Femicides and "Honour" Killings

Last Updated May, 2010


Drafters should recognize that murder is another form of widow maltreatment and should criminalize it accordingly. For example, legislation should prohibit and punish witch hunting, an offense often directed at widows. Witch hunting involves the accusation of individuals, often elderly women, of practicing witch craft when others fall ill or die. Witchcraft, however, may often be a pretense for the perpetrators’ personal gain. Such perpetrators use vigilante violence to torture and kill so-called “witches,” thus removing these women from the line of inheritance, or from the home or land. Legislation should impose penalties for these murders that are commensurate with other first-degree murders.


Legislation should list aggravating factors that increase the sentence, such as committing murder for financial gain, committing murder as witch hunting, vulnerability of the victim due to old age or widow status, the murder was carried out in a particularly heinous way that inflicted torture or serious physical abuse to the victim, the murder was committed after substantial planning or premeditation, and a prior criminal history of the perpetrator.


Drafters should create a separate criminal offense of “honour” crimes and “honour” killings. Drafters should ensure that crimes of “honour” are non-compoundable offenses: they should be prosecuted regardless of whether the victim or her family have withdrawn the complaint or whether the parties have reached a private settlement. Penalties for “honour” crimes and killings should be reflective of the seriousness of the crime and commensurate with other similar offenses. See supra: Section on Sentencing Provisions.


See: “Honour” Crimes.