Femicide in Latin America

By Nayara Lima

In Latin America, there has been significant progress over the last years with access to education and work, as well as the increase of the active engagement of women in relevant and top positions and roles at work and in politics. Yet, figures and data concerning violence towards women in Latin America remain extremely high and worrisome. This violence against women sometimes leads to extreme expressions, such as rape and femicide.

Femicide is broadly defined by the World Health Organization as the intentional murder of women because they are women[1], and is usually and generally divided into 2 types, depending on the identity of the perpetrator and his relationship with the victim: intimate femicide, which is the murder of a woman committed by a current or a former partner (husband, boyfriend) or a family member; and non-intimate femicide, which is the case when a woman is murdered by someone who does not have an intimate relationship with the victim. No matter the motives that might be invoked by a man for murdering a woman (jealousy, honor, denial in accepting a break up,  etc.), femicide cases have a particular feature in common: they are typically committed in situations where women have less power, or fewer resources to protect themselves from the murder. According to Women’s Aid[2], in the vast majority of the femicide cases analyzed, women have been murdered by their intimate partners, rather than by random violence where they were not targeted specifically just for being women.

Latin America has the highest femicide rates in the world. According to the ‘Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and Caribbean’ (Note for Equality N. 27) issued by the referred UN’s Commission in November 2018[3], at least 2,795 women were victims of femicide in 23 countries of Latin America and Caribbean in 2017. El Salvador is at the top of the list as the country with the highest rate of femicide in Latin America and Caribbean, with more than 10 murders  for every 100,000 women.

A remarkable case called global public attention in 2015 in Argentina, when a 14-year-old girl called Chiara Páez was found dead and buried in the garden of her 16-year-old then boyfriend’s house. She was pregnant and had been beaten to death. This shocking crime motivated thousands of women in Argentina to take to the streets in protest against femicide, sparking a movement called “Ni Una Menos” (“not one less”). This, along with other previous or later cases and initiatives, forced many countries to modify their domestic laws in order to turn femicide into a specific crime.

In Latin America, in particular, these high rates of femicide are often times attributed to the rooted culture of machismo, which has generated what activists call a continuum of patriarchal behavior – a social system in which men hold primary power and predominate in roles of political leadership, moral authority, social privilege and control of property.

We urge nations as a whole and politicians in particular to take a serious look into the problem and to put in place public policies and measures to secure legal and adequate protection and access to justice for women and also to make men appropriately accountable for these crimes. If they are not enough for preventing femicide permanently, these actions could at least contribute to the reduction in the number of cases of violence towards women.


[1] For a more complete analysis of the World Health Organization on the topic in Latin America, see: http://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/77421/WHO_RHR_12.38_eng.pdf;jsessionid=B9E581B5380CDE2E10A07249AAD8937C?sequence=1.

 [2] For more details on the assessment made by the Women’s Aid, see: https://1q7dqy2unor827bqjls0c4rn-wpengine.netdna-ssl.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/The-Femicide-Census-Report-published-2017.pdf

 [3] For a complete version of the document, see: https://oig.cepal.org/sites/default/files/nota_27_eng.pdf.

The writer is a Kota Volunteer from Brazil.

Source: https://www.jacobinmag.com/2017/03/argenti...