​From love to death: Home front is girls and women’s war front

Brutal: Angelica Maribel Murillo’s hands were cut off when her husband accused her of having an affair. (Jorge Cabrera, Reuters)

Brutal: Angelica Maribel Murillo’s hands were cut off when her husband accused her of having an affair. (Jorge Cabrera, Reuters)

Across the world tens of thousands of women and girls are being loved to death.

Take a wide-angle snapshot of these deaths and violent assaults and they become a recitation of women attacked in desperate circumstances.

Strangulations, often with everyday implements such as rolling pins and dog leads, acid attacks, shootings and burnings are just some of the ways women are murdered or scarred.

Despite only one in five global murders being of women, the stories of their deaths are radically different to the murder of men.

Men are most often killed by strangers.
The reverse is true for women. One of the singularly most dangerous places for a woman is the family home.

A woman or girl’s most dangerous antagonist is not the serial killer, the criminal opportunist, the random murderer but a member of their family.

In 2012, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime’s Global Study on Homicide 2013 report, 43 600 women were killed by an intimate partner or a family member. This is an average of some 119 women killed globally every single day of the year or one every 12 minutes.

The story of women’s murder is one of brutal betrayal of marriage vows and social mores.

Figures bear this out: 60% of homicide victims are women and girls where the intimate partner or family member is the perpetrator. Even more disturbing, 79% of all intimate partner homicide victims are women.

If this is the situation, what can be done? Last year, the world was given a target.

The target comes from the adoption of the 2030 sustainable development agenda and calls for the elimination of all forms of violence against women and girls, including trafficking and sexual and other types of exploitation. Reductions in all forms of violence and related death rates are also sought.

Our work is united by a single intractable truth: despite fluctuating homicide rates, whether north or south, east or west, the killings of women by intimate partners exists at similar levels in regions across the world.

In Europe, in Asia, in Africa, in North America, we all have a stake in this struggle. But there needs to be a fundamental sea change in the way we view this crime.

These figures reveal a battlefield, one where the war front is also the home front — a conflict played out in the residences and private places of all societies.

From the first responder to the judges and on to the legislators, the murders of women and girls must be taken seriously. No allowances should be made. We cannot stand by while they are murdered in places that should be safe and secure.

Gender is key. The growing recognition that there is glaring inequality will hopefully introduce more women into leading roles in our societies but it can also help change ossified opinions and calcified perceptions.

The International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women is the day for saying no more to this deadly fight that tars all societies. But we cannot stop there.

Words have to become solid deeds. Solid deeds must lead to lives saved.

Each death forms part of a river of misery and suffering that flows from generation to generation. We must all strive to pass on something positive to those who follow. The lives of women and girls, indeed all lives, must be respected and cherished.

Yury Fedotov is the executive director of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime.

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