Sun, Oct 08, 2006 - Page 9 News List

The facts on `femicide'

By Julie Bindel  /  THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

The murder of the Amish schoolgirls is not the first time, by any means, that women or girls have been singled out for death. In 1989, when misogynist Marc Lepine stormed into a college in Montreal, Canada, and shot 14 young women dead, feminists began to demand that police categorize such killings as "femicide," for the same reason that racially motivated murders are named as such.

Since then, hundreds of thousands more women and girls have been murdered by men around the world. Different circumstances, different methods, but all for the same reason: hatred of females and a desire to exercise power over them.

In the 14th and 15th centuries, tens of thousands of women were drowned, stoned and hanged by men in Britain and Europe for being unmarried, or deviating from their prescribed gender role. Every year in Britain, an average of 100 women are killed by a current or former partner. This constitutes 42 percent of all female victims of homicide.

The Council of Europe recently stated that domestic violence is the biggest cause of death and disability for all women under the age of 44. Girls are not exempt: young women aged between 15 and 24 have the highest risk of being killed by male partners.

There are no exact figures available for sexually motivated murders of girls and women in the UK, such as the notorious Sarah Payne case, but they happen regularly enough -- on average 10 every year. Police say some of these 10 will be rape victims, killed by the rapist to stop them from giving evidence. The courts call it "disposing of evidence".

A number of shootings of women across the UK over the past few years are "retaliation murders" -- gangland, drug-related killings of female relatives and friends of men in conflict with the killers, such as Charlene Ellis and Letisha Shakespeare, who were gunned down in Birmingham in 2003.

Since 1990, almost 70 prostitutes are known to have been murdered in Britain. Girls trafficked into prostitution from Africa and Eastern Europe often go missing from children's homes. Sometimes their bodies turn up, disposed of by the trafficker or maybe killed by a punter.

The majority of the 69 women missing in Vancouver's Downtown Eastside district were involved in prostitution. It took years of pressure from family members before police began treating the disappearances as potential murder. In 2002, the remains of 20 of the women were found on a pig farm near where they were last seen. Police now believe there may be more than 100 victims on the farm.

Globally, more than 5,000 girls and women are killed every year by male family members in so-called "honour killings," according to the UN. Their "crimes" include marrying out of their faith or culture, being raped, or something as trivial as talking to a man without a chaperone.

In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, there have been at least 370 murders of girls and young women since 1993. Bodies have been found in streets, ditches, rivers and buried in marshland. Police have variously attributed the murders to serial killers, drug cartels and domestic violence. Many of the victims were poor working mothers employed in factories.

Most of the murders -- committed by strangulation or stabbing -- are thought to have been sexually motivated.

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