Femicide: A “Punishment” for being a woman

Recently I came across a comic strip where a car crash takes the life of the driver. The God of Death swoops down and tells him he is dead, however, is about to be reborn and given a new life. Within seconds the driver vanished. To God’s surprise, he was summoned to the very place where the driver was sent to be reborn. He sighed and asked, “Were you born a girl?” The driver answered in affirmative.

Gives a lot to ponder about, right? Though it was intended as a joke, come to consider of it, terminating women by virtue of their gender has become remarkably commonplace that it can comfortably be bantered about. The issue highlighted by the comic strip was that of female infanticide, where a female child is killed plainly because she belongs to the female gender. Unfortunately, it does not stop there. A woman, a member of a District Court, entered the Court as she was to be elevated to the Bar Council Chief. However, a man known to her shoots her and she dies on the spot. Reason for the cold-blooded murder? How can she, being a woman, be elevated to such a high position?

This is what is known as Femicide.

Femicide is known as the killing of a woman or a girl, particularly by a man on account of her gender. Activist and scholar Diana Russell was the first to neologize this term in 1976, hoping that it would help activists fighting to protect women from sex-based hate crimes. With present society adhering to a patriarchal rule, a man is considered superior to a woman and a woman is supposed to surrender to their every need. Take a step outside of that, and you get licensed to be the victim of forms of hate crime. They are raped, subjected to multiple forms of sexual violence and if dissent is born, they are suppressed because apparently, that is what women should do; be uber-obedient and work according to the rules. Even in intimate relationships, if a woman does not adhere to the rules laid out by family members, she is looked down upon and if continued, is subjected to the aforementioned heinous crimes.

Reports reveal that there have been thousands of cases of the same worldwide. The Global Burden of Armed Violence 2014 database indicates that between 2007 and 2012, on an average, 60,000 women were killed violently around the world. In Mexico, in the year 2010, 4 to 6 murders transpired daily. This means approximately, 2500 cases throughout the year. However, it reached its peak in 2019 where cases exceeded 3500. Lastly, between 2012 and 2015 there were an estimated 24,771 dowry deaths in India and Jordan witnessed 15–20 reported “honour” killings every year.

Unfortunately, female infanticide is merely one of the types of femicide that exist. There are countless types of evil that women are subjected to. Talk about varieties!

● Non-Intimate Femicide

● The murder of Aboriginal women and girls

● Genital Mutilation related Femicide

● The murder of Females in the name of “Honor”

● Female Infanticide Foeticide

● Dowry-related femicide

● The murder of women/girls due to Sexual orientation/Gender Identity

● Targeted killing of females in armed conflict

● Organized crime-related femicide

● Intimate Femicide

The most common being Intimate Femicide.

As the name suggests, intimate femicide is committed by the partner of the victim, be it former or current. Out of the reported cases, most fall under this category. It was estimated that in 2017, around 50,000 women and girls were killed by their partner or a family member, according to the UNODC Global Study on Homicide.

There is a high profile case which occurred in Mexico that pricked the world’s conscience and planted inside them the realization of how torturous this crime is. A woman named Ingrid Escamilla was found dead and skinned before being killed by her partner. This led to protestors coming out on streets and splashing red paint on the main door of Palacio Nacional in Mexico. On International Women’s Day, tens of thousands of women disappeared for 24 hours from schools and offices and took part in a nationwide walkout. The movement was known as #UnDíaSinNosotras (“a day without us”), which was a largely leaderless movement to bring to the government’s knowledge, the increasing femicide taking place across the country.

The principal reason is sexual abuse by partners. It is believed that being in an intimate relationship implies consent to engage in sexual activity. Even if a woman is not willing to be physically involved, they are forced to indulge, further driving to sexual abuse. In severe cases, it commences to violence and death of the female or they commit suicide after repeatedly being forced. Another cause, especially seen in India, is dowry. Dowry deaths contribute majorly in female deaths. They are abused, both mentally and physically, for soliciting dowry and ultimately succumb to these tortures. Additionally, there are cases in which women are killed by previous intimate partners to seek vengeance, rejection or blackmail through acid attacks, kidnapping and rape.

To counter this, the primary step society should take is to pull the plug on setting unrealistic standards for women, or coerce them into following orthodox norms and practices. Women are seen as the caretakers of the family while men are viewed as breadwinners. Post marriage, a woman has to forget her dreams and her career to look after the household. In workplaces, they do not secure equal wages despite doing the same work because of society’s conservative outlook- men will always be superior to women. So, if females attempt to protest, fight for equality, have sexual relations before marriage or simply be independent, she is recognised as a blotch on society and hence, crimes like violence and sexual harassment are sanctioned by popular conscience. Society needs to educate both men and women alike about gender equality and need to eradicate the concept of sexism among structures from an early age.

Recently, Ms Šimonović, UN Human Rights expert, urged all countries to take a major step to prevent the nationwide killing of women based on gender by establishing national multidisciplinary prevention bodies or femicide watchdogs /observatories to control violence against women. She further asserted that these bodies will collect data, analyze, then make a list of shortcomings and reasons along with providing measures to prevent such a heinous crime, while also dedicating a day of remembrance to victims so that they are not forgotten. In several countries, observatories have been established which overlook the statistics and measures and provide solutions to overcome these problems. There are also anti-femicide initiatives, women-led organizations etc. working actively to bring these surging numbers down.

All in all, from an early age, society is conditioned and moulded according to society’s yardstick. But the flawed yardstick does not realize that by encouraging this culture, they are inviting hate crimes and doing nothing but promoting them. There are still numerous cases which go unreported. Even if cases are reported, they are so overwhelming in number that it is impossible to focus on each one of them and hence most of them go unnoticed and justice leaves the room.

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