What is femicide?

The term gained notoriety in Mexico when it was translated as “feminicidio” by activist Marcela Lagarde

What is femicide?
Mexican women perform the anthem “A Rapist in your path,” which denounces sexual abuse - Photo: Marco Ugarte/AP
English 27/02/2020 15:33 EL UNIVERSAL in English/Gretel Morales Mexico City Actualizada 11:20
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The term femicide refers to a specific hate crime that affects girls and women and has become widely used to describe a phenomenon that has prevailed in Mexico for decades.

Femicide is defined as “the gender-based murder of a woman or girl by a man” and was coined by Diana Russell in 1976, during the First International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in Brussels.

In Mexico, the term gained notoriety when it was translated as “feminicidio” by activist Marcela Lagarde. Her translation aimed to differentiate femicide, a hate crime, from the murder of a woman, which is not sparked by misogyny. Lagarde’s translation also emphasizes the gender issue so that people would notice the sexist ideology behind femicide. The translation coined by Lagarde was essential to understand a wave of violence against women in Ciudad Juárez, which started around 1993.

Recommended: Women are being brutally murdered in Mexico

In a broader context, femicide is just one type of violence against women. Moreover, femicide is accompanied by physical violence, sexual abuse, torture, mutilation, sexual slavery, sexual harassment, and other forms of extreme violence.

In Mexico, the majority of femicides were wrongly labeled as “crimes of passion,” which are defined as “a crime committed because of very strong emotional feelings, especially in connection with a sexual relationship.” But once the phenomenon of femicide was explained and the term was coined, activists, authorities, journalists, and society, in general, were able to understand the gender-based implication behind the brutal killing of women. However, sexism still reigns in countries such as Mexico; for example, after 26-year-old Ingrid Escamilla was murdered by her partner in early 2020, a newspaper titled the article “It was cupid’s fault” and printed a photograph of her skinned and dismembered body on its cover. One of the two newspapers that published the graphic pictures issued a statement where it acknowledged the fact that it had revictimized Ingrid with its words and photographs but did not apologize to the victim’s family.

What is the difference between femicide and homicide?

Femicide is primarily perpetrated by men, it is motivated by misogynistic ideas, and is the result of systematic abuse. In contracts, homicide can be the result of different factors but it does not involve the same gender-related factors behind femicide.

Furthermore, Jill Radford defined femicide as the “misogynous killing of women by men, motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure or a sense of ownership of women.”

Recommended: Mexico ignores femicides

Types of femicides

Academics have identified several types of femicides: racist femicide, homophobic femicide, marital femicide, and infant femicide.

For example, “honor” killings in the Middle East and the targeted abortion of girls in China are considered in femicide.

According to recent studies, “advances in gender equity tend to decrease the risk” of femicide but there is a “potential backlash occurring when women begin to attain equal status with men.”

Recommended: Mexican women call for a national strike after a series of brutal femicides

Femicide in Mexico

In Mexico, Ciudad Juárez became an emblematic femicide case in Mexico and the world. Authorities registered a series of femicides in 1993. The heinous crime was perpetrated against female factory workers, which followed a serial pattern involved extreme violence against women of certain socio-economic characteristics. The cases were never solved and no criminal was ever prosecuted.

The tragic Ciudad Juárez case was followed by hundreds of victims, mainly in the state of Mexico.

On March 9, women in Mexico will go on a national strike to protest against femicide and gender violence after a series of brutal femicides sparked outrage in the country early this year.


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