Crime against women

Crime against women

GS Paper - 1, 2

Why in the news?: The UNODC and UN Women jointly published a study titled "Gender-related Killings of Women and Girls (Femicide/Feminicide)," which unveiled a rise in gender-related killings of women and girls during the year 2022.

What is Femicide/Feminicide?

Femicide, or feminicide, is when women or girls are intentionally killed just because they are female. This kind of crime happens because of widespread beliefs and unfair treatment of women in society.

Unlike regular murder, femicide specifically targets people based on their gender. This often occurs when women are killed by their partners, family members, or others due to reasons like hatred towards women, gender-based violence, or cultural beliefs that devalue women.

What are the main causes of femicide?

Femicide, which involves the gender-based killing of women, is a multifaceted problem with various underlying causes.

Here are some key findings from the search results:

  • Femicide finds its roots in gender inequality, discrimination, and detrimental social norms that propagate violence against women and girls. The primary culprits behind femicide are often current or former intimate partners, encompassing spouses, boyfriends, and ex-partners.
  • Various risk factors for femicide include a background of domestic violence, sexual assault, stalking, and partner-inflicted choking.
  • The prevalence of femicide across countries is significantly influenced by very low levels of rule of law and a dearth of women representation in decision-making bodies.
  • Limited access to education, particularly for women, can contribute to femicide, as education plays a pivotal role in empowering individuals to challenge traditional norms and advocate for gender equality.
  • The existence of weak or ineffective legal systems, coupled with a lack of enforcement of laws safeguarding women and lenient sentences for offenders, can foster a culture of impunity, where individuals believe they can escape consequences for violence against women.
  • Economic disparities can heighten the vulnerability of women, as poverty and a lack of economic independence may constrain a woman's ability to leave an abusive relationship, rendering her more susceptible to violence.
  • Individual factors, such as mental health issues, substance abuse, and a history of violence, can also play a role in the perpetration of femicide.

What are some examples of gender-related motivations for femicide?

Femicide, the gender-based killing of women, can be driven by various gender-related motivations. 

Here are some examples of such motivations:

  • Stereotyped gender roles and harmful social norms that perpetuate violence against women and girls
  • Discrimination towards women and girls, including unequal access to resources, opportunities, and decision-making power
  • Unequal power relations between women and men, including the use of violence to control and dominate women
  • Intimate partner violence, including physical, sexual, and emotional abuse
  • Honour killings, which are motivated by the belief that a woman has brought shame or dishonour to her family or community
  • Sexual violence, including rape and sexual assault

These gender-related motivations are interconnected and overlapping, and they reflect the pervasive nature of gender inequality and discrimination that underpins femicide. Addressing these root causes is essential to preventing and addressing femicide and protecting women and girls from gender-based violence.

Are gender-related killings human rights violations? 

Yes, gender-related killings are human rights violations. They violate a number of fundamental human rights, including the right to life, the right to freedom from violence, and the right to equality.

  • The right to life is the most basic human right. It is enshrined in Article 3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is protected by international law. Gender-related killings are a direct and flagrant violation of this right.
  • The right to freedom from violence is also enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Article 5 states that "No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment." Gender-related killings are often accompanied by torture and other forms of violence, and they always cause immense suffering.
  • The right to equality is another fundamental human right. Article 7 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law." Gender-related killings are based on gender discrimination and violate this right.

In addition to these specific human rights violations, gender-related killings also have a broader impact on society. They create a climate of fear and intimidation, and they can perpetuate gender inequality.

Types of Gender-Related Killings

There are many different types of gender-related killings, including:

  • Femicide: 
  • It refers to the intentional killing of women and girls because they are women and girls.
  • Honour killings: 
    • The killing of women and girls by their families or male relatives because they have violated traditional social norms or codes of honour.
  • Intimate partner violence: 
  • The killing of women and girls by their current or former intimate partners.
  • Dowry-related killings: 
  • The killing of women and girls because their families are unable to pay a dowry to their husbands' families.
  • Witchcraft-related killings: 
  • The killing of women and girls who are accused of witchcraft.

Key findings of the report

Number of Cases: 

  • Globally, an estimated 81,100 women and girls were killed intentionally in 2021.
  • In 2021, around 45,000 women and girls worldwide were killed by their intimate partners or other family members. 

Gender Disparities:

  • While 81% of global homicides target men/boys, women/girls are disproportionately affected in the private sphere.
  • 56% of female homicides are committed by intimate partners or family members.

Continental Trends:

  • Africa reported the highest number of intimate partner/family-related homicides of women in 2022, surpassing Asia for the first time in 13 years.
  • The Americas, while reporting fewer cases, exhibited relatively higher rates of such femicides per 100,000 female population.

Increased Gender-Related Killings in Covid (2020)

  • In 2020, there was a concerning rise in gender-related killings of women and girls, particularly notable in Northern America.
  • Western and Southern Europe also experienced a notable but comparatively lesser extent of such incidents.

Unprecedented Rise in Family-Related Homicides

  • The increases in female family-related homicides at the beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic were larger than any yearly variations observed since 2015.
  • This underscores the severity and uniqueness of the challenges faced during this period.

India-Specific Insights:

  • Over the last ten years, India has seen a small decrease in killings based on gender, but problems like deaths related to dowry, honour killings, and accusations of witchcraft are still present.
  • The primary reason behind gender-related deaths in India has consistently been linked to issues related to dowries. Honour killings and murders related to witchcraft make up a smaller portion of these incidents.

Measures to check femicide in India

  • Commission of Sati (Prevention) Act, 1987
  • Dowry Prohibition Act, 1961
  • Immoral Traffic (Prevention) Act, 1956
  • Protection of Women from Domestic Violence
  • Act, 2005
  • Provisions under the Indian Penal Code [Section 376 (Rape), Section 304-B (Dowry death), etc.]

What do big organisations like the UN do to make sure women and girls are safe?

Effluent organisations like the UN ensure the safety of women and girls by developing frameworks and guidelines for policymakers, such as the Essential Services package, to design and implement services for survivors of gender-based violence in health, justice, policing, and social services sectors. 

They also support the establishment of specialised units within criminal justice systems to handle domestic violence cases and hate crimes more effectively. 

Additionally, the UN promotes the engagement of civil society and women's rights organisations in preventing gender-based violence, advocating for policy change, and holding governments accountable.

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