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graphic depicting a babushka and two smaller versions of it, the caption reads "137 femicides are recorded worldwide every day. Don't pass it by."
Femicide: The most extreme form of gender-based and sexist violence
Of the 87,000 murders of women worldwide in 2017, 58% were committed by (former or current) husbands or partners or a family member.

The end of 2018 and the beginning of 2019 were marked by two brutal femicides in Greece. These were the rape and femicide of Eleni Topaloudi in Rhodes, by two young men with whom she refused to have sexual intercourse, and the murder of Angeliki Petrou in Corfu, by her father, who did not approve of her relationship with a man from Afghanistan.

“These, like so many other murders of women in our country and around the world, constitute an extreme form of gender-based and sexist violence, as they are committed with the motive of exercising social control over women’s bodies and choices.

Choices that, because they are not liked, are punished even with the loss of women’s lives!” says Maria Liapi, the scientific director of the Diotima Centre.

In essence, femicide is a crime based on deeply embedded social beliefs and gender stereotypes, according to which women are inferior, subservient to male authority, and can potentially be “punished”, “controlled” and “corrected” through gender-based violence.

Murdered because they are women

The term femicide goes back a long way, when sociologist Diana E. H. Russell recorded it in 1976, thus defining this criminological and anthropological phenomenon.

The term ‘femicide’ became widely known and adopted by criminology after 1992, thanks to the book ‘Femicide: the politics of woman killing’, a collection of essays co-edited by the criminologist Jill Radford and the sociologist Diana E. H. Russell.

“Femicide constitutes a distinct crime that in the past and for many years was masked behind the term ‘ honor crimes’, and in recent history behind the term ‘crimes of passion.

The characterization of murder as femicide, therefore, constitutes an act of resistance to the concealment of social reality and exposes the complicity of our sexist societies”, M. Liapi stresses.

According to the World Health Organization, “femicide is the intentional homicide of women because they are women. Femicide is usually committed by men, but sometimes women, usually members of the same family, are also involved.

In most cases, femicide is committed by a partner or ex-partner who usually also has a history of long-term abusive behavior, threatening, abusing, and/or intimidating the woman, who is very often in a position of physical and/or financial vulnerability in relation to him”.

The sad statistics in the world and the EU

According to the World Health Organization, it is important to keep records and official records based on the new and evolving legal definition of femicide.

However, it is worth noting that, both globally and among EU Member States, reliable data on gender-based violence is scarce and not easily comparable. However, the available sources can give an approximate picture of the extent of the problem

Every day around the world, an average of 137 women are murdered by (former or current) husbands or partners or by a family member.

Of the 87,000 murders of women worldwide in 2017, 58% were committed by (former or current) husbands or partners or a family member, according to new figures from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).

Globally, the five countries with the highest recorded rates of femicide today are Argentina, El Salvador, India, Honduras, and Mexico, while high rates are also recorded in Guatemala, Colombia, Brazil, Russia, and South Africa.

The perpetrators of femicide have the keys to our house

According to the World Health Organization (WHO) report for 2013, the leading cause of death for women aged 16 to 44 years is, internationally, murder by an intimate partner. (see WHO 2013, here).

According to findings announced by the Council of Europe in 2005, domestic violence has become the leading cause of disability and death for European women between the ages of 15 and 44, leaving behind even car accidents or cancer.

Finally, the largest-ever EU survey on gender-based violence (FRA 2014) shows that fifty women in the EU are murdered every week by a current or former partner.

Furthermore, based on data from the European Institute for Gender Equality, EIGE:

  • In Britain, one woman is murdered every three days
  • In Sweden, every ten days, a woman is abused to death by her husband or partner
  • In Spain, a woman is murdered every four days, about 100 a year
  • In France, a woman is murdered every five days because of abuse in the home
  • Of these, 1/3 are stabbed, 1/3 are killed with a firearm, 20% are strangled and 10% are beaten to death

An unseen criminal act

Particular efforts to tackle the phenomenon have been made in Latin American countries where the phenomenon is truly widespread. Femicide as a criminal act has already been incorporated into the legislation of several countries, such as Chile, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Mexico.

Argentina recognized “femicide” as a legal term in 2016 after three unidentified men raped, murdered, and “impaled” an underage schoolgirl, and subsequently, tens of thousands of women protested in the streets of the country.

At the end of November, the Senate of the Dominican Republic defined ‘femicide’ as a crime with a 40-year prison sentence. Also worth mentioning is the European Union and United Nations Spotlight initiative to end femicide in Latin America.

In Europe, even in countries such as Spain that are more sensitive in dealing with gender-based violence, offenses are treated as “gender “neutral”, i.e. the gender of the victim is not taken into account.

For Greece, we do not have official statistics on femicide, since murders of women because of their gender are not recorded as such.

As the scientific head of the Centre, M. Liapi, pointed out, after the two recent femicides, “The Diotima Centre has already taken the initiative to ‘raise’ this issue at the level of our legal system, so that such incidents are officially recorded as femicides and are dealt with by the judicial authorities”.

The article is part of the Don’t Skip column, which includes articles, texts, interviews, etc., aimed at informing and raising awareness among the general public about the daily, global phenomenon of gender-based violence. The column is part of the “Don’t Skip – Don’t Skip Gender-Based Violence” campaign, which is implemented with the kind support of Papastratos.


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