The murder of women because they are women
The latest Femicide Census report, published on Thursday (20 February 2020), reveals that 149 women were killed by 147 men in the UK in 2018. The youngest victim was aged 14 and the eldest 100 with 23 women (16%) aged 66 or over when killed.
Femicide is generally defined as the murder of women because they are women, though some definitions include any murders of women or girls. Femicide has been identified globally as a leading a cause of premature death for women, yet there is limited research on the issue in Europe.
What is the Femicide Census?
The Femicide Census is a database containing information on over one thousand women killed by men in England and Wales since 2009. It is a ground-breaking project which aims to provide a clearer picture of men’s fatal violence against women by allowing for detailed tracking and analysis. It was developed by Karen Ingala Smith and Women’s Aid working in partnership, with support from Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer LLP and Deloitte LLP.
The census has been developed out of an urgent need to address the reality of fatal male violence against women. It can play a key part in the identification of patterns of femicide, the circumstances leading up to it and ultimately help us reduce femicide.
In February 2015 the Femicide Census was launched. It was based on information collected by Karen Ingala Smith and recorded in her blog Counting Dead Women. Since January 2012 she has searched the web for news of women killed by men; information that was hidden in plain sight- in a plethora of Domestic Homicide Reviews, police statistics, local press articles and reports in which women killed by men were mentioned. She gathered details of the perpetrators and the incident of murder itself, including the date, names, police force area and information about children, recorded motive and the weapon. In December 2016, the first Femicide Census Report was released. This is their fourth report.
At least 149 women were killed by 147 men in the UK between 1st January and 31st December 2018. At the point of publication of this report, there remain a number of cases that are as yet unsolved; therefore the total of 149 femicides is almost certainly an under-estimate.
- 91 women were killed by their current or former male spouse or intimate partner.
- 12 women (8%) were killed by sons or step-sons; a further 5 women (3%) were killed by a son-in-law or ex son-in-law.
- 94% of femicides were committed by a man known to the victim.
- Approximately one third of victims (34%) had a child/children under 18 when killed.
- 102 (68%) femicides took place in the woman’s home, whether shared with the perpetrator (33%) or not (35%).
- Most perpetrators were aged between 26–55 (100 perpetrators, 68%).
- Men most frequently killed women with a sharp instrument (69 cases; 46%).
- Overkilling was evident in over half the femicides (83 cases, 56%).
- At least 76 (52%) perpetrators were known to have had histories of previous violence against women.
- Three perpetrators had killed women before.
- At least 16 (11%) perpetrators used pornography and/or women in prostitution in relation to the femicide.
The chart below shows the number of femicides in the UK since the Femicide Census began.
One of the important benefits of the Femicide Census is the way that it shines a light on key facts which may be common knowledge within the domestic abuse field, but less well known to the general public. This year’s census looks in detail at women who were killed by their ex-partner either after they had separated or were in the process of separating.
In 2018, 41% (37 of 91) of women killed by a partner/former partner had separated or taken steps to separate from him with 30% of them (11/37) killed within the first month and 70% (24/37) killed within the first year post separation.
Many of the women had expressed fear and warnings about their killer to police, other services and friends and family.
As readers will know, there has been little concrete progress on tackling femicide since the publication of the last census in December 2018. The Domestic Abuse Bill was interrupted by the prorogation of parliament and general election but is expected to be re-introduced in the current parliamentary session.
The femicide census always makes for particularly upsetting reading but fulfils an invaluable function in ensuring that policy makers, and indeed all of us, are not able to avoid the overwhelming evidence of the ultimate realities of men’s violence against women.