1.7. Femicide measurement

Last edited: October 07, 2020

This content is available in


Femicide rates remain consistently high across the globe. It is, however, under-detected and often not appropriately classified as such by authorities. There is no internationally agreed definition of femicide, although all definitions refer to the intentional killing of women because they are women. Global reports tend to focus on the perpetrator-victim relationship and limit the definition and reporting to those killings of women by an intimate partner or other family member. Statistical data on the gender-related killing of women and girls are not just scarcely available, but also not comparable at the international level as countries rely on national legal definitions which differentiate from one another. Furthermore, evidence shows how criminal justice recording and investigating practices regarding femicide vary significantly across countries, leading to possible misinterpretations and underestimations of the actual level of crime when only looking at data resulting from specific femicide legislation.

In June 2019, UN Women and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) co-convened the Inter-Agency Meeting to Discuss Technical Aspects of Statistics on Gender-Related Killings of Women and Girls in Vienna, Austria. The meeting, attended by WHO, the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) and the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI) besides the co-conveners, aimed at proposing a common UN approach to improving the gathering of data on all typologies of femicide, agreeing on a common definition for statistical purposes, and contributing to ensure comparable data for regional and global aggregates and trend analysis. This can serve as an operational framework for data producers and as measurement criteria independent from legal definitions. Despite the multiplicity of definitions and manifestations, undoubtedly femicide differentiates from other types of killings and is the most extreme expression of VAW and gender inequality. Hence, determining what constitutes the “gender motivation” of the killing is the critical element for a common approach for statistical purposes, and the most challenging aspect of its measurement. An initial approximation to measuring femicide is the measurement of killings by intimate partner/family member, which is already being reported by some countries and produces comparable estimations at the regional and international levels. The comparability of this concept is given by the application of a statistical standard, the International Classification of Crime for Statistical Purposes (ICCS), approved and largely implemented by Member States as the standard framework for the collection and processing of crime and criminal justice statistics. This meeting lay a foundation for further work on improving the collection, analysis, and use of data on femicide. The meeting outcome document will inform further consultations with experts and stakeholders from different regions to reach consensus on an operational definition of femicide for statistical purposes. This work is closely linked and coordinated with efforts under the Spotlight Initiative in Latin America, which is engaging and tapping onto the technical leadership of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) on this matter in the region.