Why femicide and homicide are not the same?

Many women's deaths are classified as a homicide, which could be a conflict when looking for strategies to fight gender violence

  • 30/11/2020
  • 19:32 hrs
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Why femicide and homicide are not the same?
On the International Day to Eradicate Violence against Women, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador assured that the causes behind femicides and homicides in the country are the same. (Cuartoscuro)

Differentiating homicide from femicide is essential to understand gender violence. These are two different terms from each other and understanding that allows the legal classifications to be more exact and, at the same time, the data to help prevent crime.

On the International Day to Eradicate Violence against Women, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador assured that the causes behind femicides and homicides in the country are the same: families' disintegration and the loss of values. However, this vision makes the problem invisible.


First, let's be clear: femicide and homicide are not synonymous. Femicide is the murder of women due to their gender condition. They are killed because they are women, and one or more men perpetrate the act. If a woman suffers a traffic accident, it is not femicide because her death is not related to her condition as a woman or murdered in a robbery, either; in this case, it is homicide.

Diana Russell coined the term femicide. Later, thanks to the Mexican Marcela Lagarde, it was recovered in the laws as an alternative to the neutral term homicide, with the political aim of recognizing and making visible discrimination, oppression, inequality, and systemic violence against women.

This term had to be coined to acknowledge a problem: killing women for the simple fact of being women. For the United Nations (UN), this phenomenon can be classified according to the relationship between victim and perpetrator: intimate partner femicide, family member femicide, femicide by other acquaintances, and femicide by strangers.


One of the most evident differences between intentional homicide and femicide can be seen when comparing the state's data for these two crimes. If the causes behind these two crimes were the same, we would have to see that the states with the highest rates for intentional homicide would be the same states with the highest rates for femicide. However, this is not the case. The states of Colima, Baja California, Chihuahua, and Guanajuato have the highest rates of intentional homicide of women. What happens in femicides?

In a study by the Belisario Domínguez Institute of the Senate of the Republic, the entities with the highest rates of femicides are the following Morelos and Veracruz, both with 3.8 per 100,000 inhabitants, followed by Colima 2.8, Sonora  2.7 and Sinaloa 2.5. Except for Colima, the states do not coincide. Even considering the 2020 figures, the states with the highest rate of femicides differ from those with the highest rate of intentional homicides.


A vital difference in classifying murders as femicides reside in the way the women were killed. If the body is publicly exposed or tortured, there may be a motive of hatred and, therefore, femicide.

When observing the data, most malicious homicides are carried out with firearms (71%). In femicides, this form only reaches 21%, according to the report "Impunity in intentional homicides and femicides " from Impunidad Cero.


Another big difference is that femicides are invisible, often classified as intentional or negligent homicides - unlike homicides, whose classification is usually correct.

According to the CNDH, a woman's death is much more likely to be classified as wrongful death than that of a man.


The lack of a gender perspective when investigating and punishing crimes.  Some states classify femicides as less than 10% of these crimes, such as Guanajuato, Michoacán, and Guerrero.

Denying or making invisible the legal, theoretical, and practical differences of femicide also mean denying the existence of gender violence. In Mexico, it is a problem that is becoming more and more serious. The number of women murdered from January to September of this year is 2,874 and has not decreased during the last three years. Of these cases, 724 are investigated as femicides, and, to the seriousness of the matter, we must add the increase of women's disappearances, with a high percentage of minors.

Traducción: Valentina K. Yanes