UN Women calls for urgent and effective action against femicide

Date : 15 May 2013

Statement by Lakshmi Puri, Acting Head of UN Women and Assistant Secretary-General

Recent historic global agreements coupled with ground-breaking work on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women are setting the stage to address gender-related killings, also known as femicides or feminicides. These crimes are different than homicide in their causes and consequences, and are often under-reported or neglected by law enforcement. But now that the ink has dried, the global community cannot wait to take action. The time to act is now.

On 15 March, during the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), Member States successfully adopted agreed conclusions on the priority theme of eliminating and preventing violence against women and girls. It is the first international agreement to specifically mention and recognize the phenomenon of gender-related killings, or femicide as it is known is some countries. The outcome document urges Governments to implement or strengthen national legislation in order to punish such killings of women and girls. It also calls for integration of specific mechanisms and policies to prevent, investigate and eradicate femicide, and end impunity by ensuring accountability and the punishment of perpetrators of such crimes and reparation for the victims.

UN Women has spoken strongly about the need for urgent action against femicide. During a special CSW side event on 8 March which was co-organized with the Special Rapporteur on Violence against women and the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Women called on States to categorize femicide as a specific crime; to implement laws so that cases are diligently investigated, perpetrators are brought to trial and the victims or their families offered adequate reparations; to ensure survivors have access to comprehensive services and long-term support; to foster changes in attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that condone or perpetuate violence; and to prevent violence from happening in the first place.

Adding to this momentum, on 26 April, the United Nations Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice presented a resolution entitled “Taking action against gender-related killing of women and girls,” for adoption by the General Assembly. It expressed deep concern over the alarming proportions this phenomenon has reached. The resolution stresses the obligation of all States to promote and protect all human rights and to prevent discrimination as “an integral part of efforts towards the elimination of all forms of violence against women,” and specifically welcomes the agreed conclusions of the CSW.

At a regional level, in Latin America and the Caribbean UN Women is working with OHCHR towards the adoption of a regional “Model protocol for the investigation of gender-related killings of women in Latin America: Femicide/feminicide” as a tool to stop impunity. Once adopted, this protocol will provide guidelines and instruments for the accurate investigation of these crimes, including in the collection of evidence and in criminal prosecutions, to guarantee women’s access to justice.

In June, the Secretary-General’s UNiTE to End Violence against Women Campaign will launch a new publication analysing the laws and jurisprudence of the first seven countries in Latin America and the Caribbean to include femicide as a specific crime in their laws.

In several countries, UN Women is actively supporting projects, initiatives and strategies to address femicide. In Guatemala, for instance, specialized prosecutor units and tribunals have been developed to provide justice for these crimes. In El Salvador and Nicaragua, policies and procedures have been established to support their new comprehensive laws that typify femicide. In Honduras, the term has also been included in the penal code as a specific crime and, through the joint programme “Safe and Friendly Cities for All,” UN Women leads data-collecting and research about femicide and other forms of violence against women, in order to support decision-making.

In El Salvador, as part of a UN Women/Zonta International Safe Cities project, a special unit was set up within the National Civil Police to assist women survivors of violence. UN Women also recognizes the Salvadoran Government’s successful “Ciudad Mujer” initiative, which provides comprehensive support to women survivors and constitutes a best practice. And UN Women Mexico has contributed to the production of empirical evidence and analysis to support reforms that establish feminicide as a crime with special sanctions (Feminicide Violence: Characteristics, Trends and New Expressions at the state level. 1985-2010).

The political will is there and many Governments have cemented their willingness to take concrete action through UN Women’s COMMIT initiative. In addition, other State and non-State actors and civil society organizations are undertaking activities and awareness-raising campaigns to guarantee that the public is aware of new laws and measures and that they are acted upon.

Much has been done, but more is needed. We call on States to accelerate action and swiftly implement the agreements reached on ending all forms of violence against women and girls and on femicide in particular. We owe it to the tens of thousands of women killed every year simply because they are women. We cannot allow more women to die. Inaction is complicity. The time to act is now.