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Women in every society are killed simply because they are women. In April, PATH and our partners convened researchers, activists, and forensic professionals for a first-of-its-kind conference on “femicide” to highlight the killing of women around the globe and strengthen research and evidence in this area to galvanize action.

The two-day conference, entitled “Strengthening Understanding on Femicide,” was co-sponsored by PATH, InterCambios, the South African Medical Research Council, the Interagency Gender Working Group, the Population Reference Bureau, and the World Health Organization (WHO). It brought together participants from Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, England, Guatemala, India, Jamaica, Jordan, Mexico, Nicaragua, South Africa, and the United States who found that, despite their geographic and cultural diversity, they face many of the same underlying hurdles in conducting research and advocating for urgent action.

Women worldwide are at risk

Diana Russell, one of the first activists to publicize the term “femicide,” began the discussion by highlighting her definition of the word: the killing of women simply because they are women.

Femicide occurs in all societies throughout the world. A common finding in all regions is that women are most at risk of being murdered by an intimate partner. Femicide takes unique and diverse forms such as dowry-related deaths, so-called honor crimes, gang-related murders, murder associated with sexual violence, and other manifestations. Furthermore, femicide is perpetrated by a wide range of individuals and groups, including both those known to the victim (intimate partners, former intimate partners, family members, friends) and those unknown to the victim.

Regardless of its manifestation, all femicide is rooted in gender inequality and, often, a lack of public awareness, political response, and due justice.

Igniting a response

Participants presented their own experiences in documenting femicide, shared methodologies and data sources, identified problems and obstacles, and voiced their hopes for the future. They discussed how to improve data regarding the killing of women, connect researchers and advocates, and ultimately ignite effective and appropriate government responses—such as preventive measures, investigations, and punishment—in order to eradicate femicide in their own countries and around the world.

PATH is developing two documents to spark action around femicide and strengthen documentation of its nature and extent—a meeting report to chronicle the groundbreaking conference and a femicide-specific addendum to the Researching Violence Against Women manual, co-authored by PATH and WHO.

To paraphrase the words of Jordanian reporter Rana Husseini, these women have been denied the right to live; let’s give their memory a chance.

More information

Posted May 19, 2008.