Femicide is one of the extreme forms of gender violence, it is conformed by a set of violent misogynistic acts against women, which imply the violation of our human rights, threaten our safety and put our lives at risk. The root of violence against women lies in the constant and persistent discrimination against our gender. We could say we live in a modern society with equal rights yet although we have come a long way there are still many places in the world which do not protect women or see them as equal.
It also doesn’t help when women objectify themselves as sexual objects. I am not supporting the old paradigm which holds firmly the belief that women need to cover up and play “nice” in order to be respected; to support such paradigm would be no different than to support ignorance and cruel behavior. Instead I feel men would benefit tremendously from educating themselves on how to properly view and treat women. Women would benefit tremendously from learning to express their sensuality and intelligence simultaneously for their own sake and not in order to get male acceptance.
Femicide is consummated because many of the authorities negligent or colluding with the aggressors exert institutional violence on women by impeding their access to justice and thereby contributing to impunity. One can then see a break in the state of law, since the State is unable to guarantee the lives of women. Femicide is a State Crime; femicide is the ultimate expression and consummation of symbolic violence against women.
Inequality and gender violence are recurrent in the history of societies, with the advance of feminist movements these issues have gained a much greater visibility than they had a few decades ago; however we do not have to wait to be part of a feminist group in order to shed some light on any of the atrocities committed against women/girls. As a matter of fact neither men or women need to belong to any group (unless that is your choice) in order to stand up for what is right. We need to learn to be open and outspoken about anything which hurts us as human beings regardless of our gender.
I am not blinded to the fact that boys and men also get hurt but in this article I am to focus on the subject of femicide, its consequences and will try to look at its causes from a psychosocial perspective.
Let’s examine the term Femicide.- The term femicide refers to a specific type of homicide in which a man murders a woman or girl. Unlike other type of murders femicide generally occurs in the house of the victim as a consequence of gender violence. Femicide is also categorized under hate crime, given it occurs in a context where the feminine has been stigmatized. It is the most extreme act of violence committed by men against women; it occurs as a consequence of any type of gender violence, such as physical aggression, rape, forced maternity or genital mutilation.
It is estimated that around 66 thousand femicides are perpetrated in the world each year (this number is considered by some to be a low reflection of the actual number of femicides committed around the globe; this could be because many countries do not distinguish between homicide and femicide). When talking about homicide, 80% of the victims around the world are men, however when we specifically talk about femicide or intimate homicide the percentage of men drops to one third.
Murderer’s motivations.- One of the main peculiarities of femicide in relation to other types of homicide is its motivation. According to Diana Russell who is attributed the popularization of the word femicide, some of the main motivations for these murders are mental issues, anger, hatred, jealousy and the pursue of sick pleasures. Other variables which Russell considers relevant are misogyny, the sense of gender superiority and the conception of women as possessions; these variables are transmitted culturally and favor the violence of men towards women.
Although from different theoretical orientations, gender violence and femicide can be explained in very different ways. For the sake of this article only two will be our focus: Symbolic Interactionism and Evolutionary Psychology.
Symbolic Interactionism and the Patriarchal Dogma.- Symbolic Interactionism is a theoretical current of Sociology, Social Psychology and Anthropology. It proposes people jointly construct symbols that give meaning to reality in its different aspects, guiding our behavior in relation to them.
From this point of view femicide could be explained as a consequence of the differences on the roles assigned to each gender by various societies in which its understood men control the public sphere while women are relegated to reproduction and home care.
This social structure is the traditional “Patriarchy”, which is supported by written norms/laws that reinforce and condition different behavior patterns based on gender. The conception of women as inferior in some societies makes the social meaning of these murders less negative in their eyes; from this it could easily be deduced a greater probability of gender violence occurring and therefore femicide if the law and culture do not penalize them.
Biologist and Evolutionist Perspectives.- In many occasions the differences in gender roles are attributed to the biology of men and women. It is often mentioned in particular the fact that men have higher level of testosterone, a sex hormone which influences aggressiveness, dominance and risk taking. It has also been proposed that since women are the ones who become pregnant, we have historically influenced the development of societies since the beginning of humanity; specially after the adoption of sedentary life styles. From these perspectives biological differences between genders tend to be highly valued to the detriment of sociocultural influences such as religion.
I along with other Psychologists and Anthropologists do not agree with putting much of the responsibility on testosterone. Even at an animal level we don’t see many male animals targeting female animals simply because they are female. I will give the second part of the perspectives more credit, this is not to blame my own gender simply to remind us of the great responsibility we have in shaping our children, hence the future of our societies.
What we allow will continue, so let’s stop allowing others to simply look at us as pieces of meat and not giving ourselves our proper value as human beings. Lets eradicate old dogmas where value is focused on fake identity, lack of expression of real self, false modesty, etc. Let’s show ourselves and others the complexity of our minds and souls as well as the beauty of our bodies. It is our body and no one has the right to violate it. We need to stop shying ourselves from self development and exposing our talents, intelligence and character.
Violence against women can have various manifestations such as domestic violence “physical and psychological”. Violence is not only given through beatings and physical abuse, there are innumerable manifestations of it, here are some examples: Human trafficking, supporting pornographic industries or prostitution, harassment, and finally the maximum expression of its violence…”Femicide”.
To summarize I will end this echoing the famous words of Toledo Vasquez “Violence against women represents a violation of human rights and constitutes one of the main obstacles to achieving an egalitarian and fully democratic society”.