Femicide – the killing of women and girls – is the most extreme form of violence on a continuum of violence and discrimination against women and girls all over the world. Various typologies of femicide have been proposed by researchers in the past several decades with most distinguishing ‘intimate femicide’ from various other types of femicide (e.g. familial femicide and stranger femicide). These two broad categories of femicide are defined below.
Intimate femicide also referred to as intimate partner femicide captures the killing of women by current or former partners. Globally, women are much more likely than men to be assaulted, raped, or killed by a current or former partner and it most often occurs within relationships where there is a history of intimate partner violence or domestic abuse. Non-intimate femicide involves the killing of women by someone with whom they did not share an intimate partner relationship, encompassing a broad range of femicide subtypes such as familial femicide, ‘other known perpetrator’ femicide, and stranger femicide, leaving women vulnerable to other types of aggression.
Armed conflict femicide
Both state and non-state actors perpetrate physical, sexual, and psychological violence against women and girls as a ‘weapon of war’. Such actions are typically intended to punish or dehumanize women and girls and to persecute the community to which they belong to like minority groups. They are also used as a method of instilling fear, domination, and control, and to broaden male supremacy. Targeted killings are usually premeditated with lethal and deadly force intentionally used against selected victims.
This refers to the killing of a woman who was not the intended victim, sometimes referred to as a ‘collateral’ victim, in an attempted or completed femicide of another woman. This might be a female family member, friend, or stranger who was attempting to stop the killing, someone who was in proximity of a woman at high risk of violence, or an individual who was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. This type of femicide is extremely dangerous, especially to bystanders.
There is debate about the use of this term to refer to the killing of women or girls because their behavior was seen by the perpetrator to bring shame and embarrassment to the family. Arguments against its use include are that it categorizes the killings of women and girls by the perpetrator’s rationale; it does not acknowledge that these killings are simply another form of familial femicide and so does not require a unique term; and/or there is no ‘honor’ in killing women and girls. Often perceived as normal behaviors in westernized contexts, the behaviors in question may include the choice of a partner not seen as appropriate, the pursuit of education and/or employment, inappropriate attire, or premarital sex, or the belief that premarital sex had occurred, or the unorthodox practices of a young girl.
Femicide in the context of human trafficking
This refers to the killing of a woman in the process of recruitment, transportation, and receipt of humans through the use of threat, force, and other coercive tactics as well as abduction, deceit, and/or abuse of power with the goal of exploitation of the individual. Individuals, particularly women and children, are often trafficked into prostitution or the sex trade industry, forced labor, slavery/practices, prostitution, and other criminal activities.
Organized crime-related femicide
Beyond femicide perpetrated in the context of human trafficking, other forms of organized crime-related femicide involve the killing of women who are associated with gangs, drugs, smuggling, and/or gun markets, or black markets. This type of killing can involve abduction, torture and sexual assault, murder and mutilation, decapitation, public displays, and/or dumping or selling of naked bodies and/or body parts. These femicides are often meant to serve as a threat to individuals or other organized crime groups these women are a member of.
This term refers to sexual violations and sexual violence that result in the death of a woman or girl. Sexual femicides may be intentional including, for example, sexual violence perpetrated during armed conflicts or against particular women, but they may also be unintentional such as sexual violence and domestic abuse perpetrated against women by male partners that result in the woman’s death. The sexual violence involved in sexual femicide may range from leaving the victim unclothed, often displayed publicly, to rape and mutilation, and other morbid practices.