WAVE Statement on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women 2022

Statement on Femicide

How European governments sustain a culture of GBV

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the Women Against Violence Europe (WAVE) Network is taking a stance to remind the states’ responsibility to tackle the widespread phenomenon of femicide.  

Femicide is the most extreme form of violence against women and girls, it is a form of murder in which the victim, is killed because of their gender. It is not an incidental or random killing. It is the ultimate act of violence against women and girls which finds its root cause in the beliefs, gender stereotypes, and prejudices habitual to patriarchal societies.

“What is not Named does not Exist”: Defining and Documenting Femicide [1]

Although several NGOs and international institutions[2], have pushed for the adoption of a common definition of femicide and the collection of administrative, comprehensive, and disaggregated data on this crime, there is still no standard agreement on the definition, no effective counting and documentation mechanism, and no meaningful data collection of femicide in European countries.[3] Some states are even resisting to use of the term femicide. [4]

As highlighted by the United Nations General Assembly: “while domestic violence, family violence, and intimate-partner violence are all relevant categories for understanding the phenomenon of femicide, none of them is sufficient as a stand-alone proxy for femicide. Methodologies should also allow for the inclusion of other types of femicide, particularly those connected to hate crimes against vulnerable groups such as lesbians, transgender women, gender-diverse persons, and sex workers.”[5]

Women’s Specialist Services: Key Actors in Breaking the Cycle Of Violence

With no official recording, we often rely on initiatives of civil society and on Women’s Specialist Services (WSS) to collect and raise awareness on femicides.

Women’s Specialist Services are essential public health services that ensure that women and their children affected by violence against women and domestic violence can survive and thrive. WSS are often the first agencies identifying women at high risk and men whose extreme possessive, coercive controlling behaviour and/or stalking suggests they may represent a serious threat to women’s lives. Women’s specialist services are vital in preventing femicides as they provide timely support and offer a way out to survivors.[6]

However, the work of women’s specialist services is threatened by funding cuts and staff shortages due to a gender-neutral political backlash against women’s rights.[7]

Legislative Change and Gender-Sensitive Policies

Currently, the European Parliament is discussing a draft proposal for an EU Directive on combating gender-based Violence Against Women and Domestic Violence. The Directive will create a dedicated EU criminal law instrument to mobilise all Member States in developing a coordinated approach to safeguarding women and children from gender-based and domestic violence, and it proposes the criminalization of five crimes: rape, FGM, non-consensual sharing of intimate or manipulated material, cyber harassment, and cyber incitement to violence or hatred. Regrettably, the proposal shies away from including femicide as the criminal offence it is. Furthermore, it proposes a data collection system that is less comprehensive in scope than that already described in the Istanbul Convention and the reporting parameters followed by the Group of Experts on Action against Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (GREVIO)[8].

WAVE encourages European countries to adopt a holistic definition of femicide that is not limited exclusively to (cis) women. We urge states to continuously implement comparable, disaggregated, and comprehensive data collection systems and monitor the trend of femicide to develop meaningful prevention strategies. States must provide sufficient funding to Women’s Specialist Services and increase their efforts in implementing the standards of the Istanbul Convention. Furthermore, we recommend that states enforce cohesive and targeted training for all professionals coming into contact with women and girls experiencing GBV, promote comprehensive sexual education, and campaigns to disrupt the culture that sustains gender-based violence against women and girls and to stop impunity. Finally, we compel the EU Parliament to meaningfully include femicide as one of the punishable crimes and concretely include prevention measures in the current proposal for an EU Directive on combating VAW and DV.

All states have a duty to protect women’s human rights and lives.

[1]Spain’s equality minister, Irene Montero, cited in: Spain says it is first in Europe to officially count all femicides | Spain | The Guardian.

[2] Such as the European Observatory on Femicide, UNODC and UN Women, European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, WHO, and the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE).

[3] EIGE (2021) Measuring femicide in the EU and internationally: an assessment.

[4]An EU-wide approach to gender-based violence is taking shape but gaps remain https://www.euronews.com/my-europe/2022/09/21/an-eu-wide-approach-to-gender-based-violence-is-taking-shape-but-gaps-remain.

[5] UN General Assembly (2021), Seventy-sixth session, Violence against women, its causes and consequences (A/76/132) https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/N21/187/50/pdf/N2118750.pdf?OpenElement; see also ILGA’s submission to the Special Rapporteur on violence against women (2021) the-international-lesbian-gay.pdf (ohchr.org); Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, Rashida Manjoo, 23 May 2012. A/HRC/20/16 – E – A/HRC/20/16 – https://documents-dds-ny.un.org/doc/UNDOC/GEN/G12/136/00/PDF/G1213600.pdf?OpenElement.

[6] Ibd.

[7] WAVE (2021) Country Report, p.7.

[8] GREVIO is the independent expert body responsible for monitoring the implementation of the Council of Europe Convention on Preventing and Combating Violence against Women and Domestic Violence (Istanbul Convention) by the Parties.