Governments, civil society organizations and academia around the world call for collecting data on femicide to prevent and respond to violence against women
12 April 2022 – Government and civil society representatives, women's rights advocates, feminists, and academia across the UNECE region joined the Regional Forum on Sustainable Development side event “One femicide watch in every country to end the shadow pandemic,” organized by the Government of Spain and UN Women, to shed light on experiences and best practices on the establishment of femicide watches. The event, which took place virtually on the 7th of April, evoked the United Nations Femicide Watch Initiative that urges states and encourages human rights institutions and civil society to analyze and share data for investigating and prosecuting cases of femicide.
Femicide, or the killing of a woman because of their sex or gender, is not specifically defined as a crime in the criminal code of many states. Instead, cases of femicide are often hidden among homicide statistics, making data on femicide difficult to access. As a result, statistics on femicide are often not collected or reported, despite the fact that accurate and consistent statistics are crucial to understanding and responding to trends of gender-related killings and related violence.
Reem Alsalem, United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, noted that progress has been made in putting in place observatories on violence against women or femicide watch bodies dedicated to the issue of femicide or gender-related killings.
“However, this progress continues to be uneven, and while some countries and regions have put significant resources in setting these up, others have done very little. I will continue to support the efforts to create these but also encourage states, regional organizations, and human rights mechanisms to strengthen collaboration with civil society organizations, and for states also to work together with national human rights institutions, academia and other entities to collect the data and produce information on femicide,” stated Alsalem.
Panellists in the side event shared information about ongoing efforts to address the gap in the availability of femicide data around the world and underscored best practices for the establishment of femicide watches.
Ekaterine Skhiladze, Deputy Public Defender, spoke about the success of the femicide prevention watch established in Georgia, concluding that the high rate of femicide is closely related to gender inequality as well as to ineffective policy on violence against women and shortcomings in the victim assistance system. “Therefore, it is crucial to undertake important steps and to provide appropriate assistance to victims, and a particular importance must be paid to the analysis of existing practices and the development of femicide monitoring mechanisms around the globe, as it is a very important tool to prevent femicide in our countries,” highlighted Skhiladze.
However, in October 2020, following the outbreak of COVID-19, the UN relaunched a call urging states to systematically collect and publish comparable data on femicide. Michele Ribotta, UN Women Representative to Albania, highlighted the importance of establishing femicide watches or observatories to inform policy and law-making to prevent and respond to the most extreme form of discrimination against women. “The institutionalization of mechanisms to monitor femicide, such as femicide watches or observatories, is a powerful tool to reveal the scope of the issue and put in place evidence-based responses in a coordinated and collective manner. This event aims to re-invigorate a call to states to collect and analyze annual and comparable data for prevention of and response to violence against women,” mentioned Michele Ribotta.
Victoria Rosell, Government Delegate against Gender-Based Violence at the Spanish Ministry of Equality, highlighted that this event is a good opportunity to reiterate the government’s responsibilities in terms of collecting data on the killings of women. “This is our responsibility as a government, as a state, and as a ministry. We must continue with this agenda in 2022 because femicide is the most extreme of crimes committed against women. For that reason, we have to collect all relevant information in order to eradicate these crimes,” pointed out the Government Delegate.
Most countries in the UNECE region collect and report only the most basic data on homicide. Official data-collection instruments very often lack critical measures, variables, accuracy and consistency that could assist the prevention of femicide, hampering the access of researchers, advocates, service providers and policymakers to the right information.
In this regard, Myrna Dawson, Director of the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability, spoke about the importance of creating and mobilizing knowledge for effective violence prevention through research to inform policy making. Dawson also emphasized that data collection on violence against women and girls cannot just be an administrative exercise for states and governments. “Data collection must be re-conceptualized as a tool for prevention. If it's not a tool for prevention, why are we collecting data at all? And when we do begin to collect data for the goal of prevention, these data need to be made more accessible to those working to prevent femicide and other forms of violence against women and girls. Collecting inadequate data and not making data available to researchers continues to put the lives of women and girls at risk globally,” underlined Dawson.
The speakers of the event underscored the consequences of underestimating the scope of the femicide pandemic, which include misreporting, investing insufficient resources and deprioritizing multiagency coordination – ultimately putting the lives of women and girls at risk. It was agreed that the more data available about the killings of women and girls, the more likely that states will be able to correctly identify femicides.
Kosana Beker, Program Director of Women's Association FemPlatz from Serbia, underlined that there is no legal incrimination against femicide in Western Balkan countries. As a result, civil society organizations work to put pressure on states to incriminate femicide as a separate criminal act so that it can be effectively monitored. “We are also advocating for a regional femicide watch because, within the region, we have similar issues and legal frameworks, including criminal laws. We do not consider the establishment of a femicide watch as our end goal but rather a minimum requirement from our states,” emphasized Beker.
“I join all of you in continuing to call on states to establish femicide watches or observatories on violence against women and also to collect and publish each year comparable data on femicide or gender related killings as part of the larger body of data on violence against women,” concluded the United Nations Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.