Femicide is a leading a cause of premature death for women - why aren't we doing more?

Men’s violence against women is not natural and it is not inevitable. The Femicide Census can be a step towards the change that we want to create.

Yesterday the Office for National Statistics released findings from the 2013/14 Crime Survey for England and Wales. They told us that the number of male victims of homicide reduced 9 per cent, but that the number of female victims increased 8 per cent. Consistent with previous years, women were far more likely than men to be killed by partners or ex-partners than men, and men were far more likely than women to be killed by friends or acquaintances. 85 women had been killed by their current or a former partner, compared to 24 men.

On the same day, The Femicide Census: Profiles of Women killed by men, the result of a collaboration between Women’s Aid and me, was launched. The census collects data on women in England killed by men since 2009 currently extending to 2013, allowing us to collate and disaggregate data for women killed through men’s violence. Femicide has been identified globally as a leading a cause of premature death for women yet there has been limited research on the issue in the United Kingdom. We aim to change this and though contributing  to increasing awareness and understanding of male violence, take a crucial step towards prevention.

We know that when men kill their partners, they usually do so after having abused them for years. When women kill their male partners, it’s usually after they have suffered years of abuse from him. Men who kill women, whether they have killed a woman who was a partner or ex-partner or not, frequently have a history of domestic and/or sexual violence against women. 

There were over 64,000 sexual offences recorded by police last year, overwhelmingly committed by men, with young women those most likely to have experienced sexual assault.1.4 million domestic violence assaults against women were recorded. When men kill women, regardless of their relationship or lack of it, they are doing so in the context of a society in which men’s violence against women is entrenched and systemic. When misogyny, sexism and the objectification of women are so pervasive, that they are all but inescapable, can a man killing a women ever not be a sexist act?

Men’s violence against women is a cause and consequence of inequality between women and men. The Femicide Census makes it clear that men’s fatal violence against women crosses boundaries of race, class, age and culture.

We need to name the problem: men’s violence. When we link the killing of women by men, when we stop thinking about a series of unrelated isolated incidents, we begin to see the scale of the problem and it is apparent that ‘healthy relationships’ education, policing and prosecutions, whilst all vitally important, will not tackle the root cause. The Femicide Census will contribute to increasing awareness of men’s violence and to greater knowledge and analysis of men’s violence against women and girls, a crucial step towards prevention.

I also want The Femicide Census to commemorate women. I want us to feel sad. I want us to feel horrified. I want us to say ‘enough’. I want us to remember the women and girls who have been killed – and I want us to mourn them.

Men’s violence against women is not natural and it is not inevitable. The Femicide Census can be a step towards the change that we want to create.

The partners behind the Census are making an appeal for anyone with information on cases where women have been killed by men to get in touch to add further information to help make the Census as complete as possible. Anyone who wants to help can find more information on the website www.femicidecensus.org.uk

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