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UN: Why home is the most dangerous place for a woman

Domestic violence is still commonly viewed as a private ‘family’ matter. [iStockphoto]

More than five women and girls were killed every hour by a family member in 2021, a new UN study on femicide has revealed.

The report depicts a gruesome reality around the world, women, and girls face utmost danger in their homes where they live with close relatives and intimate partners.

According to the report, Global Estimates of Gender-related Killings of Women and Girls in Private Sphere 2021 published on Wednesday, 45,000 women and girls – more than half at 56 per cent of the 81,100 murdered last year worldwide – were killed by their husbands, partner, or other relatives.

The report further examined how violence against women and girls is one of the most pervasive human rights violations worldwide.

Data from the report indicates that last year, the highest number of femicides at the hands of relatives was in Asia, with 17,800 deaths.

However, the research showed that women and girls in Africa were more at risk of being killed by family members. The rate of gender-related killings in the home was estimated at 2.5 per 100,000 of the female population in Africa, compared with 1.4 in the Americas, 1.2 in Oceania, 0.8 in Asia, and 0.6 in Europe.

Speaking during the launch of the report, UN Women Executive Director Sima Bahous said behind every femicide statistic is the story of an individual woman or girl who has failed.

“These deaths are preventable - the tools and the knowledge to do so already exist. Women’s rights organisations are already monitoring data and advocating for policy change and accountability.

Now, we need the concerted action across society that will fulfill women’s and girls’ right to feel and to be safe, at home, on the streets, and everywhere,” Bahous said.

The report further indicates that the onset of the Covid pandemic in 2020 coincided with a significant increase in femicides in North America and western and southern Europe.

Data from 25 countries in Europe and the Americas indicates that the increases were largely due to killings carried out by family members other than husbands and partners.

The Executive Director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, Ghada Waly recommended that to stop all forms of gender-related killings of women and girls, there is a need to count every victim, everywhere, and improve understanding of the risks and drivers of femicide so better and more effective prevention and criminal justice responses can be designed.

“No woman or girl should fear for her life because of who she is,” said Ghada.

The report coincides with the 16 Days of Activism Against Gender-Based Violence marked between November 25 and December 10.

The yearly campaign sparks hundreds of events around the world to accelerate efforts to end violence against women and girls.

Bárbara Jiménez-Santiago, a human rights lawyer and the Americas regional coordinator for the international women’s rights organisation Equality Now, said comprehensive data on femicide must be made available, and statistics should include deaths that result from other forms of violence.

For example, a woman who commits suicide after rape, or a girl who is pregnant because of rape and dies during childbirth.

Many countries still have laws that discriminate against women and girls, added Jimenez-Santiago, including those that allow rape within marriage or permit rapists to avoid punishment by marrying the victims.

“Domestic violence is still commonly viewed as a private ‘family’ matter in some parts of the world,” she said. “Police and prosecutors often don’t take cases seriously, and victim blaming is widespread. This deters women and girls from reporting violations. Offenders go unpunished and this fosters a culture of impunity that perpetuates further abuse.”

According to the report, an overwhelming majority which stands at 81 per cent of homicides worldwide are committed against men and boys, but they are most at risk of being killed by someone outside their family.

Out of all male homicide victims in 2021, only about 11 per cent were killed by a partner or relative.

Other related findings by the UN state that domestic violence against women and girls is rooted in societal norms about men’s authority to exert control over women.

Reports found that men and boys who adhere to stereotypical views of gender roles — for example, that men need more sex than women or that men should dominate women — are more likely to use violence against a partner.

Women who killed their male partners often said they had suffered extended periods of violence.