Michael Platzer, Liaison - Academic Council on the United
    Nations System (ACUNS)
Chair - Vienna NGO Alliance on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice


Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice 2013


„STOP the Killing of Women and Girls“

23 April 2013




Since 2011, the United Nations has been raising awareness on the issue of gender-related killings of women and girls/femicide. The UNODC homicide report of 2011 includes statistics on domestic/intimate-partner related femicides; the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, wrote a comprehensive report on gender-related killings in 2012 and the study of the Secretary General describes several forms of femicides in his re-issued report on violence against women.


The outcome document of the Commission on the Status of Women included for the first time the issue of femicide while a resolution on femicide has now been tabled by Argentina at the upcoming CCPCJ, with many co-sponsors.




The side event will focus on best practices to stop the gender-related killings of women and girls/femicide. Each speaker will have 5-7 minutes to present how gender-related killings can be effectively stopped through improved investigation, prosecution, and punishment of the perpetrators as well as awareness raising and the introduction of new legislation.  Femicide is a global phenomenon, but there have been good legislative models from Latin America as well as effective public campaigns in Asia to end the preference for boys and the killing of girls and women.  Academic Council on the United Nations, supported by the government of Austria and city of Vienna, has republished a collection of research on the different forms as well as the United Nations documents and statements from prominent individuals, “Femicide: An International Issue that demands attention”.  A symposium on Femicide was held on the International Day to combat violence against women last year with the participation of the Ambassadors of Argentina, Austria, Slovenia, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom and a “Vienna Declaration” issued.



The Speakers


The Special Representative of the Secretary General on violence against children, Ms. Marta Santos Pais, the Director of the Research and Right to Development Division of the OHCHR, Ms. Marcia Kran, as well as the Ambassador of the Philippines and the Ambassador of Costa Rica  have accepted to speak during this side event.


The President of the Austrian National Council, Ms. Barbara Prammer, has also been invited to open the discussion.




              By Michael Platzer


Has the United Nations done nothing but watch the killing of women and children?   Starting from the very purpose of the organization to save “succeeding generations from the scourge” of  war, the focus  of the Geneva War  Convention (1949) and  main activity of the UN High Commissioners for Refugees(1949) have been the protection of civilian populations, particularly women and children.   The targeting, raping, and killing of women had been a war tactic of all sides during World War II.   The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) proclaims that all human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.  Everyone is entitled to all the rights, particularly the right to life and to be free from torture.   The sub- Commission on the Status of Women was already established in 1946   to examine the discrimination and special problems faced by women (eg. discrimInation in marriage). A Declaration on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women was adopted in 1967 by the General Assembly.   The Convention on Elimination of Discrimination against Women went into force in 1979 and subsequently each year countries are examined about the violence women face in the specific country being scrutinized. (if they have signed the Optional Protocol).  Under CEDAW, the States are required to take all measures to guarantee the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms on the basis of equality with men.




In the late 1980’s and early 1990’s, the CSW, the CEDAW committee and eventually the Human Rights Commission on Human Rights brought the issue of violence against women to the forefront of the international agenda. In 1995, the Beijing Platform identified violence against women as the obstacle to the achievement of equality, development and peace, while emphasizing that it nullified the enjoyment by women of their basic human rights and fundamental freedoms.  In 1993 the General Assembly passed the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women (Resolution 48/104) which defined violence against women as any act of gender based violence that result in physical, sexual harm, or suffering to women, whether occurring public or private life.   The United Nations Declaration of Basic Principles of Justice for Victims of Crime and Abuse of Power (General Assembly Resolution 40/34, Annex) of 29 November 1985 reminded States of their due diligence obligations to protect women and to bring to justice the killers of women, including provision of reparations to their families and support to those who survive such attacks. 




At the same time, as a result of the horrible atrocities in the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda,  the targeting of women and girls as a form of ethnic cleansing and  tactic of war,  were now being considered “international war crimes”  and prosecuted as such by the ad hoc tribunals for ex-Yugoslavia and Rwanda.   The Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, adopted in 1998, included gender related crimes, massive rape and crimes of a sexual violence as a crime against humanity, a war crime or a constitutive act with respect to genocide.


The Security Council  in its  landmark resolutions 1325 of 31 October, 1820 of 19 June 2008, 1888 of 30 September 2009, 1889 of 5 October 2009, and 1960 of 16 December on” women and peace and security” emphasized the special needs of women and girls during the conflict, repatriation and resettlement, re-integration and post conflict reconstruction.  It was the first UN document that required parties in a conflict to respect women’s rights and support their participation in peace negotiations.  The parties to a conflict were also urged to take measures to protect women and girls from gender based violence such as rape.  The resolution emphasised the responsibility of all countries to prosecute those responsible for these war crimes.  Another set of Security Council resolutions called on combatants to protect children in armed conflicts and prohibited the use of child (girl) soldiers (auxiliaries or concubines) in resolution 1882 (2008)  and 1998 of 12 July 2011 on armed conflict and post conflict situations,


Despite the Secretary General’s directives and Gender Advisors posted in UN peacekeeping operations, UN military and civilian personnel have been accused of sexual abuse of children,  forced prostitution, rape and murder in the Bosnia, Congo, Haiti,  Kosovo, and Sudan.  In the 1996 UN Study “The Impact of Armed Conflict on Children”, the former first lady of Mozambique, Graca Machal, found that the arrival of peacekeeping troops has been associated with a rapid rise in child prostitution, in 6 out of 12 country studies.   UN employees have been accused of direct involvement in procurement of sex slaves for brothels in  Bosnia and Congo.  Usually, those accused are simply repatriated to their home countries.




At the same time, Updated Model Strategies and Practical Measures on the Elimination of Violence against Women in the Field of Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice were developed by the UN Office of Drugs and Crime and approved by the General Assembly Resolution 65/228.   In 2005, the Secretary -General’s in depth study on violence against women, mandated by General Assembly resolution 58/185 was prepared by the Division for the Advancement of Women of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs.  A second expert group on good practices was organized by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, together with a task force of NGOs, recognized experts and several entities of the United Nations system in 2006 (republished by the UN Entity for Gender Equality in 2013).  




The Secretary General’s study for the first time listed the forms and manifestations of the violence against women: violence against women within the family, marital rape, dowry related violence, female infanticide, pre-natal sex selection, female genital mutilation, early marriage, forced marriage, violence perpetuated against domestic workers.  The most common form of violence is intimate partner violence; femicide studies from Australia, Canada, South Africa, and the USA show that 40 to 70 percent of the female murder victims are killed by husbands or boyfriends.  The Special Rapporteur on harmful traditional practices listed crimes against women committed in the name of “ honour”, maltreatment of widows, including inciting widows to commit suicide, dedication of young girls to temples, restrictions on a second daughter’s right to marry, dietary restrictions for pregnant women, nutritional taboos, marriage to a deceased husband’s brother and witch hunts (E/CN.4/Sub.2/2005/36).   The Secretary General first referred to “Femicide: the gender based murder of a woman” in connection with the brutally raped and murdered young women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and Guatemala.   It also mentioned the violence against women in conflict settings, violence against indigenous women, against women based on caste, and against elderly women.




In May 2012, the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, Its Causes and Consequences, Ms. Rashida Manjoo, addressed the topic of gender-related killings of women in her report to the Human Rights Council (A/HRC/20/16).  She describes the increasing use of the word “femicide” to cover the misogynist killing of women by men,  with sadistic desires, the unpunished killings of women in the private and public spheres,” crimes of passion”, female infanticide, preadolescent  mortality of girls and dowry related deaths, and the torture, sexual abuse, deprivation of liberty, murder and post mortem dismembering of bodies.  She holds the term to be useful when holding governments to account for the impunity, institutional violence of such crimes, tolerance, blaming the victims, lack of access to justice and effective remedies, negligence, threats, corruption, and abuse by officials- in other words, a state crime due to the inability to prevent, protect, and guarantee the lives of women.  She provides statistics and describes the extent of 1) Killings of women as a result of intimate-partner violence, 2) Killings of women due to accusations of sorcery/witchcraft, 3) Killings of women and girls in the name of “honour”, 3) Killings in the context of armed conflict, 4) Dowry-related killings of women, 5) Killings of aboriginal and indigenous women, 6) Extreme forms of violent killings of women (connected to gangs, organized crime, drug dealers, human and drug trafficking, proliferations of small arms), 7) Killings as a result of sexual orientation and gender identity, and 8) female infanticide, gender based sex selection.   She cites the General Assembly Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women (48/104), General Assembly Resolution 61/143 of 19 December 2006 and Resolution 63/155 of 18 December 2008 on the intensification of efforts to eliminate all forms of violence against women.  In 2004, the General Assembly passed a resolution on the elimination of crimes against women and girls committed in the name of honour (59/165).


Most pointedly, she cites recent CEDAW criticisms of Austria, Canada, Mexico, and India for failure to act.   But she also refers to positive national practices. Following the deposition of her report, 60 countries submitted a joint statement on gender –based killing in the Human Rights Council declaring States “must exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators, and provide protection to women and girls who have experience violence.”   The signing states committed themselves to fight impunity, especially the horrendous crimes of gender based killings, including legislative cooperation, creation of national sex-disaggregated data bases, publication of gender educational programs and manuals, standardizing of protocols, development of expertise or any other adequate action in order to eradicate gender based violence.


80 States co-sponsored the Human Rights Council Resolution (A/HRC/20/L.10)  which welcomed the work of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women and invited all relevant stakeholders, including regional organizations and mechanisms, treaty bodies, United Nations entities, special procedures, civil society organizations,  academic institutions, to contribute to the mandate holder’s study on State responsibility for eliminating violence against women by submitting relevant information, including on providing remedies for women who have been subjected to violence.




The UNODC has produced a Handbook of Effective police response to violence against women (www.unodc.org/unodc/en/justice-and-prison-reform/tools) and a Training Curriculum on Effective Police Responses to Violence against Women, based in part on the Southern African Regional Police Chiefs Cooperation Organization (SARPCC0).  It begins “Violence against women is a global issue of pandemic proportions, which has an impact on all societies….Such violence can have a devastating effect on the lives of victims, their families and communities.  Studies conducted on all five continents suggest no society can consider itself immune from such violence.  Violent practices that victimize women and girls transcend social, cultural, ethnic and religious boundaries”   While the focus is on domestic violence, other forms of violence are discussed.   “Police are at the frontline of the criminal justice system.  They are often called upon to intervene when an act of violence in in process or shortly after it has taken place.  Police are confronted by victims, offenders, witnesses, and various forms of evidence.  Their attitude and response to all involved can have a dramatic impact on ensuing developments, including the prevention of future acts…”


In 2011, the UNODC Statistics and Surveys Section published a “Global Study on Homicide: Trends, Contexts, Data”.   The World Health Organization provided the public health data presented in the study. The Organization of American States supported in the collection of data in the Americas.  The study was prepared by Angela Me, Enrico Bisogno, and Steven Malby and made possible by the financial contribution of the Small Arms Survey.  A whole chapter deals with “Women and Intimate Partner/ Family related Homicide”.   Data for Europe reveal half of the female victims were murdered by family members (35% by spouses or ex-spouses, 17% by relatives).  The murder of women in Australia, Canada, Israel, South Africa show similar patterns- 40-70%.  Moreover, these ratios have not changed; they are linked to male partner unemployment, firearm ownership, drug and alcohol use, the threat of separation, sexual jealousy, extreme male dominance-despite murder rates declining in many of these countries.   While homicide levels have steadily declined in India over the past 15 years, the rate of dowry related deaths has increased 40 percent.


UNODC has found the highest female homicide rates in Africa, followed by Americas, and Europe.  In different contexts around the world, membership of certain racial or ethnic is strongly linked to becoming a homicide victim or offender.  However, more and better data are needed for the majority of countries world wide.


At the twenty second session of the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, a side event was organized by the Statistics and Surveys Section, the Academic Council on the United Nations System, and the Small Arms Survey. 


On the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Academic Council on the United Nations System together with UN Office of Drugs and Crime organized a one day Symposium on Femicide.  It was attended by representatives of Austria, Argentina, Chile, India, Italy, Philippines, Thailand and the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland as well as other diplomats, experts, academics, activists, and the general public.   A Vienna Declaration on Femicide was proclaimed which called on improved collaboration between the Human Rights Council, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Commission on the Status of Women and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women as well as regional human rights mechanisms.  It invited UNODC, UN Women, OHCHR, UNICEF, UNDP, UNFPA, and other relevant UN agencies to support programmes to prevent and respond to femicide.  The Declaration called for the creation of a platform where lawyers, prosecutors, judges, law enforcement officials, academics, feminists, non-governmental organizations, UN agencies, governmental and inter-governmental institutions and other relevant actors could share expertis and good practices, in order to transfer knowledge across regions.


On 8 March 2013, International Women’s Day, the Executive Director of UNODC issued a statement “Murder is the ultimate expression of violence…..18 per cent of the homicides occurring in a year are (femicides).  Based on UNODC Statistics, in Europe, 18 women are killed every day; 12 of them murdered at the hands of their intimate partners or other family members.  We must now allow theses murders to continue.  … I call on nations, international organizations, civil society, the private sector, and the public to work together to create societies where women feel safe and secure”




From 4 to 15 March, 2013, the fifty-seven session of the Commission on the Status met in New York with the theme “The elimination and prevention of all forms of violence against women and girls”. It produced a historic, unanimous outcome document, mentioning gender related killing of women and girls and even the words ‘femicide’ and ‘feminicide’.  The Commission  stressed that “all States….must exercise due diligence to prevent, investigate, prosecute and punish the perpetrators of violence against women and girls and end impunity, and to provide protection as well as access to appropriate remedies for victims and survivors.”   It expressed” concern about violent gender-related killings of women and girls, while recognizing efforts made to address this form of violence in different regions, including in countries where the concept of FEMICIDE or FEMINCIDE has been incorporated in national legislation”.    The Commission urged governments to “adopt…comprehensive measures that criminalize violence against women and girls” …”and appropriate punishment of perpetrators to end impunity”.  It furthermore called for “national legislation to punish violent gender related killings of women and girls “ and “specific mechanisms to prevent, investigate, and eradicate such deplorable forms of gender –based violence.”  It demanded “accountability for the killing, maiming and targeting of women and girls and crimes of sexual violence, stressing the need for the exclusion of such crimes from amnesty provisions in the context of conflict resolution processes” and ending impunity by “punishing perpetrators of the most serious crimes against women and girls under national justice or where applicable international justice”. 


The Commission went so far as to “hold accountable public officials (judiciary, police, teachers, religious leaders, health, social welfare, immigration, and defence officials) for not responding to violence and abuse of power. It condemned the violence against women in health care settings, forced hysterectomy, forced caesareans, forced sterilization, and forced abortion.  The Commission recognized the increased vulnerability of disadvantaged women, those living with HIV, indigenous and Afro-descendent women, older women and girls from ethnic minorities.  In addition to effective criminal justice measures and educational programmes, the Commission called for measures to protect women from harassment, improve the safety of girls on the way to and from school , by community policing, improved urban planning, infrastructure, public transport and street lighting through programmes like the “Safe Cities for Women and Children” initiative.   The Commission ended by arguing that ending violence against women should be considered a priority in the elaboration of the Post-2015 Development Agenda