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Femicide was first used in England in 1801 to signify "the killing of a woman."[1] In 1848, this term was published in Wharton's Law Lexicon, suggesting that it had become a prosecutable offense.[2] Another term used is feminicide.

First feminist definitionEdit

Femicide was redefined as a feminist term by Diana Russell in 1976 to refer to misogynist murders.[3] Just as murders targeting African Americans differentiate between those that are racist and those that are not, so are murders targeting women differentiated into those that are femicides and those that are not. When the gender of the victim is immaterial to the perpetrator, the murder qualifies as a non-femicidal crime.

After making minor changes in her definition over the years,[4] Russell redefined femicide as "the killing of females by males because they are female" [4] Misogynist murders are the most obvious examples of femicide..These include mutilation murder, rape murder, woman battery that escalates into wife killing, the immolation of widows in India, and "honor crimes" in Middle Eastern countries, where women who are believed to have shamed their families by associating with an unrelated male, or even by being raped by a brother, are often murdered by their male relatives.

Feminists in Latin America have been among the first to adopt the term femicide to refer to the massive number of these misogynist crimes in Juarez, Mexico. The use of this term inspired feminists in Latin America to organize anti-femicide groups to try to challenge this social injustice towards women.[5] Many of these young femicide victims were also raped, tortured, and mutilated. Many activists have created connections between the femicides and NAFTA, observing that many of the women killed in Juarez are young mothers who migrate to this region seeking employment. They then become easy targets because they are separated from their family and are typically alone when traveling home. Use of the term femicide, and the creation of anti-femicide feminist organizations, spread from Mexico to many other Latin American countries.

Rita Banerji, feminist author and founder of The 50 Million Missing Campaign to end female gendercide in India, has said that that while there are millions of women eliminated from India's population through sex selection abortions, there are also millions of girls and women killed after birth through various forms of femicides, that extend across various age groups. In a U.N. Symposium on Femicide in Vienna on November 26, 2012, she talked about the six most wide-spread forms of femicide in India.[6] These included female infanticide, the killing of girls under six years through starvation and violence, the killing of women due to forced abortions, honor killings, dowry murders, and witch lynchings.

Russell's concept of femicide extends beyond misogynistic killings to apply to all forms of sexist killing. Misogynistic murders are limited to those motivated by the hatred of females whereas sexist murders include killings by males motivated by contempt for females, a sense of entitlement and/or superiority over females, pleasure or sadistic desires toward them, and/or an assumption of ownership of women.

In addition, Russell's definition of femicide includes covert forms of the killing of females, such as when females are permitted to die because of misogynistic attitudes and/or social institutions. For example, when male children are valued more highly than females, many girls starve as a result of this sexist attitude. Hence, these deaths qualify as femicides.[4]


Jacquelyn Campbell and Carol Runyan, among others, have redefined femicide as "all killings of women, regardless of motive or perpetrator status".[7] Their rationale for this redefinition—a return to the original definition used in Britain in 1801—is to avoid having to make inferences about the motives of the killers. Although inferring motives can be difficult or even impossible, all hate crime statutes presuppose that the finder of fact can do just that. Russell criticizes this definition for depoliticizing the concept femicide, and believes that confusion could have been avoided by using a term such as woman-killing instead of femicide. The term is also subject to criticism for its implication that killing a woman is somehow worse than killing a man.

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. Corry, John. (1801) A Satirical Review of London at the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century. Edinburgh: T. Hurst, Paternoster-Row; Ogilvy and Son, Holborn; R. Ogle, Turnstile; and Ogle and Aikman
  2. The Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd Ed.(1989)p.285
  3. Russell, Diana E.H. and Van de Ven, Nicole, (Eds.), Crimes Against Women: The Proceedings of the International Tribunal. Les Femmes, Palo Alto, California, USA 1976
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Russell, Diana E.H. and Harmes, Roberta A, (Eds.), Femicide in Global Perspective New York: Teachers College Press, 2001, Ch. 2, p. 13-14
  5. Russell, Diana E.H. "THE ORIGIN AND IMPORTANCE OF THE TERM FEMICIDE" Dec 2011. Accessed Nov 2012.
  6. Video: Six Wide-spread forms of Femicide. Gender Equal: A blog on India's Gendercide, Nov 26, 2012
  7. Campbell, Jacquelyn C. and Runyan, Carol. (1998). Femicide: Guest Editors Introduction. Homicide Studies, w (4), 347-352

See also Edit

External linksEdit

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