The history of the term ‘femicide’

[All sources used to compile this information are listed at the end of the document.]

The first documented use of the term ‘femicide’ was in a book by John Corry (1801) called A Satirical View of London at the Commencement of the Nineteenth Century where it was used to refer to the killing of a woman. It was not until 1976, however, that the term was reintroduced publicly in the modern age by violence against women feminist pioneer, expert and activist, Diana Russell, at the International Tribunal of Crimes Against Women to bring attention to violence and discrimination against women.

In its early iteration by Russell, femicide was defined as “the murder of women by men motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure, or a sense of ownership of women” and “the misogynistic killings of women by men.” Most recently, this definition evolved to its most commonly-used form as “the killing of one or more females by one or more males because they are female” as stated by Russell in her introductory speech presented to the United Nations Symposium on Femicide on November 26, 2012.

The term as well as its accepted meaning often varies, however, depending upon whose perspective is being examined or where it is being examined. As such, the phenomenon of femicide and its scope, content and implications continue to be the subject of discussion internationally in academia, policy and grassroots activists’ arenas as well as regional, national and other legislative processes. For example, in some world regions, such as Latin America, the term feminicidio (or feminicide in English) is preferred to capture the way in which states or governments are often unresponsive to the killings of women.

Internationally, a broader definition of femicide is often used that includes any killings of women and girls. This is often done for ease of international comparisons, but also to acknowledge that, in some cases or types of femicide, female family members or females in other contexts may sometimes be involved. Keeping this in mind, it is still recognized that men are the primary perpetrators of femicide and that most femicides are committed by current or former male partners – a pattern that exists worldwide although proportions vary across world regions.

Regardless, it is now recognized, most recently in the inquiry’s interim report, that the high risk of violence experienced by Indigenous women and girls stems, in large part, from a failure of police and others in the criminal justice system to adequately respond to, or provide for, the needs of Indigenous women and girls.

As stated by the United Nations Secretary-General, in his latest report on the progress towards Sustainable Development goals, this violence is perpetuated and maintained through broader patriarchal systems of oppression and ongoing gender inequality. 

Femicide in the Canadian Context


Highlighting the above events in the evolution of femicide in Canada is not meant to detract from the various other groups of femicide victims. It is also recognized that many other social identities, solely or in combination, act to compound the risk of femicide for some women and result in varying social and legal responses. These issues are further discussed and expanded upon in other sections of the website.


Caputi, Jane, and Diana E. Russell. 1990. "Femicide: speaking the unspeakable." Ms.: 34-7.

Castañeda Salgado, M.P. 2016. Feminicide in Mexico: An approach through academic, activist and artistic work. Current Sociology 64(7): 1054-1070.

Fregoso, Rosa-Linda and Cynthia Bejarano. 2010. “Introduction: A Cartography of Femicide in the Americas.” Pp. 1-42 in Terrorizing Women: Femicide in the Americas, edited by Rosa-Linda Fregoso and Cynthia Bejarano. Duke University Press.

Gartner R, Dawson M and Crawford M (1999) Woman Killing: Intimate Femicide in Ontario, 1974-1994, Resources for Feminist Research 26: 151-173.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2014) Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in British Columbia, Canada. IACHR.

Lagarde De Los Ríos, Marcela. 2010. "Preface: Feminist Keys for Understanding Feminicide: Theoretical, Political and Legal Construction." Pp. xi–xxvi in Terrorizing Women. Feminicide in the Americas, edited by Rosa-Linda Fregoso   and Cynthia Bejarano.  Duke University Press, Durham/London.

Native Women’s Association of Canada (2010) What Their Stories Tell Us: Research Findings from the Sisters in Spirit Initiative. Ottawa: NWAC.

Pinelo, Lujan A. A Theoretical Approach to the Concept of Femicide/Feminicide. (MS Thesis, Universiteit Utrecht, 2015) 1-109.

Radford, Jill, and Diana EH Russell. 1992. Femicide: The politics of woman killing. Twayne Pub.

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (2014) Missing and Murdered Aboriginal Women: A National Operational Overview.  Ottawa: RCMP.

Russell, Diana EH. 1975. "The politics of rape." New York: Stein & Day.

Russell, Diana, and Harmes, Roberta. 2001. Femicide in Global Perspective. New York: Teachers College Columbia University Press.

Russell, Diana E.H. 2012. Defining femicide. Introduction speech presented to the United Nations Symposium on Femicide.

Russell, Diana EH. 2008. "Femicide: Politicizing the killing of females." Pp. 26-31 in Strengthening Understanding of Femicide: Using Research to Galvanize Action and Accountability. Seattle, WA: PATH.

Sanford, Victoria. 2008. "From genocide to feminicide: Impunity and human rights in twenty-first century Guatemala." Journal of Human Rights 7(2): 104-122.

Spinelli, Barbara. 2011. "Femicide and Feminicide in Europe." Expert Group Meeting on Gender-Motivated Killings of Women. 

Statistics Canada (2006) Victimization and offending among the Aboriginal population in Canada. Ottawa: Minister of Industry.

Tuesta, Diego, and Jaris Mujica. 2015. "Femicide penal response in the Americas: Indicators and the misuses of crime statistics, evidence from Peru." International  Journal of Criminology and Sociological Theory 7(1): 1-21.