Redefining an isolated incident
Despite femicide being identified globally as a leading cause of premature death for women, little research has been made into this issue in the UK. Women’s Aid are working to change that.
Its key findings were that between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2015:
The killings of women and girls by men are not isolated incidents;
It is known that 936 women were killed by men in England and Wales;
Most women who are killed are killed by a man known to them. 598 (64 per cent) women were killed by men identified as current or former partners;
Women are at significant risk at the point of separation from an abusive partner;
152 (76 per cent) of the women killed by their ex-partner or ex-spouse were killed within the first year that followed their separation;
Women of any age can be victims of femicide. 149 women aged over 66 were killed in England and Wales. 50 of these women (34 per cent) were killed by their partner or spouse. 34 of them (23 per cent) were killed by their sons;
The murder weapon most used in cases of femicide was a sharp instrument.
A sharp instrument was used in 426 cases of femicide; 290 of those cases were domestic intimate-partner femicides.
218 (23.3 per cent) of the cases of femicide were committed by men not related to their victims e.g. by a friend, colleague, client, co-worker, neighbour, stranger.
31 women were killed in sexually motivated attacks. 20 (64 per cent) of the women knew the perpetrator; he was an acquaintance or friend.
10 of the women (32 per cent) were killed by a stranger;
21 of the women killed were known to be involved in prostitution, and 13 (61.9 per cent) of these women were killed by their clients.
The report’s key recommendations for the government:
Support the Femicide Census with the collection of data on femicides, which is key to defining and understanding the causes and consequences of men’s violence against women, including femicide.
Ensure that national data on homicide reflects the gendered nature of these crimes, by collecting comparative data on the sex and age of the perpetrator and victim, on their relationship, on any previous convictions relating to abuse or violence and by disaggregating across police force area.
The key findings identify trends in men’s violence against women and girls; therefore a significant improvement to data collection will help to further understand how femicide can be prevented.
Ensure that specialist domestic abuse and sexual violence services have sustainable and long term funding and that funding is available for specialist projects for women to exit prostitution.
Recognise that post-separation is a significantly heightened risk period for women leaving abusive relationships.
Refuge provision: (i) include refuges resourced to support women facing multiple disadvantages such as problematic substance use, prostitution and mental health problems; and (ii) increase support for black and Minority Ethnic (BME) led organisations that provide refuge for BME women. This will mean women are more likely to safely escape violence.
Its key recommendations for the police:
Police and Crime Commissioners, Chief Constables and the College of Policing should work together to improve the learning from domestic homicides and contribute effectively to, and learn from, the information held within the Femicide Census.
Police training should include information and learning from the findings of the Femicide Census to improve their response to women at risk of femicide, ensuring the seriousness of threats of violence and killing are recognised, taken seriously and perpetrators are prosecuted. Training should also challenge stereotypes and reduce victim-blaming.
Its key recommendations for the criminal justice system:
An improvement to sentencing is imperative. Appropriate sanctions for perpetrators of all forms of men’s violence against women and girls, including perpetrators of femicide, sends out the message that violence against women and girls will be taken seriously and be rigorously punished by the law.
The Crown Prosecuting Service (CPS) must review charging in cases of femicide, and the Sentencing Council must review sentencing for femicide perpetrators to ensure effective sanctions are in place to hold perpetrators to account.
And its key recommendations for the media:
There should be appropriate reporting of femicide cases with due respect to the victim and her family.
News reports should not be overly sympathetic to perpetrators, privileging the perpetrator’s story.
Women should not be written out of reports – nor should women be defined one-dimensionally by their relationship to men/families.
Femicide – “the misogynistic killing of women by men” – has been identified globally as a leading cause of premature death for women.
It is the most extreme manifestation of men’s violence against women, and yet the data available is limited.
There have been calls from the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women to all member states to establish a Femicide Watch, and to take a holistic approach to their national laws, policies and actual implementation, and other factors that perpetuate discrimination and violence.
This report highlights the need for more effective action to prevent and tackle men’s violence against women across the board.
It is crucial that the government makes every effort to prevent violence against women, and address the cultural and societal attitudes that normalise male dominance and foster the sexism and inequality that underpin men’s violence against women and girls.