Here is a grim statistic. In the time it takes you to read this article and process the statistics contained on this webpage, a woman somewhere would have been killed by her intimate partner, or former partner, or by a male family member.
That’s around five femicides an hour, which amounts to 45,000 females killed by a partner or family member worldwide, a figure that accounts for more than half of all females killed worldwide in 2021.
It’s one of the grim statistics that emerges in a report published by the United Nation’s Office on Drugs and Crime, titled Gender-related killings of women and girls. The report was published last Wednesday in the runup to this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, which is commemorated today.
The report by UNODC analyses the global situation of femicide. The term femicides refers to murders in which the victim is a woman and the murder has a gender dynamic. Most femicides occur within families: women killed by partners or former partners, or else by family members (these include so-called ‘honour killings’ in some cultures, particularly in west and south Asia). Femicide also refers to women killed in the context of sexual exploitation, and even sexual assault that lead to death, whether intentional or unintentional.
The UNODC’s report limited itself to murder by intimate partner (existing or former) and family members, and it analysed such murders as a proportion of overall homicides.
The research found that out of 81,000 females killed around the world in 2021, 45,000 of them were slayed by intimate partner or family members. That means that 56 percent of all women murdered are killed by partners or family members. If we had to look at the same proportion among males, we get this: five times as many males as females are killed overall, but only 11 percent of them are killed by partners or family members.
Europe has the lowest rates of femicides – 0.6 per 100,000 women – while Africa has the highest rate at 2.5 per 100,000 of women.
The rate of femicide in Europe fell by 19 percent between 2010 and 2021, but the numbers increased in 2020 and 2021 in western and southern Europe. This is expected to be a spike due to COVID-related lockdowns, which led to greater time spent in the home that, in turn, reflected itself into greater incidence of partner or family-member violence.
It is hard to draw trends in Malta given the small numbers – itself reflective of small population; Malta’s population is equivalent to a medium sized city – but analysis of data aggregates indicates that there was no spike in slayings of females by partners or family members in the past few years. Lists of femicides published by various sources in the past few days show that there were two murders this year (including last Tuesday’s murder), none in 2021, one in 2020, two in 2019 and three in 2018. That amounts to eight femicides in five years, which is broadly consistent with the European rate of 0.6 per 100,000 females per year (if we assume that Malta’s female population amounts to around 250,000, then that would give us 1.5 murders every year at 0.6 per 100,000 females, or 7.5 murders over a five-year period).
Europe also has the narrowest gap between the genders when it comes to likelihood of being murdered by your intimate partner or family member. The data published by UNODC shows that 17 percent of males murdered in Europe are killed by an intimate partner or family member, while the same percentage for females stands at 51 percent.
The report does not give figures of actual numbers of females and males killed by partner or family member. Neither does it analyse what are the ratios of victims killed by intimate partners versus family members, something that – together with actual numbers – would offer greater insight into what is going on.
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