Femicide in Latin America - Statistics & Facts

Femicide can be defined as the killing of women or girls on the basis of their gender. The definition varies widely in the legal frameworks of Latin American countries, as well as in social discourse worldwide. Major topics of discussion include whether femicide can be considered a separate crime from homicide, if femicide should refer exclusively to a murder committed by a man, and if the term is inclusive of the murders of trans and gender-diverse people.

After the turn of the century, femicide slowly but steadily became a more recognized social and legal category in Latin America. Wider use of the term in the media as well as the activist work of numerous feminist organizations proved instrumental to the categorization of these crimes as a type of first-degree murder in countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Colombia, and Chile. The institution of femicide as an aggravated case of homicide motivated by sexism and misogyny replaced its former classification as voluntary manslaughter, which could substantially alleviate the perpetrator’s conviction. Likewise, its previous justification as a crime of passion has been gradually abandoned both by legal doctrine and case law.

Since the early 2010s, as Latin American societies gained awareness of violence against women, many governments in the region have increased their efforts to prevent and document gender-based criminal phenomena. For instance, the region's two most populous countries, Brazil and Mexico, had the highest number of registered femicide victims in 2018. However, the femicide rate per 100,000 women that same year was higher in smaller countries in the region, notably El Salvador and Honduras.

Higher numbers on record do not always yield clear conclusions: while they could point to increased violence, they could also indicate more frequent reporting and response from the authorities. Though awareness of the issue is expanding, it remains difficult to conclude whether femicide and related violence against women is more common in Latin America than other regions around the world because of widespread problems of reporting. Victims of gender violence often face a lack of social validation and due process, or fear retaliation from the perpetrators.

Femicide is often preceded by other unreported and unpunished crimes such as physical or psychological violence and sexual abuse. In Latin America, women are most likely to be killed by their intimate partners or relatives. Even on official record, partner or ex-partner is often identified as the most common perpetrator, as in Argentina and Peru. Certain social circumstances may also substantially increase case occurrence. In the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, for example, domestic violence and sexual abuse reports surged since the lockdown imposed in many countries across the region, particularly in Colombia and Chile.



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