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Femicide

(Feminicidio, femicidio)

Mujer con los ojos vendados y los puños atados. Tiene la boca abierta, como si estuviera gritando. De fondo, varias mujeres caminan en una marcha y llevan un cartel.

Femicide refers to the murder of a woman simply for being a woman. Es más común el uso de feminicidio en algunos países de América Latina, como México o Colombia; y de femicidio en España, Argentina, Venezuela, Chile y Honduras. 

The word has been used since the 19th century to refer to the murder of women. Diana Russell, a South African feminist, reclaimed the word in the 1970s and perfected it with time. Eventually, it became the murder of women for simply being a woman and perpetrated by men. These murders are sexist in nature, they include misogynistic elements, and a sense of rights over women, of being superior to them, or of women being their property.

In Spanish, Marcela Lagarde—a Mexican anthropologist, radical feminist, and congress member—used the term feminicide. She also expanded the concept of femicide developed by Russell and other English-speaking academics. Lagarde defined feminicide as the set of ’offences against humanity that consist of crimes, kidnappings, and disappearances of girls and women in the framework of institutional collapse. It is the breakdown of the rule of law that promotes impunity’. Therefore, the role of impunity, inaction, and lack of protection during crimes is what distinguishes the term femicide from feminicide.  

However, national legislations from different countries have defined this crime using both terms interchangeably and they do not always refer to the idea of impunity. In line with Legarde, the Mexican legislation, for example, defines it as feminicide violence and includes ideas of the continuity of violence and impunity over the violence that preceded the crime. In contrast, Colombian legislation defines the crime without referring to the State impunity that Legarde mentions. 

In any case, the debate on the use of both terms is not settled. For now, and in order to move forward in eradicating this crime, the international system has opted to leave the debate aside. Instead, both terms are used in an indistinct manner to refer to the same phenomenon: the murder of women simply for being women.

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