Speech by Michelle Bachelet on “Gender-Motivated Killings of Women, Including Femicide”


Speech by Michelle Bachelet, Executive Director of UN Women on “Gender-Motivated Killings of Women, Including Femicide” at a CSW57 side event on 8 March, 2013

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Good Afternoon,
Excellencies, colleagues and friends,

I thank you all for being here today for this important discussion. I thank Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo for the initiative of bringing the subject of gender-motivated killings to the Commission on the Status of Women, and Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kyung-wha Kang, for co-chairing this important event.

As we meet today, we are deep into the 57th session on the Commission on the Status of Women. Dialogue is underway that we hope will strengthen international norms and standards, and result in a plan of action to prevent and end all forms of violence against women and girls.

We are here to discuss the most extreme manifestation of violence against women: gender-motivated killing of women, also called “femicide”. We are here to discuss the killing of women, simply because they are women.

This is a harsh reminder that today, in the 21st century, there is still an urgent need to build equality between men and women, equality to live free of violence and discrimination.

Gender-motivated killings of women occur everywhere, in every country and culture of the world. It is an issue of universal human rights and inherent human dignity that concerns us all, involves us all, and requires concerted and urgent action from all of us.

The global extent of femicide is estimated at approximately 66,000 victims per year for the period between 2004 and 2009. This represents about almost one-fifth of all homicide victims for an average year.

We say “estimated” because in the data we have available for most countries many of these killings are not classified as femicide or gender-motivated killings. Thus, it is currently impossible to know its true magnitude, but we can be sure that the problem is much greater than we can determine from the current statistics and evidence.

Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo has reported that the lack of investigations, trials and sanctions for acts of violence against women have contributed to an environment of impunity and low confidence in the justice system. This impunity sends a message to society that violence against women by men is not only tolerated, but accepted.

And today, in many countries, we find that impunity is too often the norm, rather than the exception.

It is the obligation of States, as guarantors of the rights of all people, to punish the perpetrators of violence against women and girls and provide services, support and justice to survivors and their families. Today, 160 countries have laws to address violence against women.

Yet all too often the women and girls subjected to violence are violated twice –the first time when they are subjected to violence, and the second time when they seek, and do not find, the services and justice to which they are entitled.

All too often the rate of trials and sanctions for these crimes is very low, and when perpetrators are held to account, they are punished for lesser crimes, given shorter and lighter sentences.

The costs of inaction are evident: the needless, premature and devastating deaths of women and girls, and the suffering and loss experienced by families.

It is time to strengthen justice systems; provide training to the police and judges to eliminate stereotyping and prejudices towards women; improve support services to survivors and families; and dedicate planning and budgeting to preventing violence against women and girls.

Often I am asked what needs to be done, and what UN Women is doing to address this problem. We are working in partnership with other UN agencies, often through the Secretary-General’s Campaign UNiTE to end violence against women.

We are encouraged by the work that thousands of women organizations, governments and UN agencies are developing. And the results are promising.

In Latin America, we have developed initiatives to stop impunity, through legal reforms to typify femicide as a specific crime. In Guatemala, for instance, this led to the development of specialized prosecutor units and tribunals. In El Salvador and Nicaragua, there are now policies and procedures to address the crime of femicide, to name just a few examples.

In Mexico, UN Women is providing technical assistance to improve data collection and analysis of femicides. UN Women, the Mexican Parliament and the Colegio de Mexico, an academic institution, developed an innovative methodology for analyzing femicidal violence, its characteristics, trends and new manifestations for a 25-year period. This analysis has been instrumental in defining what femicide is and is currently being replicated in other countries.

One very important initiative that we are supporting is the development of the Protocol for the Investigation of Violent Gender-Based Killings of Women: Femicide for Latin America. This pioneering work is being done with the UN High Commissioner of Human Rights, the Federation of Associations of Human Rights, and the Government of Spain. This protocol will provide guidelines for the effective investigation of violent deaths of women, to ensure that the process takes into account the context, identifies the relation with the perpetrator, and conforms to States’ international obligations.

Let me end by sharing some thoughts of what needs to be done to stop impunity and prevent femicide.

First, all countries need comprehensive legal frameworks that create an environment for women and girls to live free of violence and typify femicide as a specific crime. And laws must be implemented, so that cases are diligently investigated, perpetrators brought to trial and the victims or their families offered just reparations.

Second, early intervention by law enforcement and other support agencies is essential for the prevention of femicides. Police forces must develop the capacity to support women´s assessment of the risk they face; provide appropriate and effective protection measures; enforce restraint orders; and refer women to comprehensive social services, including shelters and safe houses.

Third, survivors and families must have access to comprehensive services that ensure access to police and the justice system, shelters, legal aid, healthcare, psycho-social counselling, 24-hour hotlines and long-term support. In all our efforts, we need to engage survivors and place the full human rights of a woman at the centre of any response, so that recovery and justice are supported and the cycle of violence is not perpetuated. And here it is critical to provide services for sexual and reproductive health to protect the reproductive rights of women.

Fourth, it is critical to foster changes in attitudes, beliefs and behaviours that condone or perpetuate violence to prevent violence from happening in the first place. This can be done through awareness-raising, community mobilization, educational programmes, including sexuality education, and support for children and young people who are exposed to violence.

And one thing is certain: Preventing all forms of violence against women requires the engagement of all segments of society, and especially men and boys as partners in gender equality and respectful relationships.

And fifth and finally, Governments need to COMMIT to action. We are very encouraged that so far 50 Governments have answered this call by pledging action to end violence against women and girls through the UN Women COMMIT initiative. I call on all Governments to join.

Let us work together to ensure that we keep our promise and women are not at risk of being killed, just because they are women. Let us work for a better and more peaceful world for all.

I thank you.