What is Femicide Origin Characteristics Types and Causes


When we talk about femicide, we are referring to the murder of a woman for the simple fact of being a woman . It is a hate crime, which occurs within the framework of gender violence , that is, subjection to humiliating, cruel or painful treatment towards an individual motivated by her gender or her sexual orientation.

In fact, femicide is often accompanied by hostile attitudes , beatings, torture, rape, and other criminal behaviors against women and girls. It is usually  considered part of the group of hate crimes motivated by gender violence , legislated according to the same legal order as the murders of homosexuals or transgender people .

On the other hand, it is part of a social and political reading that highlights the patriarchal order of societies , which subjects women to a secondary place compared to men. The different schools of feminism , in this sense, play an important role in making visible the cultural context that allows, promotes and tolerates femicide.

Femicide is the most extreme expression of machismo or the so-called rape cultureIn the specific case of femicide, the tolerance of violence against women is evident , which also includes rape, discrimination and physical gender violence, especially if they occur within the framework of an affective relationship.

Origin of the term femicide

The term femicide was coined by the South African feminist activist and writer Diana Russell , who has dedicated her life to making visible and combating gender inequalities . This term was defined as “the murder of women by men motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure or a sense of possession towards women”.

Russell herself explains that it “represents the end of a continuum of anti-female terror that includes a variety of verbal and physical abuse, such as rape, torture, sexual slavery (particularly for prostitution), incestuous or extrafamilial child sexual abuse, physical and emotional beatings.” ”.

The term has antecedents in the English language since the beginning of the 19th century, but it began to be used in a popular way since 1976 when Russell used it before the International Tribunal for Crimes against Women.

Since then it has been widely used in the 1990s and Spanish was also introduced, following the visibility of the mass murders of women in Ciudad Juárez, on the border between Mexico and the United States.

Characteristics of femicide

Femicide does not have the same characteristics in all countries, and each society manifests a series of particularities that are characterized in relation to the others. According to the figures, more than half of the murders committed each year for reasons of gender worldwide take place within the husband x wife relationship or in front of the figure of the ex.

On the other hand, many of these femicides are not only present with machismo as the main cause, in certain occasions, the main reason is misogyny . Above all, in all cases where the aggressor is a stranger and acts without apparent provocation, as well as not committing sexual aggression, it can be said that misogyny is the most frequent factor.

It is such a strong feeling of hatred towards women that it can lead to a murder whose objective is to eliminate any individual of that gender.

But these are not the only femicides committed, as official statistics do not include crimes committed by parents, children or clients of prostitution, as well as pimps. That is why it is important to take a closer look at these femicides, as many crimes of this kind tend to go unnoticed.

In this case, not using the femicide category leads to ignorance of the main characteristics of this type of crime, since all types of violence against women end in murder , as shown by official sources.

Types of femicide

A distinction is usually made between two forms of femicide:

  • Intimate femicide. That which occurs within the framework of a relationship, current or past: women murdered by their husbands, boyfriends, ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends. It is also the case if the crime is committed by parents, uncles, siblings or other types of relatives .
  • Non-intimate femicide. That which occurs without a sentimental relationship of any kind between the victim and the murderer, nor is there a relationship of kinship between them.

However, it is also possible to speak of other categories such as lesbicide , when it comes to crimes against homosexual women, committed as punishment for their sexual choice; or also transfemicide , when it comes to the murder of a trans (or transsexual ) woman for the simple reason of being so.


It is not easy to give the causes of the existence of femicide in today’s society . Broadly speaking, the most logical explanation points to a patriarchal culture that has dominated most human societies since ancient times, and according to which it was usual to consider women as second-class citizens , spoils of war and part of the patrimony of men. men.

In the Athenian democracy , for example, neither women nor slaves could participate in public decisions. In modern Western democracy, the female vote did not occur until the end of the 19th century, and thanks to the struggle of the suffragettes.

In some oriental societies, women must hide from the public gaze by means of veils or special costumes. In addition, in some cases she is subject to the final will of her father, and then to that of her husband.

The critical current of feminism has alerted and combated the macho culture for more than a century, achieving important advances in the legal recognition of women, but still being very far from a panorama of equality .

In this sense, femicides are part of the attempts of the patriarchal culture to recover its dominance , that is, they are criminal attempts to subject women to a situation of obedience, submission or defenselessness against men.

There are also those who accuse the abundance of testosterone in men as co-responsible for their violent attitudes, especially in those deprived of a formal education that counterbalances their impulses. There is still a lot of debate about it.

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