Femicide: A Misogynistic Crime
- Sakshi Iyer
“We can no longer stand by as women are murdered for one reason and one reason only, because they are women. The crime of femicide is growing all over the world and often remains unpunished. It is a human rights violation that is characterized by misunderstanding and impunity”
- Michelle Bachelet
Executive Director, UN
Indian society has always placed women on a higher pedestal and called her 'devi' which is a form of a goddess. It is truly unbelievable that the society which itself was an epitome of women empowerment has leaned towards the patriarchal form of society. Patriarchal society at its inception only meant that the men are head of the family and thus have a dominant position but did not imply that women's existence is insignificant. However, the notion of misogyny has entered patriarchal view of the society, becoming one of the inherent characteristics of patriarchy. The misogynistic view has resulted in the inhuman treatment and cruelty towards women. Moreover,the increase in crimes such as rapes, stalking, sexual assault etc. has compelled us to think whether women are truly safe in this society. Thus, women have fallen from their pedestal and are now the sufferers and victims.
Femicide is the killing of a woman or a girl by a man solely because of her gender. The sole existence of any form of femicide itself signifies hatred against women. Femicide does not restrict itself to killing females but also includes rape, sexual harassment, forced abortions, sexual slavery, female infanticide, and any kind of crime which is directed against women. The word was defined by Diana E.H. Russell who defined it as killing of females by males for being female. The word female gave it a wider scope as to it being a woman, girl, and infant.
Growing Femicide and the reasons for such growth
Femicide is not restricted to any continent or country, even in the pre-pandemic period, femicide existed in almost all parts of world including countries like USA, UK, Japan, etc. Femicide is a hate crime against women. Post pandemic the cases of femicide have risen due to women being caged with violent men because of stay-at-home measures. The women have been forced to live with their partners who are abusing them and due to strict lockdown guidelines it had become impossible for the women to seek any relief. It has also been noted that most of the male predators are those, who are closely connected to the females. The statistics provide that around 500,000 women are murdered every year.
As the world grappled with the negative impact of COVID-19 on women, it was observed that there was an increase in the number of femicide and gender-based violence against women and girls. Moreover, the pandemic caused various funds to be diverted towards COVID relief which were initially provided for women safety. In such cases, women were the worst affected class regarding sexual assault, domestic violence etc. However, such reasons cannot be said to be a direct cause of increase in femicide.
The main reason of increasing rate of femicide is the inability of the law and society to jointly strike down the misogynistic views leading to hatred towards women. There is low sensitisation towards female- related crimes among the people and due to lack of support systems for women, there is hesitancy among them to come forward and report these crimes. Hence most of these gruesome acts are unreported and the data provided is less likely to show the actual percentage of crime. In Countries where patriarchy is adopted, it is observed that such violence against women (VAW) has been embedded and grass-rooted in the society.
Legal Provisions relating to femicide
The usage of the term femicide for killing of females is very uncommon in India. We have gender-neutral laws for most of the offences excluding a few such as stalking, rape etc but there are penal provisions and no such specific term as femicide has been laid down. The Latin American countries have strictly adopted femicide which goes by the name of femicidio or feminicidio. Most of the countries including India have incorporated femicide as a crime within the criminal code itself however certain Latin American countries have formulated comprehensive law for criminalising femicide, but it has not completely eradicated it nevertheless has facilitated in monitoring of such crime while acting as a preventive measure. Moreover, in countries where femicide is not segregated as a specific offence, it can cause misclassification and lead to a lesser punishment. Even though having structured laws would be beneficial for a country like India, it doesn’t seem to have much of a deterrent effect.
On the other hand, stricter implementation of legislation will increase the conviction rate and reduce gender related crimes. Usually in cases of femicide there is neither quick response nor thorough investigation often resulting in lower conviction rates and thus the perpetrators escape. The police personnel, carrying out the investigation, need to be duly sensitized. Women should have certain support groups via NGOs, livelihood programmes so that women are financially stable. All states must collect data with respect to rate of femicide and its growth to analyse kind of measures which would be suitable to eliminate such forms gender-based atrocities.
The question arises, as femicide has become an epidemic, what are the methods to bring it under control? Along with sensitization of femicide it is essential that a proper screening method is devised for the purpose of investigation to detect the pattern of the relationship between the victim and offender. Research must be conducted on how to reduce the inequality prevailing in the place. In countries such as USA where guns are allowed to be kept in the house for self-defence, it is observed that women whose homes are equipped with arms are three times likely to be killed by their intimate partners. Thus, these countries would require stronger gun laws. Further, countries like India where honour killings are present, where women are killed if they bring dishonour to their families, such killings being illegal are still prevalent. In order to prevent this there must be proper investigation to track places and identify the characteristics of potential criminals and victims.
As stated earlier women play an important role in the society, they are not the weaker class and cannot be subordinated by the misogynistic mindset prevailing among the men. A woman does not elect to become a woman. Being a woman is not a crime nor makes her weak. In the 21st century, where gender equality is strived for and no person in the world can pretend being unaware of women's rights then what is the reason for such vicious hate against women. The respect for women has undergone a tumultuous period and finally put the females in a disadvantaged place in the society. This is not a battle of men versus women but the misogynist mindset against open- mindedness.
Sakshi Iyer is third year student at Pravin Gandhi College of Law, Mumbai.
 In this Article, unless otherwise specified, the term “women” is to connote all female-identifying people.  Jeffrey Kluger, Domestic Violence is a Pandemic Within the COVID–19 Pandemic, TIME (Feb. 3, 2021, 11:15 AM), https://time.com/5928539/domestic-violence-covid-19 [https://perma.cc/N85N-TA75] (asserting that COVID–19 exacerbates domestic violence leading to a worldwide increase in 2020).  Dubravka Simonovic, A Human Rights Expert Fighting Femicide. (2021, December 3) Journals Of India https://journalsofindia.com/fighting-femicide/  Indian Penal Code 1860 (IPC)  Femicidio or Feminicidio is Spanish for Femicide  femicide. (n.d.). European Institute for Gender Equality. https://eige.europa.eu/thesaurus/terms/1128