[All sources used to compile this list are included at the end of the document.]
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. 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.
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.
Below, drawing from prior research, various subtypes of the above broad categories of femicide are described separately. These are not always discrete categories and may often overlap.
For example, the issue of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls in Canada has received national and international attention in the past several years. Some of these women are killed by male partners; others by acquaintances and strangers. If accepting that Indigenous women and girls are killed, in part, because they are women, the term ‘femicide’ might be used; however, what type of femicide is most appropriate given the types currently available below remains unclear because it is important to capture the way in which the combined identity of 'Indigenous' and 'woman' leads to higher risk of femicide. This example underscores the importance of intersecting identities in identifying risk as well as the fact that gender may not always be the dominant identity that leads to a woman being killed.
In reviewing the terms below, it was determined that none of the current types of femicide were appropriate for capturing the situation of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls. Therefore, in the ongoing efforts of the CFOJA to move knowledge forward, one of the first issues to be addressed is to identify an appropriate term and corresponding definition that will capture femicide of Indigenous women and girls. As new forms of femicide are identified, the CFOJA will continue to update the types of femicide and the various contexts within which they occur.
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. They are also used as a method of instilling fear, domination and control. Targeted killings are usually premeditated with lethal 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 refers to the killing of women or girls that are framed within a particular cultural context such as ‘honour’-based femicide or dowry-related femicide (see below).
- Dowry-related femicide
A dowry is a cultural tradition whereby the family of the bride provides money and/or property to the family of the groom. When a larger dowry is requested following the marriage of the bride and groom, or when the groom’s family is dissatisfied with the dowry given to them, the woman starts to be considered an ‘unsuitable wife’. Women are then killed or forced to commit suicide through torture and harassment by the groom’s family.
- ‘Honour’-based femicide
There is debate about the use of this term to refer to the killing of women or girls because their behaviour was seen by the perpetrator to bring shame 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 ‘honour’ in killing women and girls. Often perceived as normal behaviours in westernized contexts, the behaviours in question may include the choice of a partner not seen as appropriate, pursuit of education and/or employment, inappropriate attire, or premarital sex or the belief that premarital sex had occurred. Those who frame these killings within a cultural context argue that honour, from the perspective of the perpetrator, is believed to be restored to the family when the woman or girl is killed. These killings are usually perpetrated by male family members, although female perpetrators may also be involved. In some countries, these killings frequently take place in public to influence other women in the community.
Femicide by female perpetrators has been classified into a three-category typology by Diana Russell. The first category is a female acting as an agent of patriarchy, which may include dowry-related killings, female infanticide, and genital mutilation-related deaths. The second category captures females who may be acting as agents of male perpetrators such as accessories in gang-related femicide and what are referred to as ‘honour’ or dowry-related femicide. The final category captures females acting on their own behalf such as those who were driven by jealousy, or motivated by financial, crime-related or ideological activities.
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 use of threat, force and other coercive tactics as well as abduction, deceit, and/or abuse of power with the goal of exploitation. Individuals, particularly women and children, are often trafficked into prostitution or the sex trade industry, forced labour, slavery/practices, and other criminal activities.
Femicide in the context of what is referred to as sex work or prostitution
The killing of a woman who is involved in what is referred to as sex work or prostitution. Patriarchy, racism, colonization and stigmatization by society are some key aspects that can be used to understand women’s vulnerability to femicide in this context.
Genital mutilation-related femicide
This type of femicide involves the killing of a girl or woman as the result of the practice of genital mutilation. Female genital mutilation involves the partial or full removal and/or injury of female genitalia for non-medical purposes. It is typically performed on girls between infancy and 15 years of age. Infections which arise as the result of unhygienic operations frequently result in loss of life.
This type of femicide involves the killing of a woman by a perpetrator or group of perpetrators motivated by hate or rejection of the woman’s sexual orientation. Sexual violence may also be evident in these femicides because the perpetrator(s) believe the victim violated traditional sexual or gender norms.
Organized crime-related femicide
Beyond femicide perpetrated in the context of human trafficking, other forms of organized crime-related femicide involves the killing of women who are associated with gangs, drugs, smuggling, and/or gun markets. This type of killing can involve abduction, torture and sexual assault, murder and mutilation, decapitation, public displays and/or dumping of naked bodies and/or body parts. These femicides are often meant to serve as a threat to individuals or other organized crime groups.
This refers to killings that occur because of hate or rejection of a woman’s ethnic or racial origins, real or perceived, or her genetic features.
This refers the killing of transgender victims by a perpetrator or group of perpetrators who are motivated by hate or rejection of the transgender identity. Sexual violence may also be evident in these femicides because the perpetrator(s) believe the victim violated traditional sexual or gender norms.
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 perpetrated against women by male partners that results 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.
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