019 report, addresses  that in a total of 87 thousand women intentionally killed in 2017, 58 percent were killed by intimate partners or family members, of which more than a third, were killed by their current or former partner. Such numbers reveal a bitter and scaring reality where 137 women killed on a daily basis, all over the world, were victims of femicides. This number, based on the continuous increasing of cases published in the media, unfortunately does not seem to have decreased. On this same report, other details are given, as for example, the division by continents, of the total number of femicides. Such division of data reveals that Asia, Africa and the Americas with, respectively, 20 thousand, 19 thousand and 8 thousand cases of women killed in one year, are the regions where women’s lives are more endangered in comparison to Europe and Oceania where the cases are correspondingly to 3000 and 300 femicide cases.

The WHO aforementioned report of 2012 classifies types and prevalence of femicides in: Intimate femicide, Murders in the name of “honour”, Dowry-related femicides and Non-Intimate femicides. Among these 4 categories, the predominance of the Intimate femicides as the most common type of femicide is clear, with more than 35 percent of the total reported femicides cases committed by an intimate partner. The second most common of femicide are Dowry-Related femicides are instead linked to cultural practices related to dowry, it occurs often  in areas of the Indian subcontinent. This type of femicide are usually a result of conflicts related to insufficient dowry brought to family by women. Murders in the name of “honour” with an estimated 5 thousand cases by year, comes in third place. This type of femicide usually involves girls or women being assassinated by a family member (male or female) for an actual or assumed transgression (adultery, rape, sexual intercourse or pregnancy outside the marriage). In the fourth and last, but not least important place, are the Non-intimate femicides, also referred as sexual femicide as sexual aggression is involved.

Another component of the problem that should be examined are the attributes that could promote or drop the incidence of femicide/violence against women cases. These conditions are valid for perpetrators and victims at different levels (individual, family/relation level and social/structural level). Regarding perpetrators, on an individual level, situations that could increase the risk of a femicide are: unemployment, gun ownership, alcohol and illicit drug abuse and mental health problems. On a family/relation level, prior intimate partner abuse is determinant for the rise in femicide cases, while on social/ structural level, a more restrictive legislation in relation to the access to firearms and a more severe legislation to punish the perpetrators of such crimes would decrease the risk of femicides. With respect to the victims, on individual and family/relation levels level, the circumstances that would increment the risk of being killed are: pregnancy, presence of a child from a previous relationship, estrangement from partner, partner’s historic of violence against women and abandonment of abusive relationship. On social/structure level, it is evident that in an unequal societal structure women’s lives are much more jeopardised than it would be in an equal societal structure.

Women’s and girl’s lives urge to be properly protected and another evidence of this necessity can be found during the Covid-19 pandemics where violence against women and femicides had a substantial increasing world wide. A crisis within a crisis, because lockdown imposed to avoid people from getting/spreading Covid-19 had a collateral effect on violence against women and femicides worsening the already grievous existing   emergency that can be demonstrate with the data presented in the UN“COVID-19 and Ending Violence Against Women and Girls” report that shows the rise of domestic violence globally, in particular in France, Argentina, Cyprus, Singapore, Canada, Germany, Spain, United Kingdom and the United States. Having identified the actual gigantic dimension of the femicide/violence against women dilemma, the most common types of abuse and what could boost or curb the incidence of the conjunctures, a debate on what is behind this prejudice against women and what could effectively be done to protect them should be undertaken. 

As for the causes of the great inequality between genders, the dominance of the patriarchy doctrine infused in religious and tradition-linked dogmas is probably the main reason no or very few measures have been effectively adopted. An immediate and decisive change of posture by countries’ governments is needed not only for internal actions in order to deter and punish such vile acts, as well as externally through collaboration with other governments to develop an international plan aiming the eradication of violence against women. Equivalent measures could certainly constrain cases of violence against women and femicides around the globe, but what could decisively put an end to this war against women, is a profound change of mentality regarding the inequality of genders patronised by the patriarchal doctrine, whose dogmas are deeply (and unjustifiably) rooted in society as religious and tradition-linked values. Groundless dogmas, usually based on dubious religious interpretations and interests, superstitions or pure patriarchal traditions that are unethically used to make women an easy prey for men’s abuse and domination through obedience and unconditional acceptance of violence, humiliation and vexatious acts.

Published inAnthropologyFemicideGender dominancePoliticsSocietyViolence against womenWomanhoodWomen

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