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Amalia Patricia Del Valle

The ones that were taken from us during the pandemic: femicides in the international situation

- Femicides are not a pandemic or a disease, they are a side effect of a permissive and ignorant system.

The ones that were taken from us during the pandemic: femicides in the international situation

Since 2020 we have lost internationally recognized feminist activists: María Lugones, Gisèle Halimi, Ruth Bader, Mónica Echeverría Yáñez and in recent days Nawal el Saadawi. Diana Russell, whose writings focused on the issues of femicide, rape, pornography, and sexual exploitation, passed away on July 28, 2020. Her joint work with Russell and Jill Radford, Femicide, The Politics of the Murder of Women (2006), was a watershed for what we know today as femicide or femicide. The importance of Russell and Radford's work results in the first landing of femicide as a frame of reference.

Russell had already covered the term in the article Femicide: Speaking the Unspeakable. In international law, Diana Russell mentioned the term femicide for the first time in 1976 before the International Tribunal for Crimes against Women. Her work is still valid to this day as various national laws base their definition of femicide on her work. She has even encouraged other feminists to create their own concepts, such as Rita Segato who has proposed the term femigenocidio or Julia Monárrez Fragoso's _serial sexual femicide. In a context of multiple violence against women, the term of Russell and Radford is more current than ever.

Femicide is the end of a continuum of anti-feminine terror that includes rape, torture, genital mutilation, sexual slavery, incest, family sexual abuse, physical and emotional violence, sexual assaults, genital mutilations, compulsory heterosexuality, sterilizations and forced maternity Whenever death results from these forms of terror, it becomes femicide.

Russell and Radford, 2006, 57

Feminicides are not isolated acts, they are the accumulation of a series of violence against women and girls: sexist, macho, lesbophobic and misogynistic. In addition, exposure to femicide is juxtaposed with the conditions of "race", class, gender identity, ethnicity and religion. Feminicides are not the only actors involved in the violent death of women. For femicides to occur, other actors intervene; the police, security agents, judges, lawyers and the State are also part of these crimes against women. In addition, there must be an environment of inaction, re-victimization and cover-up by these authorities. This violent and ignored environment is exacerbated in the midst of a global pandemic.

Precautionary measures to stop the spread of SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19), such as the closure of justice centers and help centers for abused women, hinder the process of access to justice. The confinement with the aggressor is an endless nightmare for women; the place that is supposed to be the most “safe” for women is far from it. Quoting Russell: "and if the patriarchal household were seen as the prison with no escape possibility that it so often becomes, we would have to acknowledge that we live in the midst of a sexist reign of terror." (Russell and Radford, 2006, 65-66)

In addition, the decisions of many States do not favor the situation. With all the resources allocated to the health sector, the security sector for women has been neglected. Violence against women is one of the last priorities in many countries. Some international subjects have recognized the aggravated problem in a pandemic situation, others deny it; some leaders have stood out for their correct decisions while others have been unable to guarantee the rights of their female population.

For example, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa condemned the rise in violent deaths of women exacerbated by COVID-19 and subsequently activated the Gender-Based Violence and Femicide Response Fund (Embassy of the Republic of South Africa, 2021). In Argentina, where 1 femicide is registered every 23 hours according to the Argentine Government's Gender Policies Observatory, the increase in danger has been recognized since the quarantine was declared (Papaleo, 2021). In this regard, President Alberto Vásquez announced last month the creation of the "Federal Council for the approach to femicides, transvesticides and transfeminicides" (Government of Argentina, 2021).

Meanwhile, President Recep Tayyip Erdogan keeps his promise to leave Turkey from the Istanbul Convention, a Convention against violence against women (DW, 2021). Likewise, in Mexico during the year 2020 there were 969 femicides, according to official government figures and reported by the Secretary of Security and Citizen Protection (Ramos, 2021). However, the Mexican president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, has denied this situation and has even pointed out the majority of calls for domestic violence as false calls. In this way, while feminist organizations and activists struggle to explain the increase in femicide violence during a global epidemic, other actors on the international scene ignore and even deny this problem.

Faced with this situation, multiple reflections and writings have been produced, from international organizations, specialized organizations and even feminist groups. However, this problem has been described as a "plague", another "epidemic" or "shadow pandemic". Let's start naming things by their name: femicides on a global scale are a problem derived from structural violence.

According to Johan Galtung, structural violence is that which kills, albeit slowly and undramatically, sometimes known as "social injustice" (Galtung and Höivik, 1971, 73). Femicides are not a pandemic, nor a disease, they are a side effect of a permissive and ignorant system.

Quarantine as a measure against the SARS-CoV-2 virus is an aggravating condition for women in different latitudes. The feminist agenda during the pandemic has pointed out urgent areas on which to act: access to legal termination of pregnancy, dignified menstruation and the chain of care. However, femicides should be the main item on the agenda due to the alarming figures they have reached in the international context.

In the midst of curfews and limited mobilizations, it seems that the actions of feminist collectives and activists have been disadvantaged. However, women have sought ways to create support networks. They have made efforts to glimpse what the media and even leaders have tried to hide. As Diana Russell and Jill Radford tell us, it's about re-remembering and resisting a system that kills us every day.



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Del, Amalia. “Las que nos arrebataron durante la pandemia: los feminicidios en la coyuntura internacional.” CEMERI, 20 sept. 2022,