In March 9th 2015 a new law was sanctioned by Brazil’s President, Dilma Rousseff, that typifies feminicide. Not only this law changes brazilian’s Criminal Code, but it establishes feminicide as a heinous crime. It means that neither bail, grace, amnesty nor pardon can be granted.
There’s a fine line between what femicide and feminicide mean, even though many use both terms as synonyms. Femicide was firstly mentioned by Jill Radford and Diana Russel in “Femicide: The Politics of Woman Killing”, when Feminicide, on the other hand, was evoked by a mexican anthropologist, Marcela Lagarde. Femicide regards the death of female subjects in a broader spectrum, while feminicide exceeds misogyny by creating a climate of terror, persecution, rape, torture, sexual harassment, physical and verbal abuse. Femicide is to kill a woman because she’s a female. Feminicide is what holds responsible not only the male perpetrator, but also the State and judicial structures that normalize misogyny.
Why is it important to include feminicide as a crime in domestic legal systems? Does it empower women in anyway?
Well, most surely yes.
But in order to be able to answer the first question, one must be aware of the effects of gender inequality in society. “What is the difference between murder and feminicide?”, some may ask. “If everyone is equal, no murder should be more serious than any other”. This definitely isn’t the way to approach this subject.
In the Brazilian criminal system, a qualified murder causes the sentence to be increased because of futile reasons, the way it was perpetrated, the way of execution or its finality. Why isn’t gender a qualification? Why isn’t race and why isn’t sexual orientation? None of these examples provide futile reasons. They highlight the most obscure side of the scope of the law: it doesn’t effectively protect the people. It isn’t complete and that’s a problem because the law is the ultimate agreement between the government and the people.
The typification of feminicide isn’t a privilege. It’s a right. A Human Right. Any kind of violence motivated by intolerance should indeed be treated more seriously. Every woman murdered simply because she is a woman weakens our way to gender equality. Every person hurt because of the color of her skin penetrates racism each inch deeper into our habits. Anyone who has ever incited violence against homosexuals is not only taking away another person’s right to love, but making this person afraid of showing her feelings and being herself. So there’s an immense meaning behind killing a person because of something she was born with. She can’t help it. She can’t detach from it. She shouldn’t want to suppress it.
The feminicide law wasn’t made for giving advantage to women because they are weaker, even if it represents a way of empowerment. What would happen to honour killings if feminicide was implemented in these countries? How many women would stop being disfigured by acid? It may not seem much, but fighting for equality is an everyday struggle won by baby steps.
Society is making a statement by turning feminicide into a specific, most severe kind of murder. It means that it won’t be tolerated that women are killed every day because of who they are any second longer. Women who are stuck in abusive relationships, who are beaten and humiliated, have a reason to believe that, in some way, the law is looking out for them. Not only that, but many women believe that only because they are women, they have to obey and be submissive; when the truth is they are powerful and equally as capable as any other human being, deserving to be treated as such. Feminicide states once and for all, even if there are people who don’t see it, that women’s rights are violated, that women suffer from prejudice, and that women need legal support to protect themselves from the ultimate kind of violence.