Declaration of the enactment of the law against femicide in Chile, 2010

Femicide or feminicide is a sex-based hate crime term, broadly defined as "the intentional killing of females (women or girls) because they are females", though definitions vary depending on its cultural context.[1] Feminist author Diana E. H. Russell was the first person to define and disseminate this term in modern times, in 1976. She defines the word as "the killing of females by males because they are female." Other feminists place emphasis on the intention or purpose of the act being directed at females specifically because they are female; others include the killing of females by females.[2]

Often, the necessity of defining the murder of females separately from overall homicide is questioned. Intimate partner violence affects 3 in 10 women over a lifetime, and it is estimated that 13.5% of homicides globally involved intimate partners, and these percentage of killings are gendered.[3][4] Opponents argue that since over 80% of all murder victims are men, the term places too much emphasis on the less prevalent murder of females; however, a partner is responsible in almost 40% of homicides involving a female victim, compared with 6% partner responsibility for homicides involving a male victim.[3] In addition, the study of femicide is a social challenge.[5]

An alternative term offered is gendercide, which is more ambivalent and inclusive. However, some feminists argue that the term gendercide perpetuates the taboo of the subject of the murder of females. Feminists also argue that the motives for femicide are vastly different than those for androcide. Instead of centering in street violence, much of femicide is centered within the home, i.e. domestic violence.


Development of the term

The word femicide was first recorded in 1820 to 1830.[6] The term femicide was first used in England in 1801 to signify "the killing of a woman."[7][failed verification] In 1848, this term was published in Wharton's Law Lexicon.[8] Another term used is feminicide, which is properly formed from the Latin femina, meaning "woman" ("femicide" being truncated).

The current usage emerged with the 1970s feminist movements, which aimed to raise feminine consciousness and resistance against gender oppression.[9] The term was also coined by radical feminists to bring to a political light the violence against women.[10] American author, Carol Orlock, is widely credited with initiating the usage of the term in this context in her unpublished anthology on femicide.[9] Diana Russell publicised the term at the Crimes Against Women Tribunal in 1976 while “testifying at the first International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in Belgium".[11][10] Here is part of what she wrote for the proceedings: "We must realize that a lot of homicide is in fact femicide. We must recognize the sexual politics of murder. From the burning of witches in the past, to the more recent widespread custom of female infanticide in many societies, to the killing of women for "honor," we realize that femicide has been going on a long time. But since it involves mere females, there was no name for it until Carol Orlock invented the word 'femicide.'"[11] Until recently femicide was invisible in much of the scientific literature.[12] Intimate femicide can be identified as such by using the “severity of violence, such as access to and threats with firearms, forced sex, threats to kill, and strangulation” to determine whether a case can be considered an act of femicide or not.[3] The definition of femicide also relies on "inequalities in gender “in terms of education, economic level, and employment"".[13]

Contemporary definition by feminists

Feminist author Diana Russell narrows the definition of femicide to "the killing of females by males because they are female". Russell places emphasis on the idea that males commit femicide with sexist motives.[14] She also chooses to replace the word woman with female to show that femicide can occur to both girls and infants as well.[14] Russell believes her definition of femicide applies to all forms of sexist killing, whether they be motivated by misogyny (the hatred of females), by a sense of superiority over females, by sexual pleasure, or by assumption of ownership over women.[14] Russell's broader definition of femicide is stated as this,

"Femicide is on the extreme end of a continuum of antifemale terror that includes a wide variety of verbal and physical abuse, such as rape, torture, sexual slavery (particularly in prostitution), incestuous and extrafamilial child sexual abuse, physical and emotional battery, sexual harassment (on the phone, in the streets, at the office, and in the classroom), genital mutilation (clitoridectomies, excision, infibulations), unnecessary gynecological operations (gratuitous hysterectomies), forced heterosexuality, forced sterilization, forced motherhood (by criminalizing contraception and abortion), psychosurgery, denial of food to women in some cultures, cosmetic surgery, and other mutilations in the name of beautification. Whenever these forms of terrorism result in death, they become femicides."[15]

She includes covert killings of women as well, such as the mass murder of female babies due to male preference in cultures such as India and China, as well as deaths related to the failure of social institutions, such as the criminalization of abortion or the prevalence of female genital mutilation.[14]