At least 45,000 women and girls killed by family member last year, says UN

At least 45,000 women and girls killed by family member last year, says UN
Protesters hold a sign reading: "One never kills out of love." Credit: Belga

In every hour, throughout 2021, over five women and girls were killed by a family member, according to an estimate by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). Furthermore, when looking into femicide, it found that 45,000 women and girls were murdered last year.

Of the total of 81,000 women and girls who were murdered in 2021, 56% were killed by their partner, father or other relatives. However, this figure is only an estimate and the actual number of women killed is thought to be much higher.

"No woman or girl should be afraid to be who they are," said UNDOC Director Ghada Waly. "To stop all gender-related killings, we need to do more research, analyse risks and try to understand the mindset of people killing women. In this way, we can do effective prevention and adapt the justice system."

Last year, the highest number of femicides at the hands of relatives were in Asia, with 17,800 deaths. However, the research showed that women and girls living in Africa were more at risk of being killed by family members. The rate of gender-related killings in the home was estimated at 2.5 per 100,000 of the female population in Africa, compared with 1.4 in the Americas, 1.2 in Oceania, 0.8 in Asia and 0.6 in Europe.

Still considered 'a private matter'

Human rights lawyer Bárbara Jiménez-Santiago told The Guardian that more complete data on femicides should be made available, and that they should include deaths from other forms of violence, such as women who commit suicide after sexual assault, or girls who die during childbirth after becoming pregnant by rape.

Many countries still have laws that discriminate against women and girls, Jiménez-Santiago added, including laws that allow marital rape or allow rapists to avoid punishment by marrying the victims.

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"Domestic violence is still considered a private family matter in many parts of the world," she said. "Police and prosecutors often do not take things seriously and victim-blaming is a global problem discouraging women and girls from reporting violations. Perpetrators go unpunished, which only fuels a culture of impunity that perpetuates further abuse."

While the vast majority (81%) of murders worldwide are committed against men and boys, they are most at risk of being killed by someone (usually another man) outside their family. Of all male homicide victims in 2021, only about 11% were killed by a partner or relative.

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