Femicide Causes and Risk Factors

Last updated May 2019

There are a number of factors that contribute to the prevalence of femicide, including discrimination, the presence of a culture of violence, impunity, and poverty, among other factors. As the risk factors for femicide often build upon each other, an ecological model can provide a holistic view of the risk factors at the individual, relationship, community, and societal level. Here, the larger levels inform the smaller levels.[1] For example, the community level informs the relationship and individual levels, while the societal level informs the community level.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has identified risk factors for both perpetuating femicide and being a victim of femicide.[2] The WHO found that potential perpetrators may be at an increased risk of committing femicide on an individual level if they, among other factors, are unemployed, own a firearm, have made previous threats to kill with a weapon, or have committed sexual violence. On a relationship level, it found an increased risk of perpetuating femicide if they have a history of intimate partner or family violence. When discussing the individual risk of being the victim of femicide, the WHO primarily focused on being abused during pregnancy.[3] Further, the WHO found the same society level risk for both perpetration and victimization: gender inequality and reductions in government social spending.[4]

Tools that assist first responders and advocates in determining the risk of femicide—particularly in the context of domestic violence—are referred to as risk or lethality assessments.

It is important to note that, because the majority of femicides are perpetrated by intimate partners or family members, the risk factors for domestic violence and femicides may have significant overlap.

[1] Operating within the Ecological Model, End VAW Now, http://www.endvawnow.org/en/articles/310-operating-within-the-ecological-model-.html (last visited Feb. 19, 2019).

[2] WHO, Understanding and Addressing Violence against Women: Femicide 4 (2012).

[3] Id.

[4] Id.