FEMICIDE LISTS are lists of women and girls murdered by men. Lists include dates and information about their deaths, how they were killed, and who was the perpetrator. More and more, in different locations, we see women and sometimes men gathering such important and painful information.

THIS FORUM is a place where news of femicide lists will be gathered. Femicide lists are already mentioned throughout ROSE. However, today, bringing them together seems like the right thing to do next. Feminists create such lists for many reasons including to remember the women and girls lost to us, to increase our understanding of this extreme act of women-hating, and to make visible the murder of girls and women. The horrific death toll must be acknowledged.

PLEASE EMAIL ROSE and let us know IF you are keeping a list or know of one not mentioned here. We would be grateful to hear from you.

In solidarity and love

Views: 332

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

2016, l’état d’urgence : FEMINICIDES conjugaux en France

Femmes qui avez succombé à la violence conjugale, en France cette année, Nous ne voues oublions pas...


The Shoe Memorial

[The Shoe Memorial keeps a list of women and girls who have been murdered. Please see their Home page for a view of the list. The text below is all from the home page. If you wish to help, you can contact them through their website.]

Tired of organizing and attending anti-violence events where the participants are already involved in anti-violence work a small grass-roots group of women survivors decided to “take it to them” in 2000. The objective: Remember by name all the women who had died by violence (not their murderers as is so often named by the media and remembered by the public); Provide information to anyone who was interested, Do it on one day, and as Cheaply as possible. In order to remain true to our focus of remembering women who had not survived, the Memorial is non-confrontational and non-blaming. The message is: women are dying and it needs to stop.

The 1st event proved such a success that it has grown to numerous cities and towns across Canada.

It works on many levels-

  • Remembering women victims by printing their names we remember the struggle they ultimately lost. They will not be forgotten
  • Collecting women’s shoes allows the event to be mentioned and promoted year-round.
  • Being non-confrontational has allowed posters requesting shoes to be placed in medical offices, real estate offices etc. Anywhere, there is one person working, who believes in the cause. It allows women who want to do something but cannot for numerous reasons help by donating a pair of shoes.
  •  Plus we have shoes to forward on to those women not as fortunate as us.
  • The Memorial has attracted media attention over the years, as it is a very visual display.
  • The Memorial has acted very effectively to have pedestrians pause, asking what are the shoes for? It allows us to provide written material and in some cases engage them in a discussion about violence against women.
  • It provides us with an opportunity to provide information and talk with passerbyers who stop and want to know what it is all about. Over the years we have noticed a change in the knowledge and attitudes of those walking by. In the 1st years people were astounded not just by the numbers, but how so many continue to be killed and the lack of knowledge of the issue and what Dec. 6 means.   Now, over the last few years, we have found that more men are stopping and asking what they can do. The information we provide is geared to what individuals, men and women can do to end the violence.  We liken our campaign to Mothers Against Drunk Driving in that we want to make violence against women socially unacceptable.

To remember those who have died by violence it was decided to print their names and the dates of their death on a memorial wall, which people could go to and read. Over the years we have found a number of individuals looking for family and friends names on our “Boards”; all of who have commented that this is a wonderful way to remember them. One woman, who’s mother was remembered was so moved that she started her own Dec. 6 Shoe Memorial in Kamloops, B.C.

Any date would do as long as it holds some significance to the purpose.  We chose Dec. 6, which is Canada’s National Day of Remembrance and Action for women who have died by violence and which usually generates media attention. Months earlier the word goes out asking for women’s shoes, new and used. We want the donor to think about the violence that goes on each time she looks into her closet or sees one of our posters. Donating shoes has proved an excellent way to do “something” against the violence.

The Vancouver Public Art Gallery Stairs were chosen as the place to bring the memorial to the public in good weather or bad (it only snowed once). The Art Gallery considers the memorial to be an excellent example of “a People’s Art Installation” and has supported the event.  The location provides excellent foot traffic as commuters arrive and leave from work and the stairs an excellent stage for the shoes.

A brief “memorial service” service with speakers was arranged to give focus to the event. A candlelight vigil was held in the evening of the first year but due to rain and wind this was eliminated after that. Our audience wanted to leave immediately after work.

The media suggested that our Service be moved to the lunch hour. This proved to be an excellent suggestion. The event was meant for what we call the “unconverted” and those who wanted to remember, and not for those already stridently working in the field.

During our 1st Shoe Memorial, a dad was overheard explaining to his very young daughter what the memorial was about and how the violence had to end to make a better world for her, as he held her hand. It was a success beyond our greatest hopes. Each year we provide written information to over 1000 pedestrians who take it away to read. Last year we handed information or talked to over 800 men about what they could do to help end the violence. The Dec. 6 Shoe Memorial has spread to at least 2 other communities as an annual event and as one community organizer states; it works “why are not others doing the same?

It is simple, cheap, and easy to organize and it works so why aren’t you doing one. 


"When we focus solely on the male assailant, the real victims are reduced to mere mentions – and doubly victimized for all time"

Women killed by their spouses are not casualties in someone else’s story

by Elizabeth Renzetti, The Globe and Mail, Jan. 06, 2017

Will we ever know any more about what Shanna Desmond was like as a person, or does her story stop with her violent death? So far, the details are few, but they point to someone who was lovely and dedicated to her job. She was “empathetic,” according to a colleague who worked with her at St. Martha’s Regional Hospital in Nova Scotia, where Ms. Desmond was a registered nurse. She would drive through bad weather to get to work. Her Facebook profile picture is a funny, playful shot of her at work sticking her tongue out alongside a patient.

Her sister, Shonda Borden, in a wrenching interview with CBC radio, described her as “a great mother” and “the rock of the family.” Ms. Desmond’s 10-year-old-daughter, Aaliyah, was “awesome.” Now both mother and daughter are dead, along with Ms. Desmond’s mother-in-law, Brenda Desmond. Even less has been written about Brenda.

Instead, the entire story of this horrible tragedy has focused on Lionel Desmond and his struggles with PTSD. Mr. Desmond, a veteran who had served in Afghanistan and was treated on-and-off for PTSD, is believed to have killed his wife, daughter and mother at their home in rural Nova Scotia before turning the gun on himself.

Read more: RCMP confirms Nova Scotia family killed in murder-suicide

Read more: Canadian Forces won’t commit to probing support of veter...

Read more: Afghanistan veteran, family found dead in Nova Scotia ho...

A narrative has sprung up that almost entirely erases the three victims of his crime. Indeed, it makes Mr. Desmond as much of a victim as the women he killed.

Interviews with relatives and friends have painted him as a happy person who had mood swings, and who was tragically deprived of the help he needed to overcome his mental suffering. He may have been sent away from the very hospital where his wife worked. But to place the blame for his crime solely at the feet of PTSD does a disservice both to the veterans who suffer mental anguish without resorting to violence and to the victims of domestic violence who are harmed or killed at the hands of partners.

In all the talk about PTSD – which is a pressing problem in this country, especially for women and men who have served in the military – another set of letters has been almost completely forgotten: VAW. That stands for violence against women, and it is also a huge problem – and one that is largely under-reported, except at the beginning of December each year, when the country gathers to remember the 14 women murdered at the École Polytechnique in 1989. We light candles, shake our heads, and move on.

We move on despite the fact that one woman in Canada is slain every six days by her intimate partner (67 women were killed by their partners in 2014, and 16 men by theirs.) According to a report from the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses, in Ontario alone last year, 26 women were the victims of “femicide” – with the suspects charged in their deaths being boyfriends, husbands, relatives or acquaintances. The challenge, which is not adequately funded or addressed, involves protecting these vulnerable women before they are beyond help. Shelters are often overflowing, and affordable accommodation is almost impossible to find for a single woman accompanied by children.

We cannot know what happened in the privacy of the Desmonds’ house in the weeks and months before the killings, but some chilling details could have sounded an alarm: Mr. Desmond wrote on his Facebook page that he was sorry for his “jealousy toward my wife” and “being over-controlling.” They were living apart. Ms. Borden said in her CBC interview that she told her sister to stick with her suffering husband, and Shanna responded: “You’re not going to be saying ‘Shanna, Shanna’ any more when you find Shanna dead.”

If we make this tragedy solely about Lionel Desmond and PTSD, we lose sight of the underlying problems of family violence, which are even more deeply hidden by shame and fear. As Ardath Whynacht, a sociology professor at Mount Allison University, told CBC Radio: “There were four victims that day and we’re talking only about the services that could have helped him, and not, for example, services that might have helped his spouse be safer, in trying to leave that relationship and get space.”

In death, these women killed by their spouses lose their identities. They are reduced to mere casualties in someone else’s violent narrative, doubly victimized for all time. A petition circulating right now asks us all to reconsider the way we tell these stories. It was spurred by the death of Elana Fric in Toronto; her husband, neurosurgeon Mohammed Shamji, is charged with first-degree murder. The petition notes that news stories about Dr. Fric’s violent death dealt at length with the accomplishments of her husband, as if no one could believe a surgeon might commit such a crime, and ignored her own illustrious career. It asks for a more balanced approach in reporting: “Humanizing the (usually) male predators and murderers of women while the achievements and life stories of their victims are ignored only contributes to the epidemic of violence against women.”

Those lessons have not been learned yet. Shanna Desmond was 31, a nurse and a mother, wife and co-worker and friend. There should have been so much more to her story.


The Importance of Recognizing the Murder of Women as a Hate Crime
by Zoe Holman, Jan 11 2017

A leading cause of premature death for women around the world is men, but there is hesitation to acknowledge this fact. Meet the women fighting to get femicide victims the attention they deserve.

Samantha Sykes was 18 when she was lured to the West Yorkshire flat of her friend's ex-boyfriend, who stabbed both her and her friend's younger sister to death.

The incident, which occurred back in 2012, was the source of much media interest at the time—not least because the perpetrator was an Afghan asylum seeker. But the victims are just two among the almost 1,000 women killed by men in England and Wales since 2009, whose murders have gone largely unreported.

The inaugural Femicide Census, released last month, aims to document the details of every such death in the UK, filling an informational black-hole with a clear and striking picture of men's fatal violence against women.

Femicide cuts across geographic, economic, cultural and educational lines, as well as age groups.

According to the Small Arms Survey, femicides account for nearly 20 percent of global homicides, or about 66,000 women annually. By documenting the circumstances of each killing—including the perpetrator, his motive, and the weapon—this census aims to highlight femicide above all as a hate crime, to ensure threats of violence and the killing of women is taken seriously by authorities and the media.

Another key aspect of the project is remembering the victims as individuals, through stories from the victims' family members. "Often I think women and young girls who are murdered become a statistic," Julie Warren-Sykes, the mother of Samantha Sykes, noted in support of the project, which was published by the grassroots NGO Women's Aid. "But this database actually represents real people... they were failed by society."

The bloody toll of this failure has been tracked over the past five years by Karen Ingala Smith, whose blog Counting Dead Women has provided the foundation for the census. As Karen explains, her efforts were prompted in 2012 by a spate of killings of women in her local borough of East London.

"When I started searching for details online," she says, "I came across a whole lot of incidents, and I thought my goodness, how many women have actually been killed?'"

Her research soon highlighted a significant gap in statistics that specifically address the gender-based murder of women by men—what the UN and other bodies define as femicide. The data illustrating the continuing patterns of femicide in the UK was hidden in plain sight inside official homicide reviews, police statistics, and local press articles.

"I had to ask myself why the data-set I wanted wasn't available," she says. "If we don't look at the full picture, [and] actually count it, then we have no idea what we are dealing with."

The statistics in Karen's census paint a concrete picture of femicide—a crime that has been largely unrecognized, despite being the leading cause of premature death for women around the world. It shows that, on average, two women are killed each week in the UK by a partner or ex-partner (in the latter case, most within a year of separating). It also shows that femicide cuts across geographic, economic, cultural and educational lines, as well as age groups.

The overwhelming risk factor, it seems, is proximity: Sixty-four percent of women were killed by a current or ex-partner and the remaining majority by a father, brother, son, colleague, employee, client or friend. Only a fraction of murders (less than 10 percent) were committed by male strangers.

But these clear correlations are typically air-brushed away in reports that obscure the gendered nature of the violence. "Too often, the police and media treat the killing of women as an isolated incident 'with no further threat to the public,' rather than as a pattern," explains Polly Neate, CEO of Women's Aid, which published the census.

"The dots have never been joined up, and nobody acknowledges it. But it is important to indicate the relationship between victims and the perpetrators, otherwise we are missing the fact that women are being killed with alarming frequency by people they should trust the most."

As Neate explains, the gender-specific nature of the crime is key to responding to it—for example, through shaping government policy and police handling of abuse cases. But violence against women remains a glaring omission from hate crime legislation in countries around the world, including the UK, US and Australia. Hate crime definitions instead seem to encompass every other category of bias-related violence, including race, religion, disability, and sexuality.

    Hate crime definitions seem to encompass every other category of bias-related violence, including race, religion, disability, and sexuality.

In 2009, for example, President Obama expanded US hate crimes legislation to provide greater protection against violence on the grounds of sexual orientation as well as (perceived) gender identity. However, the new laws still fail to identify women as a specific, significant target of abuse—an exclusion that campaigners say reflects a broader reluctance to acknowledge the widespread nature of hatred of women.

"We [can't] be afraid to say that women are experiencing violence because they are women," says Neate, who supports the campaign to enshrine hate crimes against women in UK law. "Violence against women has its roots in misogyny, but we are reluctant to accept that fact."

Thankfully, some authorities are refusing to shy away from naming hate-crimes against women. The UK's Nottinghamshire Police Force recently spurned critics by expanding its categories of hate-crime to include misogynistic incidents.

The force now defines misogynistic hate crimes as incidents including "behaviour targeted towards a woman by men simply because they are a woman"—a classification it hopes will encourage women to report abuse or harassment that might not typically be considered a crime. Other police forces around England have since expressed interest in following suit.

Although she supports the push for greater acknowledgement and more severe punishment of hate crimes against women, Karen has reservations that focusing on official definitions alone might just isolate or legislate-away a more endemic social problem. "It's not institutions that are creating the problem," she says. "Institutions are made up of people who are subject to the same cultural norms as us, so they just reflect dominant ideas."

Indeed, the antagonism—or outright hatred—levelled at those campaigning around violence against women underscores the pervasiveness of misogynistic attitudes in the mainstream. The clock had hardly ticked past 8am on the morning of the Femicide Census release before social media began erupting with abuse, and a predictable array of responses along the lines of "women are just as bad as men."

"Sadly, it seems that those of us raising feminist issues—rather than changing minds of people—are just exposing ourselves to more sexism and misogyny," Karen says. Much of this resistance, as she sees it, comes from government and social pressure to make public policy and debates gender-neutral, obscuring the reality of female inequality.

"The most important thing is to look at equality and the stereotypes around masculinity and femininity that are the basis of the problem—be it in objectification by the media, prostitution, or, for example, the revival of pink toys and clothes for girls. At the same time as having more freedom for women, we are also creating a backlash, reinforcing gender much more viciously, and making women less valued."


Femicide Watch Platform prototype launched at 2017 UN Crime Commission

Femicide Watch Platform prototype launched at 2017 UN Crime Commission. Photo: UNODC24 May 2017 - Violence against women and girls is still so deeply embedded in cultures around the world that it is almost invisible. Yet this brutality is not inevitable. Once recognised for what it is - a construct of power and a means of maintaining the status-quo - it can be dismantled.

Jean-Luc Lemahieu, UNODC Director, quoted this two-decade-old but valid statement of Dr. Charlotte Bunch, to kick-off the official launch of the Femicide Watch Platform prototype at the 26th Session of the UN Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice (CCPCJ).

Drawing attention to the UNODC Global Study on Homicide (2013), he said that one of every two women victims of homicide is killed by her intimate partner or a family member. Given the magnitude of the problem, it was not surprising that 'eliminating all forms of violence against women and children' has become a target under the 2030 Development Agenda for Sustainable Development.

In presence of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, Dubravka Šimonović, member States and civil society organizations, Henrike Landre presented the online platform which intends to make the invisible visible. The prototype has been developed by the Academic Council on the United Nations System (ACUNS) Vienna Femicide Team and the United Nations Studies Association, in consultation with many stakeholders, including UNODC and the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women.

The prototype contains key information on femicide such as definitions, official data and landmark documents, and best practices in various action areas, including data collection efforts, investigations, legislation, and prevention measures, from all over the world. Offering a global and integrated platform, it also provides information for policy and decision makers at all levels ranging from criminal justice system to civil society activists and academics, as well as practitioners.

The launch took place at the CCPCJ with a view to raising awareness and ensuring support necessary to turn the prototype into a global tool. Any country or organisation wishing to contribute can do so by contacting ACUNS or the UN Studies Association.

Further information:

Femicide Watch Platform - Prototype

Gender in the Criminal Justice System

UNODC Global Study on Homicide

United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its ca...

26th Session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Jus...

Group discloses names of 78 women and girls killed across Canada in last six months

Of the 78 victims counted, 12 of them are listed as Indigenous — a factor the report's authors said was important to highlight

The Canadian Press, July 10, 2018

OTTAWA — A research group is hoping to draw more attention to femicide — the killing of women and girls — by publicly disclosing the names of Canadian victims.

The Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability issued a listing this week of 78 victims identified through media reports across the country in the first half of 2018.

The list reads like a journalistic catalogue of violence against women and girls, mostly domestic in nature, identifying victims by age, location and name, where possible. In a number of cases, however, the names are missing.

“This is largely due to a growing trend in some jurisdictions not to release names of victims,” the observatory said in a report on its website.

“We feel it is still important to include an entry for this individual to remember her as a femicide victim.”

The majority of cases were reported in Ontario, followed by Quebec, Manitoba and Alberta.

This is largely due to a growing trend in some jurisdictions not to release names of victims. We feel it is still important to include an entry for this individual to remember her as a femicide victim

Of the 78 victims counted, 12 of them are listed as Indigenous — a factor the report’s authors said was important to highlight, “given the high risks faced by Indigenous women and girls and the ongoing national inquiry into this situation.”

But the authors note such cases are often under-counted because media reports, on which the numbers are based, don’t always include details such as ethnicity.

The observatory was established last year by the University of Guelph’s Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence with a goal of documenting femicide cases and the responses to those deaths by governments and other institutions.

There were several media reports from January through June of this year of “suspicious deaths” or disappearances of women and girls that have not been included in the report, along with deaths resulting from auto accidents or other clearly random acts, said the report’s authors.

However, the report said the number of victims could be revised upwards, depending on the outcomes of investigations into those deaths.


We won’t stop lone-actor attacks until we understand violence against women
March 19, 2018

Many lone-actor attacks, including the 2014 Sydney siege, are carried out by perpetrators with a history of violence against women. Dean Lewis/AAP

Jude McCulloch
Professor of Criminology, Monash University
JaneMaree Maher
Professor, Centre for Women's Studies & Gender Research, Sociology, Monash University
Kate Fitz-Gibbon is a member of the Monash Gender and Family Violence Research Focus Program. Kate receives funding for family violence related research from the Australian Research Council, ANROWS, and Family Safety Victoria. Kate is a member of the Victorian Government Expert Committee on Perpetrator Interventions.
Sandra Walklate is Eleanor Rathbone Chair of Sociology at the University of Liverpool, U.K. conjoint Chair of Criminology, Monash University Australia. She is a member of the Monash Gender and Family Violence New Frameworks for Prevention Focus Program at Monash University.

The Victorian government recently announced a new A$31.6 million centre to prevent and combat terrorist and lone-actor attacks. The centre will include specialist police, forensic and mental health experts, and a senior analyst to respond to people who pose such a risk.

However, the new centre will not include experts on family violence and other forms of violence against women. Failure to understand the links between lone-actor and terrorist violence and violence against women will undermine the centre’s effectiveness.

Lone-actor attacks and violence against women

The links between terrorist attacks and violence against women, most commonly family violence, are now well established.

Research in the US shows more than 50% of mass shootings in that country between 2009 and 2014 were preceded by the perpetrator’s murder of an intimate (ex)partner, or a family member. In addition, 16% of the attackers, overwhelmingly men, had been charged with domestic violence.

Infamously, Man Haron Monis, the gunman in the 2014 Sydney Lindt Café siege, was on bail at the time of the siege for dozens of sex offences, and for being an accessory to the murder of his ex-wife.

This history of violence against women is evident in the biographies of other terrorists. These include one of the Tsarnaev brothers, responsible for the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings; Omar Mateen, who attacked a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, killing 49 people in 2016; Khalid Masood, who crashed his car into pedestrians and stabbed a police officer in London in 2017; and Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, who killed 80 people in Nice, France, in 2016.

Police on the streets of London in the aftermath of the 2017 attack near parliament. See Li/AAP
Most media profiles, reflecting the focus of security experts and many academics, treat these histories of violence against women as mere detail. Even scholars who acknowledge the growing evidence of a correlation between violence against women and terrorism and lone-actor attacks fail to understand its full significance.

The authors of The Age of Lone Wolf Terrorism, for example, approach the violence against women that so often precedes more public attacks as merely a “precursor to crime”.

The lone wolves they examine – many of whom have histories of violence against women – are seen as “deeply troubled men” who turned violent, rather than violent men who went on to commit violence against the wider community.

Throughout this book, male violence against women is described in terms such as “marital discord” or “personal conflict with a woman”. A female partner, suffering physical and psychological violence at the hands of a man who would go on to commit an act of terrorism, is described as an “enabler” because she did not report his plans to authorities.

This characterisation highlights a misunderstanding of the nature, dynamics and seriousness of family violence.

Failure to see violence against women as “violence” was tragically apparent in the case of the 2014 Sydney siege. Despite Monis’ history of sex crimes and involvement in the murder of his ex-wife, the lead siege negotiator said he believed the sex crimes were “passive” and indicated the sex offences didn’t suggest to him a history of violence.

A psychiatrist providing advice to police managing the siege described these same crimes as “acts of seduction”. Such characterisations of violence against women as essentially non-violent influenced the tactical decisions made by police managing the siege, meaning the threat Monis posed was not fully appreciated.

Why the centre must take violence against women seriously

If, as announced, the new centre against lone-actor attacks is designed to “keep the community safe”, it needs to have a clear focus on understanding violence against women and family violence.

It is concerning that none of the experts listed to form the new centre appears to hold specific expertise in gendered violence.

The centre to prevent terrorist and lone-actor attacks does not appear to involve experts in family violence. James Ross/AAP
The Andrews government has made a massive investment in changing approaches to family violence and violence against women, in response to landmark recommendations by the Royal Commission into Family Violence. The state government is taking violence against women seriously.

Read more: Victoria leads the way on family violence, but Canberra needs to lift its game

However, the distinction that continues to be drawn between public violence such as terrorism and lone-actor attacks, and violence against women, belies this commitment, undermining the safety and security of all.

The National Sexual Assault, Family & Domestic Violence Counselling Line – 1800 RESPECT (1800 737 732) – is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week for any Australian who has experienced, or is at risk of, family and domestic violence and/or sexual assault.


#NotInvisible: Why are Native American women vanishing?
By SHARON COHEN, Sep. 06, 2018

VALIER, Mont. (AP) — The searchers rummage through the abandoned trailer, flipping over a battered couch, unfurling a stained sheet, looking for clues. It’s blistering hot and a grizzly bear lurking in the brush unleashes a menacing growl. But they can’t stop.

Not when a loved one is still missing.

The group moves outside into knee-deep weeds, checking out a rusted garbage can, an old washing machine — and a surprise: bones.

Ashley HeavyRunner Loring, a 20-year-old member of the Blackfeet Nation, was last heard from around June 8, 2017. Since then her older sister, Kimberly, has been looking for her.

She has logged about 40 searches, with family from afar sometimes using Google Earth to guide her around closed roads. She’s hiked in mountains, shouting her sister’s name. She’s trekked through fields, gingerly stepping around snakes. She’s trudged through snow, rain and mud, but she can’t cover the entire 1.5 million-acre reservation, an expanse larger than Delaware.

“I’m the older sister. I need to do this,” says 24-year-old Kimberly, swatting away bugs, her hair matted from the heat. “I don’t want to search until I’m 80. But if I have to, I will.”

Searchers pause against the scenery while looking for clues in the disappearance of Ashley HeavyRunner Loring.

Ashley’s disappearance is one small chapter in the unsettling story of missing and murdered Native American women and girls. No one knows precisely how many there are because some cases go unreported, others aren’t documented thoroughly and there isn’t a specific government database tracking these cases. But one U.S. senator with victims in her home state calls this an epidemic, a long-standing problem linked to inadequate resources, outright indifference and a confusing jurisdictional maze.

Now, in the era of #MeToo, this issue is gaining political traction as an expanding activist movement focuses on Native women — a population known to experience some of the nation’s highest rates of murder, sexual violence and domestic abuse.

“Just the fact we’re making policymakers acknowledge this is an issue that requires government response, that’s progress in itself,” says Annita Lucchesi, a cartographer and descendant of the Cheyenne who is building a database of missing and murdered indigenous women in the U.S. and Canada — a list of some 2,700 names so far.

As her endless hunt goes on, Ashley’s sister is joined on this day by a cousin, Lissa, and four others, including a family friend armed with a rifle and pistols. They scour the trailer where two “no trespassing” signs are posted and a broken telescope looks out the kitchen window. One of Ashley’s cousins lived here, and there are reports it’s among the last places she was seen.

“We’re following every rumor there is, even if it sounds ridiculous,” Lissa Loring says.

This search is motivated, in part, by the family’s disappointment with the reservation police force — a common sentiment for many relatives of missing Native Americans.

Outside, the group stumbles upon something intriguing: the bones, one small and straight, the other larger and shaped like a saddle. It’s enough to alert police, who respond in five squad cars, rumbling across the ragged field, kicking up clouds of dust. After studying the bones, one officer breaks the news: They’re much too large for a human; they could belong to a deer.

There will be no breakthrough today. Tomorrow the searchers head to the mountains.


For many in Native American communities across the nation, the problem of missing and murdered women is deeply personal.

“I can’t think of a single person that I know ... who doesn’t have some sort of experience,” says Ivan MacDonald, a member of the Blackfeet Nation and a filmmaker. “These women aren’t just statistics. These are grandma, these are mom. This is an aunt, this is a daughter. This is someone who was loved ... and didn’t get the justice that they so desperately needed.”

MacDonald and his sister, Ivy, recently produced a documentary on Native American women in Montana who vanished or were killed. One story hits particularly close to home. Their 7-year-old cousin, Monica, disappeared from a reservation school in 1979. Her body was found frozen on a mountain 20 miles away, and no one has ever been arrested.

Roxanne White, whose aunt was murdered in 1996, sings and drums a women’s warrior and honor song created for missing and murdered indigenous women.

There are many similar mysteries that follow a pattern: A woman or girl goes missing, there’s a community outcry, a search is launched, a reward may be offered. There may be a quick resolution. But often, there’s frustration with tribal police and federal authorities, and a feeling many cases aren’t handled urgently or thoroughly.

So why does this happen? MacDonald offers his own harsh assessment.

“It boils down to racism,” he argues. “You could sort of tie it into poverty or drug use or some of those factors ... (but) the federal government doesn’t really give a crap at the end of the day.”

Tribal police and investigators from the federal Bureau of Indian Affairs serve as law enforcement on reservations, which are sovereign nations. But the FBI investigates certain offenses and, if there’s ample evidence, the U.S. Department of Justice prosecutes major felonies such as murder, kidnapping and rape if they happen on tribal lands.

Lissa Loring points Blackfeet law enforcement officers to a trailer in Valier, Mont., where she believes clues have been found during a search for her cousin.

Former North Dakota federal prosecutor Tim Purdon calls it a “jurisdictional thicket” of overlapping authority and different laws depending on the crime, where it occurred (on a reservation or not) and whether a tribal member is the victim or perpetrator. Missing person cases on reservations can be especially tricky. Some people run away, but if a crime is suspected, it’s difficult to know how to get help.

“Where do I go to file a missing person’s report?” Purdon asks. “Do I go to the tribal police? ... In some places they’re underfunded and undertrained. The Bureau of Indian Affairs? The FBI? They might want to help, but a missing person case without more is not a crime, so they may not be able to open an investigation. ... Do I go to one of the county sheriffs? ... If that sounds like a horribly complicated mishmash of law enforcement jurisdictions that would tremendously complicate how I would try to find help, it’s because that’s what it is.”

Sarah Deer, a University of Kansas professor, author of a book on sexual violence in Indian Country and member of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, offers another explanation for the missing and murdered: Native women, she says, have long been considered invisible and disposable in society, and those vulnerabilities attract predators.

“It’s made us more of a target, particularly for the women who have addiction issues, PTSD and other kinds of maladies,” she says. “You have a very marginalized group, and the legal system doesn’t seem to take proactive attempts to protect Native women in some cases.”

Those attitudes permeate reservations where tribal police are frequently stretched thin and lack training and families complain officers don’t take reports of missing women seriously, delaying searches in the first critical hours.

“They almost shame the people that are reporting, (and say), ’Well, she’s out drinking. Well, she probably took up with some man,’” says Carmen O’Leary, director of the Native Women’s Society of the Great Plains. “A lot of times families internalize that kind of shame, (thinking) that it’s her fault somehow.”

The result: Some families start their own investigations.

Matthew Lone Bear spent nine months looking for his older sister, Olivia — using drones and four-wheelers, fending off snakes and crisscrossing nearly a million acres, often on foot. The 32-year-old mother of five had last been seen driving a Chevy Silverado on Oct. 25, 2017, in downtown New Town, on the oil-rich terrain of North Dakota’s Fort Berthold Reservation.

On July 31, volunteers using sonar found the truck with Olivia inside submerged in a lake less than a mile from her home. It’s a body of water that had been searched before, her brother says, but “obviously not as thoroughly, or they would have found it a long time ago.”

Lone Bear says authorities were slow in launching their search — it took days to get underway — and didn’t get boats in the water until December, despite his frequent pleas. He’s working to develop a protocol for missing person cases for North Dakota’s tribes “that gets the red tape and bureaucracy out of the way,” he says.

The FBI is investigating Olivia’s death. “She’s home,” her brother adds, “but how did she get there? We don’t have any of those answers.”

Other families have been waiting for decades.

Carolyn DeFord’s mother, Leona LeClair Kinsey, a member of the Puyallup Tribe, vanished nearly 20 years ago in La Grande, Oregon. “There was no search party. There was no, ’Let’s tear her house apart and find a clue,’” DeFord says. “I just felt hopeless and helpless.” She ended up creating her own missing person’s poster.

“There’s no way to process the kind of loss that doesn’t stop,” says DeFord, who lives outside Tacoma, Washington. “Somebody asked me awhile back, ’What would you do if you found her? What would that mean?’... It would mean she can come home. She’s a human being who deserves to be honored and have her children and her grandchildren get to remember her and celebrate her life.”

It’s another Native American woman whose name is attached to a federal bill aimed at addressing this issue. Savanna LaFontaine-Greywind, 22, was murdered in 2017 while eight months pregnant. Her body was found in a river, wrapped in plastic and duct tape. A neighbor in Fargo, North Dakota, cut her baby girl from her womb. The child survived and lives with her father. The neighbor, who pleaded guilty, was sentenced to life without parole; her boyfriend’s trial is set to start in September.

In a speech on the Senate floor last fall, North Dakota Democrat Heidi Heitkamp told the stories of four other Native American women from her state whose deaths were unsolved. Displaying a giant board featuring their photos, she decried disproportionate incidences of violence that go “unnoticed, unreported or underreported.”

Her bill, “Savanna’s Act,” aims to improve tribal access to federal crime information databases. It would also require the Department of Justice to develop a protocol to respond to cases of missing and murdered Native Americans and the federal government to provide an annual report on the numbers.

At the end of 2017, Native Americans and Alaska Natives made up 1.8 percent of ongoing missing cases in the FBI’s National Crime Information Center database, even though they represent 0.8 percent of the U.S. population. These cases include those lingering and open from year to year, but experts say the figure is low, given that many tribes don’t have access to the database. Native women accounted for more than 0.7 percent of the missing cases — 633 in all — though they represent about 0.4 percent of the U.S. population.

“Violence against Native American women has not been prosecuted,” Heitkamp said in an interview. “We have not really seen the urgency in closing cold cases. We haven’t seen the urgency when someone goes missing. ... We don’t have the clear lines of authority that need to be established to prevent these tragedies.”

In August, Sen. Jon Tester, a Montana Democrat, asked the leaders of the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs to hold a hearing to address the problem.

Lawmakers in a handful of states also are responding. In Montana, a legislative tribal relations committee has proposals for five bills to deal with missing persons. In July 2017, 22 of 72 missing girls or women — or about 30 percent — were Native American, according to Montana’s Department of Justice. But Native females comprise only 3.3 percent of the state’s population.

It’s one of many statistics that reveal a grim reality.

On some reservations, Native American women are murdered at a rate more than 10 times the national average and more than half of Alaska Native and Native women have experienced sexual violence at some point, according to the U.S. Justice Department. A 2016 study found more than 80 percent of Native women experience violence in their lifetimes.

Randy Ortiz wears a shirt with the names of missing and murdered indigenous women as he searches for Ashley HeavyRunner Loring in the mountains of the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Yet another federal report on violence against women included some startling anecdotes from tribal leaders. Sadie Young Bird, who heads victim services for the Three Affiliated Tribes at Fort Berthold, described how in 1½ years, her program had dealt with five cases of murdered or missing women, resulting in 18 children losing their mothers; two cases were due to intimate partner violence.

“Our people go missing at an alarming rate, and we would not hear about many of these cases without Facebook,” she said in the report.

Canada has been wrestling with this issue for decades and recently extended a government inquiry that began in 2016 into missing and murdered indigenous women. A report by the Royal Canadian Mounted Police concluded that from 1980 to 2012 there were 1,181 indigenous women murdered or whose missing person cases were unresolved. Lucchesi, the researcher, says she found an additional 400 to 500 cases in her database work.

Despite some high-profile cases in the U.S., many more get scant attention, Lucchesi adds.

“Ashley has been the face of this movement,” she says. “But this movement started before Ashley was born. For every Ashley, there are 200 more.”


Browning is the heart of the Blackfeet Nation, a distinctly Western town with calf-roping competitions, the occasional horseback rider ambling down the street — and a hardscrabble reality. Nearly 40 percent of the residents live in poverty. The down-and-out loiter on corners. Shuttered homes with “Meth Unit” scrawled on wooden boards convey the damage caused by drugs.

A couple walks through the main business district on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation in Browning, Mont.

With just about 1,000 residents, many folks are related and secrets have a way of spilling out.

“There’s always somebody talking,” says Ashley’s cousin, Lissa, “and it seems like to us since she disappeared, everybody got quiet. I don’t know if they’re scared, but so are we. That’s why we need people to speak up.”

Missing posters of Ashley are displayed in grocery stores and the occasional sandwich shop. They show a fresh-faced, grinning woman, flashing the peace sign. In one, she gazes into the camera, her long hair blowing in the wind.

One of nine children, including half-siblings, Ashley had lived with her grandmother outside town. Kimberly remembers her sister as funny and feisty, the keeper of the family photo albums who always carried a camera. She learned to ride a horse before a bike and liked to whip up breakfasts of biscuits and gravy that could feed an army.

She was interested in environmental science and was completing her studies at Blackfeet Community College, with plans to attend the University of Montana.

Kimberly says Ashley contacted her asking for money. Days later, she was gone.

At first, her relatives say, tribal police suggested Ashley was old enough to take off on her own. The Bureau of Indian Affairs investigated, teaming up with reservation police, and interviewed 55 people and conducted 38 searches. There are persons of interest, spokeswoman Nedra Darling says, but she wouldn’t elaborate. A $10,000 reward is being offered.

The FBI took over the case in January after a lead steered investigators off the reservation and into another state. The agency declined comment.

Ashley’s disappearance is just the latest trauma for the Blackfeet Nation.

A missing poster for Ashley HeavyRunner Loring is posted to the entrance of a grocery store on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

Theda New Breast, a founder of the Native Wellness Institute, has worked with Lucchesi to compile a list of missing and murdered women in the Blackfoot Confederacy — four tribes in the U.S. and Canada. Long-forgotten names are added as families break generations of silence. A few months ago, a woman revealed her grandmother had been killed in the 1950s by her husband and left in a shallow grave.

“Everybody knew about it, but nobody talked about it,” New Breast says, and others keep coming forward — perhaps, in part, because of the #MeToo movement. “Every time I bring out the list, more women tell their secret. I think that they find their voice.”

Though these crimes have shaken the community, “there is a tendency to be desensitized to violence,” says MacDonald, the filmmaker. “I wouldn’t call it avoidance. But if we would feel the full emotions, there would be people crying in the streets.”

His aunt, Mabel Wells, would be among them.

Nearly 40 years have passed since that December day when her daughter, Monica, vanished. Wells remembers every terrible moment: The police handing her Monica’s boot after it was found by a hunter and the silent scream in her head: “It’s hers! It’s hers!” Her brother describing the little girl’s coat flapping in the wind after her daughter’s body was found frozen on a mountain. The pastor’s large hands that held hers as he solemnly declared: “Monica’s with the Lord.”

Monica’s father, Kenny Still Smoking, recalls that a medicine man told him his daughter’s abductor was a man who favored Western-style clothes and lived in a red house in a nearby town, but there was no practical way to pursue that suggestion.

Kenny Still Smoking wipes his eye while talking about his 7-year-old daughter, Monica, who disappeared from school in 1979 and was found frozen on a mountain.

He recently visited Monica’s grave, kneeling next to a white cross peeking out from tall grass, studying his daughter’s smiling photo, cracked with age. He gently placed his palm on her name etched into a headstone. “I let her know that I’m still kicking,” he says.

Wells visits the gravesite, too — every June 2, Monica’s birthday. She still hopes to see the perpetrator caught. “I want to sit with them and say, ‘Why? Why did you choose my daughter?’”

Even now, she can’t help but think of Monica alone on that mountain. “I wonder if she was hollering for me, saying, ‘Mom, help!’”


Ash-lee! Ash-lee!! Ash-lee! Ash-lee!!

Some 20 miles northwest of Browning, the searchers have navigated a rugged road lined with barren trees scorched from an old forest fire. They have a panoramic view of majestic snowcapped mountains. A woman’s stained sweater was found here months ago, making the location worthy of another search. It’s not known whether the garment may be Ashley’s.

First Kimberly, then Lissa Loring, call Ashley’s name — in different directions. The repetition four times by each woman is a ritual designed to beckon someone’s spirit.

Lissa says Ashley’s disappearance constantly weighs on her. “All that plays in my head is where do we look? Who’s going to tell us the next lead?”

That weekend at the annual North American Indian Days in Browning, the family marched in a parade with a red banner honoring missing and murdered indigenous women. They wore T-shirts with an image of Ashley and the words: “We will never give up.”

Friends and family members of Ashley HeavyRunner Loring hold a traditional blanket dance before the crowd at the North American Indian Days celebration to raise awareness and funds for her search.

Then Ashley’s grandmother and others took to a small arena for what’s known as a blanket dance, to raise money for the search. As drums throbbed, they grasped the edges of a blue blanket. Friends stepped forward, dropping in cash, some tearfully embracing Ashley’s relatives.

The past few days reminded Kimberly of a promise she’d made to Ashley when their mother was wrestling with substance abuse problems and the girls were briefly in a foster home. Kimberly was 8 then; Ashley was just 5.

A woman performs a traditional Native American dance during the North American Indian Days celebration on the Blackfeet Indian Reservation.

“’We have to stick together,’” she’d told her little sister.

“I told her I would never leave her. And if she was going to go anywhere, I would find her.”


Domestic Violence Is The Most Common Killer Of Women Around The World
A U.N. report revealed that 87,000 women were murdered last year, and over half were killed by intimate partners or family members.

Huffington Post, Nov 27, 2018

“At its core, violence against women and girls is the manifestation of a profound lack of respect ― a failure by men to recognize the inherent equality and dignity of women. It is an issue of fundamental human rights.”

The U.N. report also highlighted that women are much more likely to die from domestic violence than men are. According to the study, 82 percent of intimate partner homicide victims are women and 18 percent are men.

“While the vast majority of homicide victims are men, women continue to pay the highest price as a result of gender inequality, discrimination and negative stereotypes. They are also the most likely to be killed by intimate partners and family,” UNODC Executive Director Yury Fedotov said.

The study suggested that violence against women has increased in the last five years, drawing on data from 2012 in which 48,000 (47 percent) of female homicides were perpetrated by intimate partners or family members.

Geographically, Asia had the most female homicides (20,000) perpetrated by intimate partners or family members in 2017, followed by Africa (19,000), North and South America (8,000), Europe (3,000) and Oceania (300). The U.N. does point out that because the intimate partner and family-related homicide rate is 3.1 per 10,000 female population, Africa is actually the continent where women are at the greatest risk of being murdered by a partner or family member.

Head over to the U.N. study to read more.


Identifying femicide locally and globally: Understanding the utility and accessibility of sex/gender-related motives and indicators
by Myrna Dawson, Michelle Carrigan
First Published August 28, 2020 Research Article

Article has an altmetric score of 428 Free Access translated abstracts available
Abstract English, French, Spanish; Castilian

Femicide, the gender-related killing of women and girls, has received an unprecedented rise in international attention in the past decade, prompting increased discussions about how to define and measure femicide. Following a review of definitions and indicators, this article examines the utility of numerous sex/gender-related motives and indicators (SGRMIs) for distinguishing femicide from other homicides as well as the accessibility of these indicators in data sources typically accessed by social science researchers. Specifically, using a comprehensive database whose primary focus is femicide, the presence of SGRMIs in male-perpetrator/female-victim homicide – those killings most closely aligned with the concept of femicide – is compared to other perpetrator–victim gender combinations. Results show that multiple SGRMIs are more common in male-perpetrator/female-victim killings than other homicides, meaning they are useful for distinguishing femicide as a distinct type of violence. However, accessibility to information is weak with high proportions of missing data. Implications of these findings for prevention are discussed, including how data biases may be putting the lives of women and girls at risk and the need to emphasize prevention as the priority for data collection rather than administrative needs of governments.
Keywords Data, femicide, feminicide, gender, indicators, prevention, sexMots-clésDonnées, fémicide, féminicide, genre, indicateurs, prévention, sexePalabras claveDatos, femicidio, feminicidio, género, indicadores, prevención, sexo


The phenomenon of femicide is not new; however, its dramatic rise in international attention is unprecedented, largely because of its prevalence in Latin America where multiple countries have established legislation identifying specific punishments for femicide or have established femicide as its own offense.1 One consequence of this attention are increasing global discussions about how femicide should be defined, how it is distinct from homicide, and how differences can be operationalized. These answers are crucial for effectively producing and understanding femicide statistics within and across countries which, in turn, inform the development of appropriate prevention initiatives and punishments (ACUNS, 2017; Weil, 2016).

One of the most comprehensive efforts to address these questions is The Latin American Model Protocol for the Investigation of Gender-Related Killings of Women (Femicide/Feminicide) (Sarmiento et al., 2014). The protocol documents how femicide might be identified by reviewing sex- or gender-related motives, signs and indicators that capture the context surrounding femicide and its various subtypes (e.g. intimate partner femicide, familial femicide). While the protocol specifically targets criminal justice investigations, it serves as a crucial starting point for researchers aimed at measuring femicide, documenting trends within and across countries, and better informing prevention efforts. Continuing to move discussions forward, a 2016 special issue of Current Sociology focused on femicide as a ‘social challenge’ that requires ‘accurate conceptualization to relate to and develop scientific findings’ (Marcuello-Servós et al., 2016: 967–968). The ultimate goal of the special issue was to work toward ‘establishing convergence in research clarity and a consensus on definitions, drawing together a structured corpus of knowledge that can help improve the efficacy of policies for femicide prevention’ (p. 968).

These and other more recent efforts to improve definitional and conceptual clarity (e.g. Dawson et al., 2018, 2019; Walklate et al., 2019; Weil et al., 2018) recognize that, to date, most research documenting femicide has incorporated one of two approaches: (1) a focus on all killings of women – ‘female victim homicide’; or (2) a focus on the most common femicide subtype – ‘intimate femicide’ or ‘intimate partner femicide’ (Dawson and Gartner, 1998; Stout, 1992; UNODC, 2013). These two approaches are common, in part, because of the ease with which one can identify femicide using victim gender or victim–perpetrator relationship, but these approaches can also be criticized for the same reason. Simply put, considering only sex/gender and/or relationship when identifying femicide is problematic for a complex phenomenon that is difficult, if not impossible, to reduce to one or two determinants. These two approaches have also remained common because of perceived difficulties in identifying a priori motivations for these acts (e.g. Campbell and Runyan, 1998). However, we argue that this is exactly what criminal justice officials do so it should also be possible for researchers to do so with access to, and improvements in, available data.

While it is integral that criminal justice actors accurately identify femicide for punishment consistency and appropriateness, they are not typically in the business of conducting research. However, they can help facilitate more evidence-based data, first, by collecting more nuanced and appropriate information to better inform the development of prevention initiatives and, second, by making these data more accessible to researchers who play a crucial role in understanding how to prevent and respond to male violence against women and girls. This includes the production of accurate statistics which, in turn, informs more effective legislative, policy, and program responses locally, nationally and globally. The United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women has repeatedly underscored the importance of improving femicide data (e.g. ACUNS, 2017), which requires collaboration across sectors and, specifically, among researchers, communities, criminal justice officials, and governments (Dawson et al., 2019; Vives-Cases et al., 2016; Walby et al., 2017; Weil, 2016).

To examine the relevance of previously identified sex/gender-related motives and indicators for understanding femicide, this article is divided into four sections. First, we review definitions used in femicide research, including those that define femicide subtypes, identifying the challenges of achieving definitional consensus.2 Second, drawing largely from the Latin American Model Protocol (hereafter referred to as ‘the protocol’), we briefly summarize potential sex/gender-related motives or indicators for femicide and its subtypes (hereafter referred to as SGRMIs). Third, we explore the utility and availability of SGRMIs to distinguish femicide from other homicides by examining homicide data compiled from triangulated information contained in several administrative data sources in one Canadian jurisdiction. The final section of the article will discuss the global implications of our findings for moving forward with more accurate documentation and prevention of femicide.

Our central argument builds on the findings of our study – that many SGRMIs do clearly distinguish femicide from other types of homicide, but current available data do not consistently allow for their documentation, precluding real preventative change. We argue that this situation stems from the ongoing legacy of public patriarchy (Walby, 1990) and requires that we prioritize the prevention of male violence against women and girls rather than the administrative needs of patriarchal social structures when it comes to identifying data crucial for collection and analyses. Only by doing so can professional and academic efforts improve the efficacy of policies developed and implemented to prevent femicide.

Defining and classifying femicide

Femicide definitions have evolved over time, but no single definition has been accepted among researchers (Corradi et al., 2016; Weil, 2016). Feminist pioneer Diana Russell first used the term in 1976 but did not provide an explicit definition until 1990. At this time, femicide was defined as ‘the murder of women by men motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure, or a sense of ownership of women’ (Caputi and Russell, 1990: 34). Several years later, Radford and Russell (1992) defined femicide as misogynistic killings by men. The goals were to draw attention to the pervasive violence women experience from men, to bring people together to address the problem, and to urge governments to legislate against femicide and sentence killings appropriately.

By 2001, the definition evolved to the killing of females by males for being females, encompassing all forms of male sexism including entitlement, pleasure, or expectation of compliance and differs from previous definitions focusing on misogyny (Russell, 2001). Further, using females instead of women and males instead of men acknowledged that infants, young girls and adolescents are also killed for gender-related reasons (Russell, 2001). In 2012, in an introductory speech to the United Nations Symposium on femicide, Russell recommended that ‘the killing of one or more females by one or more males because they are female’ remain the definition. However, in some world regions (e.g. Latin America), the term feminicide is more commonly used, as discussed below.

Some authors have included intentional killings of females in their definition (Ellis and DeKeseredy, 1996; Mouzos, 1999). The element of ‘intent’ is common across legal and criminological perspectives (WHO, 2012), but is problematic because it excludes acts resulting from repeated domestic violence that may unintentionally cause death (Russell, 2001). Under Russell’s definition, intent is not required; the death of a female by her male partner is femicide even if he did not mean to kill her, referred to as ‘covert femicide’ (Russell, 2001: 18). Some researchers further classify femicide into subtypes using victim–perpetrator relationships. For example, Russell (2001: 21) divided femicide into partner femicide, familial femicide, other known femicide perpetrators, and stranger femicide.

Similarly, ‘the protocol’ recognizes both ‘active’ (intentional) and ‘passive’ (unintentional) femicide and, within these broad categories, classifies 14 femicide subtypes distinguished by relationship or motivation.3 Although these categories were generated in Latin America, they are relevant to global discussions because of the universality of femicide and the conditions under which it occurs. Gender inequality – the root of femicide – transcends geographic locations and, according to the United Nations Report of the Secretary-General, femicide is not confined to specific cultures, regions, or groups of women (Alvazzi del Frate and Nowak, 2013).
Benefits and challenges of definitions of femicide

The broadest femicide characterization was first adopted by Campbell and Runyan (1998), who revised the definition to encompass killings of women by males and females, regardless of motivation or relationship. This definition eliminates the need to obtain detailed information on circumstances surrounding deaths, making it a common choice for international comparisons (Alvazzi del Frate and Nowak, 2013; Mujica and Tuesta, 2014). The main limitation of this approach is accuracy; arguably, not all female homicides are femicide so this broad definition may overestimate femicide rates (Mujica and Tuesta, 2014). Similarly, Russell’s (2001) definition pertains to killings of women by men rooted in sexist motivations, which would not necessarily include all female homicides. Therefore, Russell (2001) suggests that, when relying on female homicide rates, researchers should use ‘woman killing’ instead of altering the definition of femicide. By adopting ‘woman killing’, attention remains focused on female deaths without classifying every female homicide as femicide.

Intimate femicide

Intimate femicide, also referred to as intimate partner femicide, is the most common type of femicide globally. From Argentina to South Africa, to Canada, and the UK– women worldwide are vulnerable to violence by male partners (UNODC, 2018). This type of femicide captures killings by perpetrators who have/had an intimate partner relationship with victims (Dawson and Gartner, 1998; Etherington and Baker, 2015; UNODC, 2018). Focusing on intimate violence only, however, does not resolve difficulties in identifying femicide because researchers vary as to whether they include family-perpetrated killings, such as brothers or fathers, and intimate relationships are not always consistently defined (e.g. causal sexual encounters, initial dating relationships).

Another point of divergence among intimate femicide researchers is whether homicides committed by female intimate partners should be included (Widyono, 2008). According to Russell (2001), femicide is exclusively perpetrated by men against women. However, several researchers have explored the idea that women can perpetrate femicide, including those in same-sex relationships (Glass et al., 2004; Muftić and Baumann, 2012). For example, Glass et al. (2004) argue that indicators are similar for both male-perpetrated and female-perpetrated intimate partner femicide, including prior violence that may increase in frequency or severity, jealousy, control, and victim efforts to end the relationship. Russell (2001) acknowledges females can act as agents of patriarchy and of male perpetrators; however, she prefers the term ‘female-on-female murder’ instead of amending her definition. This term also captures the killing of women and girls that involve female family members.

Non-intimate femicide

Non-intimate femicide encompasses various femicide subtypes, including killings associated with gangs, human trafficking, and sexual violence (Etherington and Baker, 2015; Sarmiento et al., 2014). Many of these femicidal contexts may also relate to intimate settings, however. For example, sexual femicide may be committed by someone who did or did not have a relationship with the victim, involving sexual aggression before or after death (Sarmiento et al., 2014). Stranger femicide typically occurs at a much lower rate than intimate femicide and, thus, intimate femicide research continues to be prioritized. The World Health Organization, for example, argues the best way to reduce femicide overall is to focus on reducing intimate partner violence (WHO, 2012).


More recently, ‘feminicide’ is used to describe killings of women in specific world regions. Derived in Latin America, the term feminicide (or feminicidio) emphasizes government unresponsiveness to killings of women and girls (Fregoso and Bejarano, 2010; Sanford, 2008). Specifically, feminicide captures both private and public violence, including state culpability when they fail to hold perpetrators accountable (Lagarde de los Ríos, 2010). While primarily used in Latin America, some European countries such as Spain and Italy have recently adopted the term (Spinelli, 2011) and, arguably, it is appealing more broadly because of the emphasis on state culpability and inadequate responses to killings worldwide. Given Russell’s political goals when she first introduced the term femicide, this should not be a point of disagreement across definitions or researchers.

To summarize, femicide/feminicide definitions differ according to discipline, researcher, or geographic location. Varying definitions demonstrate difficulties in defining, measuring and comparing femicide and its subtypes. However, across definitions, one commonality exists – femicide is the killing of a woman or girl and, therefore, these killings always have some gender-motivated element. Femicides are not ‘isolated, sporadic or episodic cases of violence; rather they represent a structural situation and a social and cultural phenomenon deeply rooted in customs and mindsets’ (CEDAW, 2005: 27). However, femicide/feminicide indicators may clarify the most appropriate approaches to defining and measuring this phenomenon. We turn to a summary of potential indicators below.

Sex/gender-related motives or indicators for femicide/feminicide

Sex/gender-related motives/indicators (SGRMIs) are characteristics that signify whether and how the act was rooted in perpetrators’ misogynistic attitudes. Indicators may capture contexts, including motivations, in which killings occurred, specific perpetrator or victim types and manifestations of violence. Femicide reinforces cultural norms that dictate what it means to be a woman, including subordination, femininity, and fragility (Sarmiento et al., 2014). To understand femicide, then, it is important to assess how perpetrators might use such references when deciding to kill women, such as ideas of male dominance, bias, and disregard for a woman or girl’s life. These beliefs make perpetrators feel that they have authoritative control over victims’ lives or bodies, including to punish or kill to maintain social order (Sarmiento et al., 2014).

As the implementation of femicide legislation continues, Latin American countries have identified femicide indicators (Carrigan and Dawson, 2020; Dawson et al., 2019). Each country’s legislation lists circumstances under which a homicide can be classified as femicide. Many femicide indicators are similar across countries with relevance to femicide globally, including when victims are killed by intimate partners, when perpetrators try to re-establish relationships, the presence of children, or when victims were pregnant. Sexual violence, mutilation, and public disposal of the victim’s body are among non-intimate partner femicide indicators identified by one or more countries, although arguably these could also be indicators for intimate partner femicide. Other femicide indicators, perhaps more relevant in Latin America, although not exclusively, include killings in the context of gang activity, human trafficking, and/or drug smuggling.

A large volume of literature has evolved identifying factors that increase the risk of femicide victimization and/or perpetration. Drawing from the protocol, Table 1 lists some victim, perpetrator, pre-incident and incident characteristics with potential for capturing gender-related elements of killings. For example, with respect to victim age, elderly women and young girls are physically vulnerable, arguably increasing risk of femicide. These acts typically occur in familial contexts (e.g. intimate, familial femicide) or in sexual violence cases (e.g. sexual femicide). Moreover, minority and/or migrant women are also at increased risk due to discrimination, lack of social supports, and greater cultural acceptance of violence against women. As such, it is important to collect victim-specific information to highlight elements that increase the recognition of such killings as gender-related. Similarly, perpetrator characteristics can offer insights into who is more likely to commit femicide. For example, the perpetrator’s involvement in illegal activity such as prostitution or human trafficking may suggest they perceive women as property or objects.


Table 1. Victim, perpetrator, pre-incident, and incident characteristics as potential gender-based signs or indicators of femicide compiled from Chapter V of the Latin American Model Protocol for the Investigation of Gender-Related Killings of Women (Femicide/Feminicide).

Table 1. Victim, perpetrator, pre-incident, and incident characteristics as potential gender-based signs or indicators of femicide compiled from Chapter V of the Latin American Model Protocol for the Investigation of Gender-Related Killings of Women (Femicide/Feminicide).
View larger version

With respect to pre-incident characteristics, in intimate femicides for example, the protocol emphasizes that prior police contact, use of social services, prior threats, previous violence, and recent separation can provide information on gender-related elements of killings. Focusing on the incident, femicides perpetrated by groups may relate to group territory, initiation, forced disappearances, and exploitation. For example, women may be abducted and killed by gang members engaging in human trafficking or prostitution. Perpetrators may also commit group femicide whereby one member must prove themselves before joining the group. A femicide investigation must identify perpetrator motivations, including perceived benefits and consequences, to discover what prompted the femicide (Sarmiento et al., 2014). As such, the protocol further recommends assessing various indicators to determine if the killing was rooted in gender inequality, such as cause of death and context, location, power imbalances between victims and perpetrators, and victim risk level immediately prior to femicide. During the investigation, the victim’s body can also provide key evidence about perpetrator motives, such as the injuries sustained, cause of death, sexual assault, mutilation, excessive force, prolonged attacks, torture, and injury location.

The factors outlined by the protocol help characterize and describe gender-related elements of femicide, identifying specific indicators that capture signs, contexts, and motives that may signify when homicides should be classified as femicides. However, few if any studies have systematically examined their utility for distinguishing femicide from homicide and how accessible this information is from common data sources accessed by social science researchers.
Examining the utility and accessibility of sex/gender-related motives and indicators for femicide
The current study: Data, objectives, and analyses

Data used were drawn from an ongoing research initiative documenting all femicide and homicide in Canada.4 The objectives and analyses described below focus on Canada’s most populous province – Ontario – for which data collection has occurred the longest and is the most complete (N = 4839).5 First, we assess the utility of available SGRMIs to differentiate across four perpetrator-victim gender combinations: (1) male-perpetrator/male-victim homicide6 (N = 2823); (2) male-perpetrator/female-victim homicide (N = 1527); (3) female-perpetrator/male-victim homicide (N = 342); and (4) female-perpetrator/female-victim homicide (N = 147).7 We do not purport to classify each case as a homicide or a femicide; rather, we wish to determine general patterns in the presence of SGRMIs, specifically comparing killings that most closely align with the definition of femicide – male-perpetrator/female-victim cases. In addition, while the protocol states understanding whether a killing is gender-related does not depend on the existence of more or fewer indicators, we assess whether male-perpetrator/female-victim homicide had more SGRMIs than other homicide gender-combinations.

Second, to assess accessibility, we examine available information for each SGRMI using the proportion of missing information. We acknowledge accessibility may depend, in part, on whether this information is relevant to a homicide, increasing the likelihood that information is documented and, subsequently, available to collect. One distinguishing homicide feature is the gender of those involved; thus, we examine missing-information proportions for the full sample as well as by each perpetrator–victim gender combination separately. It is expected that information for SGRMIs would or should be more accessible for cases involving female victims if capturing gender-related elements specifically.


There were significant associations among SGRMIs and perpetrator–victim gender combinations (see Table 2).8 Recall that an SGRMI would be a good indicator of femicide if it was significantly more likely to be present in male-perpetrated/female-victim homicide compared to other perpetrator–victim combinations. Pre-incident and incident characteristics demonstrated the most variation across perpetrator–victim gender combinations with male-on-female killings having significantly higher proportions of potential SGRMIs compared to other killings. Specifically, the proportion of pre-incident characteristics more common among male-on-female homicides were prior police contact (42%), recent separation (38%) prior threats against victims (65%), estrangement (25%), intimate/familial relationships (82%), and premeditation (60%). With respect to the incident itself, more common characteristics for male-on-female homicide were femicidal motive (38%), sexual assault (19%), mutilation (7%), excessive force (38%), body found nude (23%), proximate methods (e.g. beating; 64%), multiple methods (18%), and femicidal contexts (57%). Other variables did not differ significantly in male-on-female killings or were more common among the other types of homicide.

Table 2. Comparing proportion of SGRMIs in homicides by perpetrator–victim gender, 1985–2012 (N = 4839).a

Results in Table 3 show the average number of potential SGRMIs is also significantly higher, on average, in male-on-female killings (8.126) compared to other homicides, consistent with the expected increased presence of SGRMIs in killings most closely aligned with femicide. As such, the SGRMIs vary across the gender combinations with male-perpetrated/female-victim killings being the most distinct, supporting their potential utility in differentiating femicide and other homicides.

... article continued below...



Table 3. Average number of gender-based motives/indicators present by perpetrator–victim gender Ontario, Canada, 1985–2012 (N = 4839).a

Given the above, then, how accessible are the SGRMIs from traditional data sources? Table 4 shows 39 of the 52 SGRMIs that were available for examination in the current study, representing 75% of those identified in the protocol. This demonstrates one level of accessibility: the variables were included in the study and information was available for at least some cases from the data sources accessed. However, the more valid indicator of accessibility – how often information was available for each SGRMI – proved to be weak in the data examined for the total sample as well as across perpetrator–victim combinations. Of specific interest, given the study focus, was available information for male-perpetrator/female-victim killings. Missing information ranged from a low of 3% for victim age to a high of 96% for perpetrator history of child abuse. In other words, information on age of victim was almost always available, but information on perpetrator history of child abuse was seldom available.


Table 4. Accessibility of 39 gender-related motives/indicators for femicide, Ontario, 1985–2012 (N = 4839).a

While minimal information was expected for the latter and some other variables (e.g. perpetrator mental health, substance abuse history), more information was expected for other SGRMIs given their relevance to femicide. For example, despite research showing that recent separation is a risk factor for intimate partner femicide, information for this variable was missing in 66% of the cases – a similar proportion to the other gender combinations for which it is less likely to be a risk factor. Further, sexual assault was missing in more male-perpetrator/female-victim cases (28%) compared to the other combinations despite the increased likelihood of its presence in the male-on-female killings. Finally, overall, the proportion of missing information was somewhat lower for incident indicators compared to victim, perpetrator, and pre-incident indicators. This provides some tentative support for the fact that the investigatory focus remains on the incidents themselves rather than the broader relationship context and surrounding circumstances, which is especially problematic for intimate partner femicide.

In summary, while accessibility is high because many variables were the focus of data collection in data sources examined, the proportion of missing information – the second and stronger accessibility measure – is low for many, often crucial SGRMIs. We acknowledge that it is not always possible to know why data were absent – it was not a fact in the case, was not a focus of the investigation, was not mentioned, or was not recorded. Except for the first reason – not a fact in the case – the other explanations may be attributed to the reality that administrative data are not compiled for research. Therefore, information not seen as relevant by those investigating or prosecuting will not be routinely collected and recorded. However, many of these SGRMIs would be relevant to the criminal justice process and so it begs the question as to why the data are not recorded and where these facts get recorded, if not in official records, when used for prosecution and sentencing. The answer to this question is crucial given that high proportions of missing data pose difficulties for more systematically documenting SGRMIs which, in turn, inform the development of femicide prevention initiatives. Below, we look to the concept of public patriarchy (Walby, 1989, 1990) and the ongoing gender data bias to better understand this situation.


Data on femicide remain difficult to access and collect locally and globally (Dawson et al., 2018, 2019; Marcuello-Servós et al., 2016; Walby et al., 2017; Walklate et al., 2019; Weil et al., 2018), especially in some world regions (e.g. South Africa, Latin America) and for some groups of women and girls (e.g. Indigenous, immigrants and refugees, women living in rural and remote regions, women with disabilities). For many countries, basic data collection remains the best-case scenario (e.g. sex of victim/perpetrator, cause of death), but these data are often collected by official agencies and not easily accessible by researchers, advocates, or violence prevention organizations. The current study demonstrates the utility of SGRMIs for distinguishing femicide from other types of homicide. Therefore, this is crucial information for femicide research and related prevention initiatives. However, the study also underscores that many important contextual factors related to femicide are not regularly or routinely included as part of data collection efforts given that one-quarter (25%) of the potential SGRMIs identified by the protocol were not available in the database examined.9 Furthermore, there were significant and high proportions of missing information for many of the existing variables. As such, we argue that SGRMIs must become a routine part of data collection efforts by official responding agencies (e.g. police, prosecution) and other state organizations (e.g. statistical agencies), which requires an emphasis on prevention goals rather than solely administrative needs.

It could be argued that the results of this study are unique to the database examined and, since findings cannot be generalized more broadly to other countries, the situation may be better elsewhere. However, we argue that the implications of the current study’s findings remain important for at least two key reasons. First, an examination of femicide was the project’s initial and primary focus (Crawford et al., 1992, 1997; Gartner et al., 1999) and remains an ongoing priority (Dawson, 2016). Therefore, existing empirically-based research on the killing of women by men informed the project’s development and data collection instrument, emphasizing variables relevant to understanding femicide (e.g. sexual violence, prior police contact, separation). In addition, data collection covers close to four decades with information triangulated from multiple data sources, including coroner/medical examiner records, Crown attorney files, court documents, and media coverage. Thus, the database is unique for both its original focus on femicide specifically, compared to official data sources, and its comprehensive coverage – to the extent possible – drawing from multiple sources. As such, the missing variables and information are even more concerning.

Second, while not generalizable, the study’s results reflect those from other research on homicide, including research that has specifically examined missing data. These studies have underscored the ongoing difficulties documenting homicide despite it being perceived as the most reliable form of violence on which to gather information (e.g. Riedel and Regoeczi, 2004).10 With respect to femicide specifically, in an extensive review of the feasibility of using administrative data, Walby et al. (2017) found that some important information for understanding gender-related violence was collected by some countries, but completeness of data was not always consistent, similar to our argument about data accessibility. Further, they noted that data which could deepen an understanding of femicide – and prevention – were less routinely collected (e.g. sexual elements, gendered motivations).

Given the results of the current study and what is known about the situation globally (UNODC, 2018; Walby et al., 2017), we need to ask why data important to the prevention of femicide, and male violence against women and girls generally, are not systematically and routinely collected. Drawing from Walby’s (1989, 1990) concept of public patriarchy, we argue that a key contributor is the historical and ongoing impacts of patriarchal social structures, including historical and contemporary decision-makers for whom the collection of these data was and is not seen as a priority. These same decision-makers continue to act as gatekeepers of these data, when it is available, deciding who and how the data will be used.

Defining patriarchy as a ‘system of social structures, and practices in which men dominate, oppress, and exploit women’, Walby (1989) theorized that there are two major forms of patriarchy: private and public. Private patriarchy excludes women from most areas of social life except the household whereas public patriarchy does not exclude women from certain areas but rather subordinates them in all areas. The form of patriarchy most prevalent today, similar to what Walby (1989) argued about Britain at the time, is public patriarchy, which impacts what we know, and what we seek to know, about social life and related phenomena, including male violence against women and girls. For example, the criminal justice system is a patriarchal, traditionally masculine institution and, as such, the recording of data for police investigations and prosecutions will reflect this fact. Underscoring this point, despite feminist research demonstrating the importance of understanding relationships between victims and perpetrators in preventing domestic violence, this study showed that the investigatory focus – at least as represented by available recorded data – remains on the incidents themselves rather than the broader relationship context and surrounding circumstances.

Therefore, the ongoing impacts of public patriarchy as described by Walby (1989, 1990) produces a gendered data bias, which has, most recently, been highlighted by Caroline Criado Perez in her book Invisible Women: Exposing Data Bias in a World Designed for Men (2019). Specifically, whether intended or not, Perez argues, women’s lives are put at risk because data have primarily been based on, or generated for and by, men and this situation largely continues today. With respect to homicide specifically, we argue that data collection instruments were initially designed to capture what are (and remain) the greater proportion of male-on-male homicide and this continues to put women and girls at risk of male violence. We use Canada as an illustrative example of why policy-makers must reconceptualize the purpose and goals of data collection and analyses to address the historical, current, and emerging data gaps identified by feminist researchers and others concerned with the prevention of male violence against women and girls. Arguably, the situation as described in Canada represents one of the ‘best-case’ scenarios for data collection on femicide globally and is similar for many peer countries (e.g. Australia) or world regions (Europe). The ongoing data gaps identified, however, mean that there remain significant research and data challenges that will be even more pronounced in many other countries and world regions.

While the killing of all women and girls (and men and boys) is included as a core focus of data collection for Statistic Canada’s Homicide Survey, data are limited, not easily accessible, and have little focus on justice and accountability. Despite the fact that women and girls face the most danger from men they know – male partners and family members – few variables specifically capture SGRMIs on a consistent basis (e.g. sexual elements, prior violence in the relationship by male partners, role of separate/estrangement, prior police contacts or court orders, other system contacts, the presence of children and stepchildren and so on).

As one example, while the variable ‘history of family violence’ was added to the Homicide Survey in 1991, it focuses on family violence more broadly (e.g. spousal abuse, child or parent battering) between family members, and does not capture the direction of the violence.11 Therefore, it is not known whether the accused, the victim, or both perpetrated the violence. Furthermore, if there were multiple homicide victims, it is only necessary for the accused to have been previously violent against one family member to record a history of family violence. Finally, a history of family violence is not available for homicides that occurred between dating partners (Burczycka and Conroy, 2018), likely because the variable label is ‘a history of family violence’. In addition, while information on prior criminal convictions is collected for both victims and accused, there is no reliable way to determine if these were domestic violence-related convictions because there is no such offense in the Canadian Criminal Code. Therefore, despite prior violence against the victim being one of the most common SGRMIs for femicide, the Homicide Survey is not able to adequately, or consistently, capture this information as currently designed.

The Homicide Survey also does not collect case-based information on the criminal justice processing of a homicide that can link characteristics of the victims, the accused or the incidents to sanctions imposed. Beyond the initial charge laid – which often changes – outcomes of the court process – if the offender did not die by suicide – are not consistently recorded anywhere in Canada (e.g. conviction, sentence, not criminally responsible by reason of mental disorder) so that patterns in punishments by case characteristics or those involved could be examined. As such, it is difficult if not impossible to understand how society – in this case, represented by the criminal justice system – responds to these crimes nationally or how this may vary by victims and perpetrators. In fact, it is well recognized that little attention is given to variation in official responses to crime across Canadian jurisdictions, and internationally, despite recognition that courts operate in distinct environments impacting how cases are processed and disposed (Roberts, 1999; Tonry, 2007; Ulmer, 2012). The relative impunity of some femicide perpetrators, including state actors, has been an ongoing concern in many world regions and the lack of focus and related data on investigations, prosecutions, and convictions of perpetrators globally has been noted by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women (ACUNS, 2018).

Adding to the complexity of data collection in Canada and its ability to understand sex/gender-related violence against women and girls, as of January 2019, Statistics Canada’s Uniform Crime Reporting Survey (UCR), which also collects aggregate homicide statistics, has switched from gathering data based on the category of ‘sex’ to a category of ‘gender’. This means the ‘female gender’ includes persons whose current gender was reported as female, including cisgender and transgender persons who were reported as being female, and the ‘male gender’ category includes anyone who identifies as male including cisgender and transgender persons who were reported as being male.12 There is also a category for persons who identify as gender diverse which includes persons whose ‘current gender was not reported exclusively as male or female’ including those ‘who were reported as being unsure of their gender, persons who were reported as both male and female, or neither male nor female’. Earlier surveys captured whether a victim or an accused was ‘male’ or ‘female’, which remains the case with the most recent Homicide Survey that uses the term ‘sex’ of the victim and accused, although there was limited focus on this variable (Roy and Marcellus, 2019).

Given the increasing recognition of non-binary gender and transgender identity, changes to the collection of data are warranted. However, the approach that seems to have been adopted, at least for the UCR with the removal of sex-based categories, will make it increasingly difficult to accurately track male violence against females and violence against transgender persons, including transphobic femicide. The latter data were already difficult to collect given that previous survey instruments in most countries did not typically provide the space to capture gender identity or expression.

Domestic violence death reviews, primarily operating in coroner and medical examiner offices in many Canadian jurisdictions, have sought to fill some of the above data gaps, focusing more specifically on killings of women by current/former partners, the most common type of femicide in most world regions (UNODC, 2018). Depending on time and resources, some review initiatives could access a variety of data sources, producing a more complete picture of femicide at least as it occurs between intimate partners. In fact, for cases of intimate partner femicide-suicide, review initiatives may be the only mechanism to comprehensively investigate these killings given there will be no criminal proceedings. Not all Canadian provinces or territories currently have these review mechanisms, however, creating an inequity in data availability – a situation reflective of some other countries where these reviews operate (e.g. Australia, United States; Dawson, 2017).

Further, the primary goal of these review initiatives is to examine intimate partner homicide (involving both female and male victims) and, while some initiatives include children killed in the context of domestic violence and third-party collateral victims, many femicides are not captured. For example, there would be no reviews of women killed by non-intimates (e.g. strangers, friends, acquaintances) or in other contexts (e.g. gang involvement, sex trade workers, human trafficking, organized crime) unless somehow linked to domestic violence. While the situation is similar in other countries, this is particularly concerning in Canada where research has shown that Indigenous women and girls are also often killed by male acquaintances and strangers, and more likely to be killed by a stranger than non-Indigenous women and girls (Legal Strategy Coalition on Violence Against Indigenous Women, 2015; National Inquiry, 2019; NWAC, 2010). These femicides fall outside the mandates of most, if not all, domestic violence death review initiatives. It is expected that Indigenous women and girls, as well as other marginalized and/or vulnerable groups of women and girls, are similarly absent from the focus of such reviews in other countries as well.

Finally, the number of cases and the materials reviewed, the voices heard, and the stakeholders and experts represented at the review table are also variable across jurisdictions (Sheehy, 2017). Therefore, while the prevention focus of domestic violence death reviews is crucial and can contribute significantly to enhancing data to inform prevention, particularly around risk and safety, the reviews themselves exclude many types of femicide, vary significantly in focus and quality, and do not examine justice and accountability outcomes, the latter of which is also important to prevention (ACUNS, 2018).


The above gaps in official data sources have been highlighted by the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women, who has been consistently calling on countries, and Canada, to improve data collection on femicide, including the establishment of femicide watches or observatories (ACUNS, 2017).13 Recent international work has identified strategies to improve availability, collection, and monitoring of femicide data (Vives-Cases et al., 2016; Weil et al., 2018). These include ‘political will, technical specific requirements and the involvement of different agencies – governments, mass media, police bodies, courts and professionals, who are in charge of identifying, registering and monitoring’ (Vives-Cases et al., 2016: 9). Priority clusters of actions were also identified and, according to experts’ assessment, ‘institutionalizing national databases’ was found to be most relevant, but data extracted from media coverage of femicide were judged to be most feasible. Various countries and jurisdictions have begun to extract data from these sources; however, these efforts need to be supported by political will and complemented by other data sources, which requires the reconceptualization of data collection by governments as a prevention priority, not merely as an administrative requirement (Dawson et al., 2019). However, political will cannot be generated, at least to the degree necessary, where public patriarchy continues to largely inform the hierarchy of needs related to data collection and analyses.

Given the lack of variables and measures in current data collection instruments globally that can assist with femicide prevention, the lives of women and girls continue to be put at risk. Countries are not collecting the right data or, if these data exist, official gatekeepers are not making this information accessible to researchers and organizations with a focus on prevention. As such, despite some large-scale data efforts, most countries and world regions continue to face similar challenges in documenting femicide accurately. Therefore, a crucial question is: if we cannot document femicide in a reliable and valid manner, what is the hope of ever documenting, consistently and accurately, other forms of sexual violence or gender-related violence against women and girls? Weil et al. (2018) argue that we cannot do so until there is public acknowledgment, legitimation, and recognition of femicide and other forms of violence against women and girls as phenomena worthy of study and attention. We argue that this further requires identifying and challenging the continuing impacts of public patriarchy in policies surrounding male violence against women and girls which creates a hierarchy of ‘worthy subjects’ and, subsequently, decides how these subjects will be examined, including data collected and analyzed. To begin, Walby et al. (2017) argue that a basic starting point is the routine collection of five gender dimensions of violence: sex of the victim, sex of the perpetrator, their relationship, sexual aspects to the violence, and gender motivations.

Even with the challenges described above, while femicide is rare compared to other forms of violence against women, it allows for better documentation of the incidents and those involved. The result is more nuanced information that can inform prevention initiatives within and across countries and aid in monitoring trends and patterns to identify emerging research, policy, and practice priorities. This information can also inform us more broadly about the prevention of non-lethal forms of violence against women and girls. Rates of lethal violence, like femicide, are often used as a social barometer of sorts for other forms of violence, signaling positive or negative trends or social change. Without clear and consistent data on femicide, however, it will be difficult to assess whether efforts to reduce gender-related killings and violence against women and girls are effective despite this objective being a clear focus of Sustainable Development Goals.


The authors would like to acknowledge the editors of Current Sociology and the peer reviewers whose critical feedback greatly improved the clarity of this manuscript.

This work was supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada [Grant Nos. 435-2013-0273 and 435-2019-0405] and the Canada Research Chair Program.

Myrna Dawson https://orcid.org/0000-0002-6688-6081

1.Countries include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Uruguay, and Venezuela which now all have some form of femicide legislation.

2.It is not possible to do a thorough review of this literature; therefore, we have drawn attention to the particular detail which is provided in the protocol and some other research (e.g. Russell and Harmes, 2001; Weil et al., 2018). edited book as separate entry?

3.These include intimate femicide, non-intimate femicide, child femicide, family femicide, femicide because of association, unorganized systematic sexual femicide, organized systematic sexual femicide, femicide because of prostitution, femicide because of trafficking, femicide because of smuggling, transphobic femicide, lesbophobic femicide, racist femicide, and femicide because of female genital mutilation (Sarmiento et al., 2014: 15, 16).

4.Data collection is currently completed up to and including 2012 and is ongoing for subsequent years. Data collection is part of a larger project funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

5.This analysis includes all cases where perpetrator and victim sex were identified. Cases with missing victim or perpetrator sex are not included.

6.Because we are examining the potential for SGRMIs to distinguish femicide from homicides, we use the terms ‘female victim homicide’, ‘male victim homicide’, or ‘killing’ and femicide where appropriate in later analyses.

7.Distributions for perpetrator–victim gender combinations in Ontario are similar to patterns in Canada (Mulligan et al., 2016).

8.Because of small numbers of female-perpetrator/female-victim homicides, all killings with female perpetrators were collapsed into one category.

9.These include sexual orientation of victims or perpetrators, violence against previous victims by perpetrators, motive related to group territory and/or group initiation, victim exploitation, and so on. While the authors of the protocol argue that some SGRMIs may be regionally specific which may be a partial explanation for some factors, many factors are relevant to femicide globally.

10.Homicide statistics are perceived as a relatively reliable indicator of the actual number of killings because most are reported to police, reducing reporting bias inherent in other types of violent crime. Further, homicides are generally investigated more thoroughly than other crimes, making available information more accurate and detailed. Despite this, the quality of homicide data will vary by country and world region.


12.For classification of sex and gender, see: www23.statcan.gc.ca/imdb/p3VD.pl?Function=getVD&TVD=467245&CVD=467245&CLV=0&MLV=1&D=1

13.In Canada, the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence, University of Guelph, established the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability in response to the UN call (see www.femicideincanada.ca).

ACUNS (Academic Council of the United Nations System) (2017) Femicide Volume VII: Establishing a Femicide Watch in Every Country. Vienna: ACUNS.
See article: https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/0011392120946359

Author biographies

Myrna Dawson is a Professor of Sociology and Director of the Centre for the Study of Social and Legal Responses to Violence (CSSLRV), University of Guelph. Her research focuses on trends and patterns in, and responses to, violence. She is Director of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability and Co-Director of the Canadian Domestic Homicide Prevention Initiative with Vulnerable Populations.

Michelle Carrigan is a JD Candidate at the University of Ottawa and a Research Associate at the CSSLRV. She has a Master’s in Criminology and Criminal Justice Policy from the University of Guelph. Her MA work examined femicide legislation in Latin America and the potential impact of legislation on femicide rates in the region. Her research interests include violence against women and femicide, women’s rights, and access to justice.


Reply to Discussion


Violence Prevention List

Click here for violence prevention list

Click on rose


© 2021   Created by ROSE.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service