Diana E. H. Russell

           "All women are at risk of femicide."


Jacqueline Campbell, Ph.D.




Dr. Russell's article, "Best Strategies to Advance the Global Struggle Against Femicide," is a considerably revised and much lengthier version of her concluding speech at the U.N. Symposium on Femicide in Vienna, Austria, in November 2012. After describing her efforts to disseminate the term femicide in the U.S. from 1976 onwards, Dr. Russell revisits the controversial issue re: her and others' definitions of femicide. She also includes the U.N. Report about the speakers' contributions at the Symposium and the revised version of the "Vienna Declaration" to be presented to the General Assembly of the U.N. in the future.  Finally, Dr. Russell recommends several strategies to accelerate the struggle against femicide.


United Nations; femicide; feminicide; femicidio; feminicidio; definition; homicide; depoliticize; international; global; strategies; symposium; Vienna; female genocide; feticide; testimony; Latin America





I was invited by the organizers of the United Nations Symposium on Femicide in Vienna, Austria, to conclude this one-day international policy-oriented meeting by proposing what I believed to be the best strategies to advance the global struggle against femicide.  I was also asked to describe the major challenges that I had personally encountered in my efforts to raise public awareness about femicides after I had introduced this term at the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women in 1976 -- nearly four decades ago (Russell and Van de Ven, 1976). [i]

     Because we speakers had to confine ourselves to about ten minutes for our presentations, I relish this opportunity to be able to provide some highlights of other speakers' contributions, as well as the vital document titled "The Vienna Declaration" that had to be finalized by the conclusion of the Symposium.  I also decided to revisit what has become the controversial issue of the definitions of femicide, femicidio, feminicide and feminicidio.

     When trying to revolutionize feminist consciousness in the United States -- as I did together with several other feminists when we co-founded WAVPM (Women Against Violence in Pornography and Media) in 1976 -- I believe the best strategy is to focus on convincing the women's movement that, say, pornography or femicide, or whatever, is an important but neglected feminist issue.  However, I soon discovered that this was an exceedingly difficult task with the issue of woman killing, despite its prevalence in the United States.

     Although it is commonly recognized in the U.S., including law, that some murders of African Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, and other people of color -- are racist, that some murders of Jews are anti-Semitic, and that some murders of lesbians and gay men are homophobic, the fact that much larger numbers of murders of women and girls are motivated in whole or in part by males' misogynistic attitudes to females continues to be largely ignored -- even by feminists engaged in combating violence against women.

     Since 1976, I have engaged in many different strategies in the hope that one or other of them would inspire feminists in the United States to adopt this term instead of using the gender-neutral terms -- murder or homicide.  These strategies have included public speeches about femicide, appearances on TV and radio, numerous interviews by journalists, and publishing two books and many articles on femicide. 

     Although the organizers of the United Nations Symposium on Femicide only requested that I describe my own efforts to disseminate the term femicide, and to urge activists to fight against this most extreme form of violence against women, space now permits me to include three anti-femicide projects organized by others in the United States.

     Radical feminist activist Chris Domingo founded a Clearinghouse on Femicide in 1989 in Berkeley, California, where I also live.  She described it as involving a loose collective of women who engaged in research, education, and protests against femicide.  They also published a quarterly newsletter titled "Memory and Rage" (Domingo, 1992, p. 368).  Domingo worked tirelessly for years to create an extensive computer bank and archive on femicide.  She also distributed research materials on femicide to interested individuals, organizations, and the media, and answered hundreds of letters about femicide that she received from all over the United States and internationally.  The Clearinghouse collective also coordinated a support network for women who had lost one or more family members or friends to femicide. [ii]

The Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders was founded in 1986 "out of concern for the many unsolved serial femicides of mainly black women occurring in south central Los Angeles, California" (Domingo, 1992: 367).

Four years later, the Clothesline Project was started in 1990.  It was "run by a coalition of women who invited others to make shirts for clotheslines in more than a dozen states in memory of women who have been victimized by violence, including ... femicide" (Domingo, 1992: 368).

 Domingo and I compiled a list of several other anti-femicide organizations in the United States, and described their actions. Radford and Russell's anthology (Domingo, 1992: 367-369)                       


Revisiting the Seminar on Femicide in Juarez in 2004, and the Femicide vs. Feminicide/Feminicidio Controversy  


 I was surprised and delighted to be invited to speak at the Seminar on Femicide organized by Marcela Lagarde in Juarez -- the femicide capital of Mexico -- on December 4, 2004.

Even though I realized that my inability to speak or understand Spanish would be a significant handicap to what I would learn, nothing could have kept me away from this seminars.  Nevertheless, I enjoyed the rare experience of being treated like a queen on this very special occasion.

I was also greatly impressed by the large number of active participants (28) seated around tables arranged in horseshoe formation  as well as the audience of about fifty women who attended.  [See photo #1 below]














After Lagarde had opened the seminar, she went on to declare:


"Sometimes a book changes history, and Dr. Russell and Jill Radford's book, Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing, is such a book!" 



[Photo #2: Cover of Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing.]


















What an unexpected thrill it was for me to hear these words after 28 years of my mostly failed efforts to persuade the women's liberation movement in the U.S. to adopt the term femicide, including the organizations dedicated to combatting violence against women.

Lagarde described how reading Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing (1992) had revolutionized her thinking about the epidemic of brutal, rape-torture-mutilation-femicides that had occurring for many years in Juarez.  She also related that this book had inspired her to organize the seminar, with the intention of launching a campaign with other Mexican feminists against these vicious misogynist crimes.  In addition, Lagarde castigated the routine failure of the police in Juarez to apprehend the perpetrators of these brutal femicides. 

 Too, the male-dominated Mexican Government appeared to be totally indifferent to these lethal acts against women and teenaged girls.

After the seminar on femicide had ended, Lagarde asked for my permission to translate femicide into the more Spanish-sounding terms feminicide or feminicidio.  As may be seen in Photo # 1 above, the banner above the Seminar participants reveals that Lagarde was already using the term feminicidio. 

 Naturally, I consented to Lagarde's request.  At that time, her definition of feminicide remained very similar to my and Radford's definition, although she excluded juveniles and children as victims or perpetrators, i.e., her definition referred to the killing of women (not females) by men (not males) because they are women (not female).

Since I already noted Lagarde's redefinition of what she had originally described as a mere translation of femicide in my article "Defining Femicide," it won't be repeated here.  Some time later, however, Lagarde claimed that she had coined her revised terms (Cabrera, 2010, p. 18).  But if redefining a term qualified as coining it, this could culminate in numerous individuals claiming to have coined it simply by making additional changes to the definition. 

Furthermore, Julia Fragoso Monarrez, a professor and researcher in Juarez, Mexico, published an article on "feminicidio" as early as 1999 (1999).  She subsequently published numerous other articles, in all of which she used this term (see references in Fregoso and Bejarano, 2010, pp. 353-354).  In addition, Ana Carcedo and Montserrat Sagot's book, Femicidio en Costa Rica, 1990-1999, based on their empirical study of femicides in their country during the 1990s, was published in 2000.  This is two years before the Seminar on Femicidio that Lagarde organized in December 2004. 

Monarrez's publications provide irrefutable evidence that even if it were legitimate for Lagarde to claim that her redefinition of femicide qualifies as coining the term (which it is not), Monarrez used the term feminicidio many years before she did.  In short, the claims of Lagarde and others that Lagarde coined the term feminicidio is false.




Lagarde's Attempt to Depoliticize the Term Femicide and Render it Meaningless


In Lagarde's preface to Fregoso and Bejarano's anthology (2010), she appears to be attempting to discredit the term femicide by depoliticizing it and redefining it as homicide!  Following are three paragraphs from her preface, and my comments.  :

 The category and theory of feminicide emerges from feminist theory through the works of Diana Russell and Jill Radford.  I based my own analysis on their theoretical and empirical work as elaborated in their volume Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing (1992).  The translation for femicide is femicidio.  However, I translated femicide as feminicidio, and this is how it has circulated.  In Spanish, femicidio is homologous [corresponds] to homicide and solely means the homicide of women. ( Lagarde, 2010)


After saying that femicidio was her Spanish translation of femicide, but that she had found herself using the term feminicidio instead (by accident?), then maintains that "femicidio means solely the homicide of women" (Lagarde, 2010:. xv.  My emphasis).  Hence she takes the outrageous liberty of redefining as homicide what she had also claimed to be the Spanish translation of my and Radford's term femicide -- as if we hadn't defined the term femicide in order to differentiate homicide and femicide.


Then states:

For this reason, I preferred feminicidio in order to differentiate from femicidio and to name the ensemble of violations of women's human rights, which contain the crimes against and the disappearances of women.  I proposed that all these be considered as 'crimes against humanity.'  Feminicide is genocide against women, and it occurs when the historical conditions generate social practices that allow for violent attempts against the integrity, health, liberties, and lives of girls and women.  (Lagarde,2010: xv-xvi).


I completely disagree with Lagarde's equation of feminicide and genocide.  Femicide can apply to one man killing his wife, as well as mass femicides, such as those occurring in the Congo.  To maintain that, for example, so-called "honor" femicides constitute genocide is a serious misuse of the term genocide.


: Feminicide is able to occur because the authorities who are omissive (sic), negligent, or acting in collusion with the assailants perpetrate institutional violence against women by blocking their access to justice and thereby contributing to impunity. ... Feminicide is a state crime. (idem:. xxiii)


Although I agree with Lagarde that gigantic numbers of femicides occur because patriarchal authorities at every level are negligent about femicides, and often collude with the perpetrators, I don't consider that the blocking of women's access to justice is the only, or the major factor in the occurrence of femicides.  Nor do I agree with Lagarde's statement that femicides are state crimes.]


Lagarde states elsewhere that, Femicidal violence

[...] is made up of the whole set of misogynistic forms of conduct -- mistreatment and physical, psychological, sexual, educational, economic, property-related, family, community, institutional violence -- that entail social impunity and impunity by the state, and, on placing women at risk and in a defenseless position, may culminate in homicide or attempted homicide -- that is, in feminicide and in other forms of violent death of girls and women, specifically death due to accidents and suicide and preventable deaths stemming from lack of security, neglect, and exclusion from development and democracy. (idem: xxiv)


Lagarde's claim that femicides include  "[] mistreatment and physical, psychological, sexual, educational, economic, property-related, family, community, institutional violence" regarding which social impunity and impunity by the state [... ]may culminate [...] in feminicide and in other forms of violent death of girls and women[ ....] is ludicrous.  For a start, acts that may culminate in femicide don't qualify as femicide unless they do culminate in femicide. 


Furthermore, what could Lagarde have in mind when she refers to "educational violence," that  may culminate [] in feminicide [ ]."?  Even more inexplicable is her statement equating feminicide with homicide or attempted homicide, i.e., "Femicidal violence is made up of the whole set of misogynistic forms of conduct" including "mistreatment . institutional violence that may culminate in homicide or attempted homicide -- that is, in feminicide ." 


Here Lagarde treats feminicide as synonymous with homicide and attempted homicide -- despite the fact that this undermines the whole point of differentiating femicide or feminicide and homicide.  In addition, how can attempted homicides be the same as femicide?


Secondly, to maintain that femicide includes mistreatment doesn't meet Lagarde's or anyone else's definition of femicide.  The same applies to every other factor that she mentions as misogynist forms of conduct.


Thirdly, Lagarde refers here to feminicide and other forms of violent deaths of girls or women, specifically those due to accidents and suicide and preventable deaths stemming from lack of security, neglect, and exclusion from development and democracy.  Since the issue is femicide, why does Lagarde concern herself with "other forms of violent death of girls and women?" (idem:. xxiv).


The United Nations Definition of Femicide


In contrast to my final definition of femicide -- the killing of females by males because they are female -- the United Nations kept their original definition of femicide as "the killing of a woman, because she is a woman."  Following are three of the shortcomings of this definition in my view:


1. It excludes the millions of female babies, young girls, and teenaged girls;

2. It conveys that femicide is a one-on-one crime, rather than that many femicides are perpetrated by more than one male, e.g., gangs of males, armies of males, and millions of fathers who kill their wives for not bearing sons;

3. It includes female perpetrators of femicide despite the fact that in many such cases the women are coerced by men into implementing such acts, or they are subjected to other negative sanctions by men, including femicidal threats common in India as when mothers of girl babies refuse to kill them.


Report on the United Nations Symposium on Femicide


     Because a relatively small group of women and men were present at the UN Symposium on Femicide, I will include a slightly edited version of this informative report about these lethal misogynist crimes so that readers will have the opportunity to share this groundbreaking event.  I believe that this meeting will prove to be a turning point in the dissemination of the term femicide, and accelerate it's adoption internationally.  This is of vital importance because it politicizes the killing of women and girls globally, as the adoption of the term "sexual harassment" politicized the widespread sexist male practice towards women in work places, educational institutions, the military, religious institutions, and wherever males and females are in the same locations.

This report will also identify most of the individuals who spoke at the Symposium, combined with brief descriptions of what they said.

On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Vienna Liaison Office of the Academic Council on United Nations System (ACUNS) honored the victims of femicides by organizing a one-day symposium on fighting femicide. This symposium could not have taken place without the support of the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs; the Permanent Missions to the UN Office at Vienna of Austria, Argentina, Philippines, Thailand, and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland; Small Arms Survey; and the Vienna NGO Committee on the Status of Women. State representatives, social scientists, NGO representatives, statisticians, lawyers and feminist activists had the opportunity to speak about femicide, explain its meaning and causes, but also presented examples of best practice in fighting femicide.

Her Royal Highness Princess Bajrakitiyabha Mahidol of Thailand opened the picture exhibition, comprising photographs from Jodi Bieber, Paula Bronstein, Lisette Lemus, Walter Astrada, Diane Kahlo, and photographs from the exhibition "Visions of hope", illustrating the different forms of femicide.


 What is Femicide?


As mentioned in my article on "Defining Femicide," the United Nations retained their original definition of femicide as the killing of a woman, because she is a woman.

These crimes [femicides] are systematic and female victims are often murdered in a very brutal way. For a case to be considered femicide there must be an implied intention to carry out the crime and a demonstrated connection between the crime and the gender of the victim. Femicides occur every day and in every country in the world. Furthermore, women being murdered come from all kinds of cultural and social backgrounds.

Femicide comprises, among others, the murder of women as a result of intimate partner violence, the torture and misogynist slaying of women, the killing of women and girls in the name of "honour", the targeted killing of women and girls in the context of armed conflict, dowry-related killings of women, the killing of women and girls because of their sexual orientation and gender identity, female infanticide and gender-based sex selection foeticide, genital mutilation related femicide and other femicides connected with gangs, organized crime, human trafficking, and the proliferation of small arms. [iii] According to Prof. Diana Russell, who has dedicated her life to fighting femicide, sexism and misogyny are the main causes for the intentional killing of women. [iv]

Michelle Bachelet is currently the first Under-Secretary-General and Executive Director of UN Women.  She was the President of Chile from 2006-2010.  She is a feminist and a long-time champion of women's rights.  She opened the UN symposium with a video message in which she expressed her support for this endeavor.  UN Women recently intensified their efforts to tackle the issue of femicide and to work closely with Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo.



[Photo #3: Michelle Bachelet opens the symposium with a video in which she denounces femicide.]




The Austrian Federal Minister for Women and the Civil Service Gabriele Heinisch-Hosek reminded the audience that violence against women is also a reality in Austria and that unless there is no real equality between men and women, violence against women will prevail.

The Deputy Executive Director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Sandeep Chawla, referred in his opening remarks to the UNODC Global Study on Homicide (2011). One of the findings of the report was that the home, which is supposed to be a safe haven, has now become the most dangerous place for women and girls. Indeed, in the European Union 70% of femicides result from intimate partner violence, i.e. that the woman was killed by her partner or former partner.

 Furthermore, 1 out of 4 women have experienced partner violence in their life and 7 women die every day as a result of domestic violence. In the United Kingdom, about two women per week are killed by their partner, and about 40% of the women murdered are victims of domestic conflicts.


According to the Small Arms Survey Report 2012, presented by the Research Director of Small Arms Survey, Dr. Anna Alvazzi del Frate, studies have shown that guns inside the household, increase the risk of domestic disputes ending with a fatal outcome. One third of female victims of femicide were killed with firearms and many of them were previously threatened with it.


The persons who commit femicides are often men, but women can also be the offenders. This can be the case when mothers kill their baby girls or intentionally abort their female foetus, when mothers or mother-in-laws are involved in honour killings or when girls die as a result of genital mutilation. [v]  However, many women commit these crimes because all their life they were told that they are less valuable than men.


Mr. Sami Nevala, Team Coordinator for Statistics and Surveys at the European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA) and Ms. Angela Me, Chief Statistics and Surveys Section at the UNODC explained the difficulties in gathering and evaluating data on femicide. Ms. Me also mentioned that there is no such thing as 'global data on femicide' and that it is easier and more common to measure education, health, and the state of the economy. Although global studies on homicide contain chapters for women, this is by far not enough.


Ms. Barbara Spinelli, Italian lawyer specialized on gender issues and leading force of the Italian platform "30 years CEDAW-Work in progress", underlined that common indicators need to be established in order to collect internationally comparable data. Ms. Spinelli also insisted upon the states' due diligence obligation to protect women as well as to prevent and prosecute femicide.






 [Photo #4: Barbara Spinelli, lawyer and author of book on feminicide in Italy, on Professor Russell's left, during break in symposium.]

















Ms. Rita Banerji, who initiated the "50 Million Missing Campaign" in India, stressed that femicide is a human rights violation and that one of the main reasons why so many women are still being killed around the globe is impunity.



[Photo #5: Professor Diana Russell at speakers table about to conclude UN symposium by recommending best anti-femicide strategies.]













  Best practices


     As more and more countries have to respond to the increasing systematic killing of women in their territory, drawing attention to best practice examples during the symposium was of the utmost importance.

Fortunately, many representatives of the UN member states have shown their interest to (sic) the topic and attended the symposium. H.E. Ambassador Susan le Jeune D'Allegeershecque, Permanent


Representative of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to the United Nations and other International Organisations in Vienna, not only attended the symposium, but also shared best practices from the UK. For instance, in order to increase the number of perpetrators who are brought to justice, a specialist team of UK experts have come together to investigate and gather evidence.


These teams include, but are not limited to police officers, lawyers, psychologists and forensic scientists. Preventing femicides and offering protection to women victim of gender-based violence in war situations is also a top priority for the United Kingdom.


  H. E. Ambassador Dr. Christine Stix-Hackl, Permanent Representative of Austria to the United Nations in Vienna, mentioned the Council of Europe Convention on "feminicides" which recognizes femicide as a global problem and will be useful in establishing new standards. She indicated Austria's intention to sign the Convention in 2013, at the same time encouraging other states to do the same.

H. E. Ambassador Lourdes O. Yparraguirre, Permanent Representative of the Philippines to the United Nations in Vienna, chaired the first session of the symposium and stressed again the importance of international cooperation between states, especially in sharing best practices.

 Ms. Maria Isabel Vicandi Plaza, Alternate Permanent Representative of Spain to the United Nations in Vienna, underlined that femicide should not be recognized as a crime of passion and that states must ensure the rights of women and fight violence against women.

She stressed the lack of legal recognition of femicide in many countries and claimed that more investigation is needed. Spain has been a role model in the European Union in terms of successful awareness raising campaigns, but Latin American countries proved to be way ahead of many countries in the world in terms of successful legislation against femicide.


Ms. Francisca Prez Cotapos, a penal lawyer working for the Unit for the Prevention of Domestic Violence in Chile, gave concrete examples of the positive developments in Chile. In 2010, Article 390 of the Penal Code was added to the Chile legislation and since then, partners or former partners who murdered their female partner can be imprisoned because they committed a crime of femicide. More importantly, femicide is now not only part of the criminal law system, but also of the civil and family code of law. Ms. Cotapos stressed that using the word "femicide" in the legislation has made a crucial difference, as it distinguishes crimes against women. (Emphasis mine.)

Since the introduction of this article, the number of femicides in Chile has decreased. (Emphasis mine.) In addition to legislation procedures, prevention and protection has been an important priority in Chile as well. Campaigns criminalizing violence against women and establishing special facilities for women, such as the 94 women's centers and the 24 shelters, have also contributed to the decrease in femicides. (Emphasis mine.)  The so-called "Cross-sector Protocol for Femicide Victims" also guarantees protection to victims on a legal, social and psychological level. Another important activity has been to educate men who battered their female partner.

Dr. Ranjana Kumari, Director of the Center for Social Research in India, reported several positive developments in India.  Since a law in 1984 made dowry killing an offence of harassment and non-compoundable, there has been a consisting (sic) growth in the reporting system. Before the law was passed, police officers would tell the woman that the crime was her own fault. Under the new law, the police are obliged to act on a complaint and specific centers have been created for these complaints. A possible punishment for this crime, if it involves death, is life imprisonment. Judgment can, however, take up to nine years.

Female selection/sex-based selection is another major issue, not only in India but all over Asia. New technology that can detect the sex of the child before the birth has lead to numerous abortions of girls. Now, India has a good framework of law, but religion, society and tradition can be problematic. Although punishment for this crime is severe, not many cases have been brought to court.


[Photo #5: Dr. Ranjana Kumari spoke about the massive problem of femicide in India due to preference for male children.]


















Ms. Gulcar Karademir presented the work of the International Free Women's Federation, which has launched several campaigns to end femicide. Their aim is to let women and girls know their rights.

Ms. Ilona Graenitz, Chairperson of the Vienna NGO Committee on the Status of Women, also stressed the importance of involving civil society, particularly more women's organizations.

Finally, Prof. Diana Russell recommended international Tribunals on Femicide to be organized as a strategy to raise awareness about this lethal misogynist crime, as well as inspiring protests and new laws to combat femicide.  [vi] Professor Russell also stressed that very large scale mass femicides should be considered a form of genocide and that gender should be added to the Genocide Convention.


 Ways Forward


The speakers of [at] the symposium all agreed on one essential point: there is an institutional lack of awareness and political will to address the structural causes of femicide. The state's obligation should be to prevent violence against women, protect victims of gender-based violence and provide adequate investigation and prosecution. Furthermore, it is of the utmost importance that specific legislation targets gender-based killings.

Article 4 (c and d) of the UN Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women does require States to "exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate and in accordance with national legislation punish acts of violence against women whether those actions are perpetrated by the State or private persons." But, until now, the political will has not been strong enough for governments to fulfill these obligations.

Dr. Eduardo Vetere, former Head of the UN Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme, presented the Vienna Declaration on Femicide, a document that urges not only UN member states, but also UN organizations and civil society to join forces and take responsibility to put an end to femicide. The declaration was signed by the participants of the symposium as well as by Austria, Slovenia, the Philippines and Norway.

ACUNS Vienna intends to bring the issue of femicide, together with the supporting states and partners of the symposium, to the 57th session of the Commission on the Status of Women which will take place in New York from 4-15 March 2013 and will focus on the elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls.


   The Vienna Declaration on Femicide


     I was elated when I first read an earlier draft of the Vienna Declaration on Femicide.  This document was to be finalized by the end of the Symposium and signed by the participants.  Next, it would be presented to the United Nations General Assembly in April 2013, if a representative of a member state would agree to play this role.   Unfortunately, no such representative volunteered to do so; hopefully the Vienna Declaration on Femicide will therefore be presented for a vote at the UN General Assembly in April 2014. 

     Following is a copy of this document in which four paragraphs are excluded because they don't relate to femicide.


We, the participants of the Vienna Symposium on Femicide, held on 26 November 2012 at the United Nations Office at Vienna,


Alarmed by the fact that femicide is increasing all over the world and often remains unpunished, which not only intensifies the subordination and powerlessness of women and girls, but also sends the negative message to society that violence against females may be both acceptable and inevitable,


Recognizing that femicide is the killing of women and girls because of their gender, which can take the form of, inter alia:


1) the murder of women as result of intimate partner violence;

2) the torture and misogynist slaying of women;

3) killing of women and girls in the name of "honour";

4) targeted killing of women and girls in the context of armed conflict;

5) dowry-related killings of women;

6) killing of women and girls because of their sexual orientation and gender identity;

7) the killing of aboriginal and indigenous women and girls because of their gender;

8) female infanticide and gender-based sex selection foeticide;

9) genital mutilation related femicide;

10) accusations of witchcraft, and

11) other femicides connected with gangs, organized crime, drug dealers, human trafficking, and the proliferation of small arms.


Emphasizing that traditions and culture cannot be used as justifications for the violation of women's human rights, in particular the right to life and the right to be free from violence,


Recognizing that femicide requires efforts on all levels of society to achieve its eradication,


Reaffirming the commitment to work together towards putting an end to femicide, in full compliance with national and international legal instruments,


1. Urge Member States to consider adopting and implementing legislation to criminalize (investigate, prosecute, punish and redress) femicide, in line with the effective experience of some countries, and to undertake institutional initiatives to improve the prevention of femicide and the provision of legal protection, remedies and reparation to women survivors or violence against women, as highlighted or codified in international laws,


2. Call upon Member States to design, implement and evaluate comprehensive strategies and programmes aimed at reducing the vulnerabilities of women and girls to femicide, including public education programmes and interventions aimed at empowering women and girls and promote a culture of respect without any form of discrimination, as well as to conduct research on the role of gender-related causes (or motives) of femicide, including misogyny, to inform the above-mentioned strategies and programmes,


3. Urge Member States to support the introduction of a goal on ending violence against women in the post-2015 development agenda with a specific target of reducing by half the number of femicides by 2025,


4. Invite the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the United Nations Development Programme, the United Nations Population Fund and other relevant United Nations agencies and programmes to assist and support Member States in developing and adapting measures and strategies to prevent and respond to femicide as a grave and unacceptable violation of women's and girls' most basic human right to life,


5. Encourage the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UN Women, and other relevant United Nations entities, the institutes of the United Nations Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Programme Network, and research institutions to conduct relevant research on femicide, including in particular data collection, analysis, evaluation of programs set up to combat femicide, and the role of policies to facilitate efforts to eradicate femicide,


6. Recognize the indispensable work of civil society organizations in fighting femicide worldwide and encouraging Member States and donors to support and finance their efforts,


7. Invite the UNODC to identify relevant civil society organizations and facilitate Member States' cooperation with civil society organizations in order to create synergies and make use of all available resources to design, implement, and evaluate programs to end femicide,


The Significance of the Vienna Declaration 


I was extremely gratified that this United Nations document urged all Member States to recognize that femicides are escalating all over the world, and that these lethal sexist crimes often remain unpunished. 

I also commended those who revised the Declaration for urging Member States to work together in their efforts to combat all forms of femicide.

I particularly appreciated the Declaration's emphasis that traditions and culture must not be permitted to justify femicides.  For example, consider so-called "honor" femicides that are routinely defended by the perpetrators as justifiable acts to protect the honor of their families.  Some of these femicides are perpetrated by male family members on the basis of false rumors, errors, or lies, such as that a daughter, sister or mother was seen with another man.  Some honor femicides are perpetrated by fathers of sons who raped their sisters.  For women to be killed on such outrageously misogynist grounds by their nearest and dearest in the name of honor, strikes me as one of the most heinous forms of femicide.

Honor femicides are typically condoned by other males imbedded in the patriarchal power structure and institutions of countries in which they occur.  Most of the perpetrators receive only minor raps on their knuckles for these lethal crimes.  Pakistan is the country with the highest prevalence of honor femicides. [vii]

Finally, the Vienna Declaration provides guidance to Member Nations by recommending many steps that they must take to combat the long neglected problem of femicide. 


Strategies I Recommend to Combat Femicide Globally


Recognizing the reality and scope of femicides in every country is the first step to revolutionizing awareness about the incalculable costs of these lethal manifestations of misogyny.

The naming and defining of newly recognized forms of women's oppression is essential before they can be satisfactorily analyzed and/or attempts made to combat or prevent them.  The naming of sexual harassment, for example, was a vital first step towards the creation of legislation to prosecute such offenses.  Therefore, in countries and communities where the term femicide is not yet known, it is important that efforts are made to disseminate it as rapidly as possible. 


I believe that the most important strategies to combat femicide involve the eradication of all forms of sexist discrimination, misogynist attitudes and policies, and all manifestations of male dominance.  This is exactly what feminist movements strive to do.  Others must join this challenging effort. 


 [Photo #7: Dr. Russell addressing meeting of international experts on femicide in Washington DC, April 2008, to discuss strategies for combating femicide.]             






















 [Photo #8: Four of the experts on femicide, from left to right, 1) Shanaaz Mathews from South Africa, 2) Jordanian author of book on honor crimes, and on far right 4) Ana Caredo, Costa Rican co-author of first book on femicide in Latin America.]


















Female Genocide


     Rita Banerji documented the top six causes of femicides in India in a slide presentation that was shown at the UN Symposium on Femicide:

     #1: Female infanticide (1 year and under);

     #2: The killing of girls from 5 years and under by starvation and violence;

     #3: The killing of women [and female teenagers by] repeated and forced abortions;

     #4: Dowry-related murders [of wives];

     #5: The killing [of girls and women] for "honor" and tradition;

     #6: The killing of widows [sometimes young girls are widows] as "witches."


Banerji reported that these and other kinds of femicides have contributed to the extermination of about 50 million women and girls in India because of their gender -- especially femicides caused by the widespread parental preference for male children. 




I believe that the massive number of femicidal annihilations must be recognized as female genocide.  Six million Jews were exterminated during the Nazi period compared to 50 million femicides in just one country -- India.  Mass femicides are being perpetrated on a similar scale in China -- also largely due to male-child-preference and the Government's one-child policy.  Because of the male preference bias, millions of other females are missing in Pakistan, South Korea, Taiwan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, and several other countries. 

I believe that the most effective single strategy that would advance the global struggle against femicide would be for the Convention on Genocide adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 to be amended by adding the term "gender" to the four other factors currently included in the definition of genocide: that is,


"any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical (sic), racial or religious group." 


I'm convinced that including the term "gender" in an amendment to the United Nations Convention on Genocide would be extremely effective in bringing global attention to the many millions of gender-based femicides that some individuals have recently conceptualized as a war on women and girls perpetrated by males. (My emphasis.) 


If this proposal -- which I adopted after feminist scholar and activist Banerji brought it to my attention -- were implemented, the genocide of females would likely be the most massive of all genocides ever perpetrated.  I believe that this new recognition would have a major impact on the development of international policies to combat these gender-based genocides.


Feticide and Femicide


On realizing that millions of female fetuses are aborted in India and China because of male preference, I initially believed that female feticides should be differentiated from femicides.  Note that Banerji also does not include feticides in her list of the six most prevalent forms of femicide in India.  Then I learned from Catharine MacKinnon that she and her colleagues had established "that sex-selective abortions violate equality based on sex in India," so the "law against sex-selective abortions stands" in that country (personal email communication, November 6, 2012). 


I was also convinced by MacKinnon argument that, "if you can't even be born because of the sex that you are," and when only female fetuses are eliminated by the millions because they are female -- not because they are fetuses, then "femicide is being engaged in, not feticide" (personal email communication, November 6, 2012).


Global UN Campaigns


I also proposed that the United Nations select a particular example of femicide annually, and mount a massive campaign to combat it.  I'd like to see femicides due to male-child reference selected for the first campaign.  I presume that the growing opposition to these policies, and their disastrous consequences, would be greatly strengthened by being conceptualized as a gender-based genocide.


Anti-Femicide Laws


Since feminists in numerous countries in Latin America have been so successful in mobilizing women to fight against femicide, close examination of the strategies that have been used there would likely provide many excellent ideas about best practices in combating these misogynist crimes. 

After the Seminar on Femicide in Juarez in 2004, Lagarde and other concerned Mexican women protested against the shockingly high prevalence of these terroristic female-hating crimes, as well as the sexist impunity with which the police and the patriarchal government responded to femicides.  The impact of naming as femicides these lethal male crimes likely contributed to Lagarde and her colleagues' success in pressing the Mexican Government to pass a law against femicide.


By the time that the United Nations' Symposium occurred, the terms femicide, feminicide, femicidio, feminicidio, had been widely adopted by feminists in many Latin American countries, aside from Mexico, including Guatemala, Costa Rica, Bolivia, Chile, El Salvador, Brazil, Uruguay, Peru, Nicaragua, Honduras, and Argentina.  In addition, feminist anti-femicide organizations had been set up in several of these countries, eight of which had succeeded in getting their governments to pass laws against femicide.


Personal Testimony


Personal testimony has long been one of the major feminist strategies to raise women's awareness about their own oppression, as well as an effective method of increasing public awareness about particular forms of sexist oppression and exploitation.  It can also be very successful at motivating feminists to engage in actions to combat femicides. 

Because of the great impact of the International Tribunal on Crimes Against Women in 1976,  I became even more impressed by the efficacy of personal testimony as a powerful strategy to combat whatever form(s) of women's oppression the testimony was about.  Because of the lethality of femicides, personal testimonies about these crimes would have to be contributed by members of victims' families, friends, journalists, researchers, anyone with intimate knowledge about these cases, or by the survivors of attempted femicides. 

I have quite often recommended the organization of International Tribunals on Femicide, especially in Latin America, when I delivered speeches there on these hate crimes against females.  I made a particular effort to convince Marcela Lagarde about my conviction in the potential efficacy of an International Tribunal on femicide in Latin America, but unfortunately, I failed in my mission.


I also advocate local and national Tribunals on whatever femicides most concern women living in different countries, regions, or local communities, for example, so-called honor crimes, female sexual slavery and trafficking in girls and women, intimate partner femicides, femicide by stoning, pornography-related femicides, serial femicides, rape-femicides, femicidal victimization of prostituted women and girls, racist femicides; homophobic femicides; and AIDS-related femicides (see Russell's argument that AIDS is a form of mass femicide; Russell and Harmes, 2001, pp. 100-111). 


A powerful example of the efficacy of personal testimony was demonstrated by four British women survivors of vicious attacks by their husbands who testified at the International Tribunal in Brussels in 1976.  Because Britain was the first country in which feminists initiated a campaign against woman battering, as well as inventing battered women's shelters to which survivors could escape.  The women also benefited from the support and understanding that they needed at these safe havens.

The British International Tribunal committee selected four battered women to testify at this groundbreaking event.  These women had recovered sufficiently from their post traumatic stress disorders from which they had suffered, to become filled with rage at their batterers.  They felt no compunction about describing all the vile details of their abuse, as well as how they had managed to escape to a battered women's shelter.  Finally they shared how they had developed a political understanding of the abuse they had suffered, and stopped blaming themselves for their victimization.  In short, they became survivors.


Among other consequences of the testimonies of these four women was the opening of battered women's shelters all over Germany.


     In the course of writing this article, I discovered the enormous increase in all kinds of materials on femicide on the internet since I had last searched the Internet for this subject matter.  This has convinced me that the naming of femicide to politicize the killing of women and girls all over the world, and the mobilization of women and progressive men to develop multiple strategies to combat these misogynist male-perpetrated crimes, has become unstoppable. 





(1)   This book is still printed by Russell Publications, 2432 Grant Street, Berkeley, CA 94703, USA.  A copy is also on Russell's website at

             that can be downloaded.






Carcedo, Ana, and Sagot, Montserrat.  2000.  Femicidio en Costa Rica, 1990-1999. Femicidio en Costa Rica, 1990-1999.  San Jose, Costa Rica: Organizacion Panamericana de la Salud. 


Fregno, Rosa-Linda, and Bejarano, Cynthia.  (Eds.)  2010.  Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas.


Radford, Jill, and Russell, Diana E. H. (Eds.).  1992.  Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing.  New York: Twayne Publishers.


Russell, Diana E. H. and Harmes, Roberta.  (Eds.)  2001.  Femicide in Global Perspective.  New York: Teachers College Press.


Russell, Diana E. H., and Van de Ven, Nicole.  1976.  Crimes Against Women: The Proceedings of the International Tribunal.  Milbrae, California: Les Femmes. 


Chapters, Introductions, Articles


Lagarde, Marcela.  2010.  Preface: Feminist keys for understanding Feminicide.  In Fregno, Rosa-Linda, and Bejarano, Cynthia.  (Eds.)  Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas.


 Monarrez Fragoso, Julia.  1999.  "La cultura del feminicidio en Ciudad Juarez.  1993-1999."  Frontera Norte, Vol. 12, n. 23.


Electronic Text

Munoz Cabrera, Pamela.  2010.  Intersecting Violences: A review of feminist theories and debates on violence against women and poverty in Latin America (Central American Women's Network, [CAWN]). 


Selected Actions


Domingo, Chris, and Russsell, Diana E. H.  1992.  Clearinghouse on Femicide.  Berkeley, California.  Listed in "Organizations," Radford


Domingo, Chris, and Russsell, Diana E. H.  1992.  The Black Coalition Fighting Back Serial Murders.  Listed in "Organizations,"

Domingo, Chris, and Russsell, Diana E. H.  1992 .The Clothesline Project. .  

Domingo, Chris, and RusselI, Diana E. H.  1992.  Compiled a list of anti-femicide  organizations in the United States.  In Radford, Jill, and Russell, Diana E. H.  Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing. 


Personal Communications


MacKinnon, Catharine.  November 6, 2012.  Email communication.





Diana E. H. Russell, Ph.D., a Professor Emerita of Sociology, is one of the foremost experts on sexual violence against women and girls in the world. For the last 40 years she has been deeply engaged in research and activism on this massive social problem. She has authored, co-authored, edited, and/or co-edited 17 books, mostly on sexual violence, which have become authoritative sources on rape (including wife rape), incestuous abuse, femicide, and pornography. Dr. Russell was co-recipient of the prestigious C. Wright Mills Award for The Secret Trauma for outstanding social science research. Check out her website at









.[i] This book is still printed by Russell Publications, 2432 Grant Street, Berkeley, CA 94703, USA.  A copy is also on Russell's website at, that can be downloaded.

[ii]  The large file cabinet of Femicide Clearinghouse materials that the late Domingo had collected and organized, is stored in my garage awaiting a feminist activist who is interested in using the materials and able to house them in the San Francisco Bay area.  


[iii]  I don't understand the rationale for this example being limited to small arms

[iv]  I have certainly not limited my research and activism to this one crime.


[v]   See my article "Defining Femicide" for my disagreement with statements in this paragraph.


[vi]  This is the only paragraph that I edited.


[vii]   943 honor killings were reported in 2011 in Pakistan, and 5,000 internationally per year (Source: http:/