Femicide – Concept, types, machismo and gender violence

We explain what is a femicide or feminicide, its causes and relationship with machismo. In addition, the situation of femicides in Mexico.

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Femicide is the murder of a woman for the simple fact of being a woman.

What is a femicide?

When we speak of femicide or femicide, we refer to the murder of a woman simply because she is a woman. It is a hate crime, which occurs within the framework of gender violence, that is, the submission to humiliating, cruel or painful treatment of an individual motivated by their gender or sexual orientation.

In fact, femicide is often accompanied by hostile attitudes, beatings, torture, rape and other criminal behaviors against women and girls. Usually It is considered part of the set of hate crimes motivated by gender violence, legislated according to the same legal order as the murders of homosexuals or transgender people.

On the other hand, it is part of a social and political reading that highlights the patriarchal order of societies, which subjects women to a secondary place compared to men. In this sense, the different schools of feminism play an important role in making the cultural context that allows, encourages and tolerates femicide.

Femicide is the most extreme expression of machismo or from the call rape culture. In the specific case of femicide, tolerance of violence against women is evident, which also includes rape, discrimination and physical gender violence, especially if they occur within the framework of an affective relationship.

Femicide or femicide?

Yes OK both formulas are commonly acceptable, and both are registered in the Dictionary of the Spanish Language of the RAE, preference is usually given to the first term, since the second reveals its origin as Anglicism (loan of the English femicide).

However, there are those who attribute to the first term a more general meaning, linked to the term genocide, and going on to mean a significant amount of femicides produced in the same country without the State taking action on the matter or even making the crime committed visible.

Origin of the term feminicide

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Femicide occurs in a greater context of sexist violence.

The term femicide was coined by South African feminist activist and writer Diana Russell, who has dedicated her life to making visible and fighting gender inequalities. This term was defined as “the murder of women by men motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure or sense of possession towards women”.

Russell herself explains that “it represents the end of a continuum of anti-female terror that includes a variety of verbal and physical abuses, such as rape, torture, sexual slavery (particularly through prostitution), incestuous or extrafamilial child sexual abuse, physical and emotional beatings ”.

The term has a history in the English language since the beginning of the 19th century, but began to be used in a popular way since 1976 when Russell used it before the International Tribunal for Crimes against Women.

Since then, it has been used extensively in the 1990s and has also been introduced to Spanish, as a result of the visibility of the massive murders of women in Ciudad Juárez, on the border between Mexico and the United States.

Types of femicide

Usually a distinction is made between two forms of femicide:

  • Intimate femicide. That which occurs within the framework of a couple relationship, current or past: women murdered by their husbands, boyfriends, ex-husbands or ex-boyfriends. It is also the case if the crime is committed by parents, uncles, brothers or other types of relatives.
  • Non-intimate femicide. That which occurs without a sentimental relationship of any kind between the victim and the murderer, nor is there a kinship link between them.

However, it is also possible to talk about other categories such as lesbicide, when it comes to crimes against homosexual women, committed as punishment for their sexual choice; or also of transfemicide, when it comes to the murder of a woman trans (or transsexual) for the simple reason that it is.

Causes of femicide

It is not simple to give the causes of the existence of femicide in today’s society. Broadly speaking, the most logical explanation points to a patriarchal culture that has dominated most human societies since ancient times, and according to which it was usual to consider women as second-class citizens, spoils of war and part of the patrimony of men.

In Athenian democracy, for example, neither women nor slaves could participate in public decisions. In modern Western democracy, the female vote did not take place until the late nineteenth century, and thanks to the struggle of the suffragettes.

In some eastern societies women must be hidden from public view by veils or special costumes. In addition, in some cases she is subject to the final will of her father, and then to that of her husband.

The critical current of feminism has alerted and fought the macho culture for more than a century, achieving important advances in the legal recognition of women, but still very far from a panorama of equality.

In that sense, Femicides are part of the patriarchal culture’s attempts to regain its dominanceIn other words, they are criminal attempts to subject women to a situation of obedience, submission or defenselessness against men.

There are also those who accuse the abundance of testosterone in men as co-responsible for their violent attitudes, especially in those without a formal education that counterbalances their impulses. There is still much debate about it.

Femicide in Mexico

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In 2012, Mexico incorporated the crime of femicide into the penal code.

Mexico has been a sadly illustrious case of femicide ever since in 1993 the mass murders of women of women in Ciudad Juárez were made public.

In 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights sanctioned against the Mexican State, making it responsible for not having taken any type of actions that would bring justice to the aggrieved and their next of kin, especially those of Claudia Ivette González, Esmeralda Herrera Monreal and Laura Berenice Ramos .

Perhaps as a consequence of it, in 2012 Mexico incorporated the crime of femicide into the criminal code, being the first country that proposed the classification of the crime.

It is the most active country in combating this crime. However, in 2016, 1,678 missing youths were quantified, 150 of them minors, which led to the decreeing of a state of alert in the states of Guerrero, Michoacán, Chihuahua, Jalisco and Oaxaca.