Michelle Bachelet, Under-Secretary-General and UN Women Executive Director, today called on States and stakeholders to take urgent action against femicide, after the release of the Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on gender-related killings at the Twentieth Session of the Human Rights Council.
“Member States should strengthen their legislation prohibiting all forms of violence against women and ensure that public institutions like police forces, prosecution offices and courts remain accountable for the delivery of safety and justice for women and girls”, said Ms. Bachelet. “They should ensure that instruments for accurate investigation and prosecution of these crimes are available and used to guarantee women’s access to justice,” she added.
The Report, presented by the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, provides an overview on the prevalence of this extreme manifestation of violence based on available data and outlines some of the major factors contributing to gender-motivated killings of women. It also recommends concrete measures to prevent and eradicate such killings.
Put simply, in all parts of the world women are murdered just for being women. This gross human rights violation exists in all countries and cultures to varying degrees whether it is the result of domestic violence or of other harmful practices, such as so-called “honor killings” and “crimes of passion”, murder resulting from prolonged domestic abuse, dowry- and witchcraft-related killings, or those related to organized crime and armed conflict.
Although the data available in many countries is still scant, the pictured emerging from various sources is alarming:
- In Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa and the United States between 40 and 70 per cent of female murder victims were killed by their intimate partner.
- In Guatemala, two women are murdered, on average, each day.
- In Australia, indigenous women are seven times more likely to be victims of homicide than their non-indigenous counterparts. In Canada, a young aboriginal woman is five times more likely than other Canadian women of the same age to die of violence.
- Femicide is considered the second-highest cause of death of women of reproductive age in Honduras.
- In Bangladesh, in the first half of 2009, 119 cases of dowry-related violence, including 78 deaths, were reported. In India, an average of 8,000 reported cases of dowry deaths per year for the period 2007 to 2009.
- The incidence of women’s killings seems not to be decreasing at the same rate as men’s. For example, in Mexico, the incidence of men´s killings has halved in the last 20 years while women murders stayed constant with an increase since 2007. Similarly, in Italy, the total number of homicides is decreasing; however, female homicides increased from 15.3 per cent during 1992-1994 to 23.8 per cent during 2007-2008.
- A recent UN Women study on femicide in Mexico also reveals that women are murdered using more cruel means than the killing of men: while two thirds of male murders are carried out with a firearm, women are strangled, suffocated, drowned, poisoned, burned, raped and mutilated.
Gender-related killings are not isolated incidents which arise suddenly and unexpectedly, but are the ultimate act in a continuum of violence. They are the tip of the iceberg, rooted in centuries of discrimination and inequality between men and women, resulting from impunity, inaction and tolerance for violence against women and girls.
There are many gaps and challenges in Member States’ and the international community’s responses to gender motivated killings. Women and girls subjected to gender-based violence must have access to services for their timely protection, safe haven and empowerment to escape life-threatening situations. And in doing this, special attention must be paid to groups of women especially at risk.
Ending violence against women is at the core of UN women’s mandate to empower women and advance human rights, freedom and equality. Together with specialized agencies of the UN System, UN Women works every day with countries on adopting legal reforms to eliminate all types of violence against women and girls and in extending services to victim/survivors. UN Women also calls for stepping up investments in prevention—the most cost-effective means to stop violence.
UN Women also encourages action by non-state actors to address the issue and change behaviors and attitudes. UN Women encourages individuals and civil society organizations to engage through the ‘Say NO’, social mobilization platform (www.saynotoviolence.org), UN Women’s contribution to the United Nations Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women campaign that showcases and records actions on ending violence against women and girls. Launched in November 2009, Say NO currently showcases more that 5 million actions in all parts of the world.