More than 1 in 5 women, girls killed every hour in 2021, UN report on femicide finds

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More than one in five women were killed by a member of their own family every hour in 2021, a new United Nations study showed.

The study by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) and UN Women also revealed that 56 percent of all the women and girls who were intentionally killed last year died at the hands of their intimate partners or family members, accounting for 45,000 out of 81,000 registered femicides.

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The results highlighted that home was not a safe place for many women. Meanwhile, 11 percent of all male homicides were perpetrated in the private space.

“Behind every femicide statistic is the story of an individual woman or girl who has been failed. These deaths are preventable – the tools and the knowledge to do so already exist,” Executive Director at UN Women Sima Bahous said in a statement on Wednesday.

“Women’s rights organizations are already monitoring data and advocating for policy change and accountability. Now we need concerted action across society that will fulfil women’s and girls’ right to feel and to be safe, at home, on the streets, and everywhere,” Bahous added.

The new report is a horrific reminder that violence against girls and women is one of the most pervasive human rights violations across the world.

The murders of roughly four in 10 women and girls killed intentionally last year lacked sufficient information to be identified as femicides, the study found.

“No woman or girl should fear for her life because of who she is,” UNODC’s Executive Director Ghada Waly said.

“To stop all forms of gender-related killings of women and girls, we need to count every victim, everywhere, and improve understanding of the risks and drivers of femicide so we can design better and more effective prevention and criminal justice responses,” Waly added.

The findings in this year’s report also showed that the overall number of female homicides remained largely unchanged over the past decade, highlighting the urgency to prevent and respond to these crimes with stronger actions.

Although the new report’s figures are alarmingly high, the true scale of femicides may be much higher in reality as many victims still go uncounted due to inconsistencies in definitions and criteria among countries.

A global problem

The large scale of gender-based killings recorded worldwide points to a serious global problem.

However, the report highlighted that the largest number of gender-related killings in the private sphere took place in Asia and that women and girls in Africa were at a higher risk of being killed by their family or intimate partners.

In 2021, the rate of gender related killings in a private space was estimated at 2.5 per 100,000 female population in Africa, compared with 1.4 in the Americas, 1.2 in Oceania, 0.8 in Asia and 0.6 in Europe.

The findings also suggest that the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020 coincided with a significant increase in gender related killings in the private sphere in Northern America and, to some extent, in Western and Southern Europe.

The UN agencies recommended that countries strengthen their data collection on femicides and address the root causes of these killings, including through the transformation of harmful masculinities and social norms to begin to eliminate structural gender disparities.

“Women’s rights organizations are already monitoring data and advocating for policy change and accountability,” Bahous said.

The release of the new report comes ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, observed annually on November 25.

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