Government Response to Femicide

last updated September 5, 2008

A number of initiatives have been undertaken to address the problem of domestic violence in countries from the CEE/FSU region. Domestic violence is typically defined as any physical act of violence or any threat of such violence carried out against individuals within the family. The term family may be defined slightly differently in each country. Legislation against domestic violence exists in Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Kyrgyzstan, Moldova, Poland, Romania, Turkey, and Ukraine. A draft law against domestic violence is currently under review in Azerbaijan and Armenia. While only the Ukrainian law mentions death within it’s definition of physical domestic violence, the other country’s laws do identify murder as a specific offense within the criminal codes. For example, Armenia’s current legal framework includes Criminal Code provisions punishing the intentional murder of a woman who is pregnant or where rape or sexual violence was used by 8-15 years in prison or for life.

In response to mounting pressure from the international community and local NGOs, the governments in Mexico and many Latin American countries have taken steps to address the problem of femicide. According to the Special Rapporteur’s 2006 report on Mexico, a special Commissioner was appointed to head the Commission for Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women in Ciudad Juarez. A Special Federal Prosecutor was appointed to oversee the investigations into the Juarez murders, according to the Special Rapporteur’s report. But concerns about the ability of these appointees to investigate, prosecute, and convict those responsible persists due to allegations of misconduct, forced confessions, and other problems.

The Washington Office on Latin America reported that the Guatemalan government has established a National Commission to address femicide. Its goal is to develop a diagnostic study of the murders and to coordinate the efforts of state institutions, but despite these efforts, the horrific murders of women continue. The Guatemalan Human Rights Commission (GHRC), a non-profit organization based in Washington D.C., U.S.A., reported in April 2009 that while the 2008 femicide law "represents an important step in challenging the history of gender violence and rampant impunity;" it has yet to stem the rising tide of murders.    

In Turkey, provisions on “honor” murders have been added to the Penal Code. According to the Special Rapporteur’s report, the government of Turkey has taken several steps toward responding to femicide including:

  • Amending Article 82 of the Code to stipulate that “honor” killings should be considered to be aggravated homicide, and the perpetrators must be sentenced to life imprisonment.
  • In an official circular issued to all public institutions in 2006, Turkey’s Prime Minister called for measures to combat violence against women. These measures included a Plan of Action up to 2010, hotlines for victims, a parliamentary Commission on Gender Equality, and a database on violence against women.

In Afghanistan, a Ministry of Women’s Affairs was created in 2002 to respond to gender concerns and to advance the status of women according to the Special Rapporteur’s 2006 report. In 2005, the government created the Inter-Ministerial Task Force on the Elimination of Violence against Women. It includes high-ranking government representatives from the judiciary, the prosecution and the executive branch, and is chaired by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs. The Special Rapporteur reports that as part of its plan of action, the Task Force identified the impact of traditional practices unfavorable to women and condemned violence against women as contrary to Islamic values. The state has also established the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC). According to the Special Rapporteur, the AIHRC has conducted research into the causes of crimes against women in Afghanistan and on women’s self-immolation.