What is Femicide?

It is the killing of a female, or perceived female person on the basis of gender identity, whether committed within the domestic relationship, interpersonal relationship or by any other person, or whether perpetrated or tolerated by the State or its agents, and private sources.

(this was agreed by the committee members on the 04 October 2017)

GBVCCForms of Femicide

Globally, many forms of femicide are emerging as the values, beliefs, attitudes and behaviours of people evolve. As the technology continues to take great advancements to create diverse, easy and fast ways of accessing information through internet, social media and other means, more criminals are taking the advantage of this space to master their acts using different methods and means. Media has become the breeding platform of copy cats from the graphic projections of crime that often express male dominance, while inspiring increased levels of female vulnerability and fear. In South Africa, intimate femicide is the most prevalent form of femicide followed by other forms, which are briefly defined below.

Intimate Partner Violence

The end-result of intimate partner violence perpetrated against female partners is intimate femicide. This is the killing of a woman or girl by an intimate partner. In a study conducted in South Africa in 2009, the rate of intimate femicide was 5, 6 per 100 000 women aged 14 years or older, whilst in 1999 the rate of 8.8 per 100 000 women aged 14 years and above was registered.1 In terms of the Domestic Violence Act, 1998 (Act No 166 of 1998), it may be deduced that intimate femicide includes the killing of a female person by an intimate partner or any person who had an actual or perceived romantic, intimate or sexual relationship with the deceased female person for any duration of time.

For instance, in South Africa a case of a female prostitute who is killed by her client is classified as an intimate femicide, irrespective of the duration of their sexual relationship.



The femicide-suicide occurs where the perpetrator commits suicide within a week of killing a female person. It includes extended suicide which is often encouraged by the desire of the perpetrator to die with an intimate partner and/or his family. In South Africa, we also classify intimate femicide-suicide where the perpetrator commits suicide after killing his female intimate partner.


HIV-related femicide

HIV-related female killings have been increasing in South Africa and can also be seen as potential honour killings because of the stigma attached to the HIV infection.


Religious killings

The cultural and spiritual femicide is the killing of a female person to perform a ritual or a religious activity for a particular gain, e.g. wealth or spiritual power. It also includes the killing of women or girls because of malignant and wicked beliefs. In some cases, the female person is killed when accused of witchcraft or evil-related practices.


Honour killings

Honour femicide cases are committed with high levels of impunity in many parts of the world. Women or girls are killed because of ‘unacceptable’ choice of partner, education, employment, mode of dress, behaviour or contact with men who are not relatives. The behaviour of the woman is viewed as casting shame upon her family or concerned person, and only with her death can honour be restored. In South Africa, honour femicide cases have been detected mostly from incestuous relationships and in sordid sexual relationships which resulted in unwanted pregnancies or exposures. These cases often go unreported because of secrecy, concealment and mystery attached to the killing.


Misogynist slaying

Misogyny encompasses “an entrenched prejudice against women”, as well as a pathological hatred of them. One form of misogyny is that of serial killings of women. The perpetrator’s previous life experiences might have an influence on the way he perceives females. It might be a deep woman-hatred drawn from sore experience of child abandonment or neglect by a biological mother.


Female infanticide

Female infanticide has been known to take such forms as the induced death of infants by suffocation, drowning, neglect or exposure to danger by other means. In sex-selective pregnancies, abortions target female foetuses. For this type of killing to be classified as female infanticide, it must occur within a year of birth of the female infant.


Human trafficking

The human trafficking femicide includes abduction and disappearances for certain periods of time, mostly for financial gain or other related benefits. The female victims are often tortured, raped and ultimately murdered and mutilated, particularly of the sexual organs and breasts, or decapitated in some cases. Many of the murdered women come from marginalised sectors of society, e.g. poverty-stricken communities, prostitution, etc. In drug culture, the abduction and subsequent killing of a woman symbolises the cohesion of the gang, demonstrates masculinity and diminishes the enemy’s morale. The fact that women are typically used as ‘drug mules’ for the carrying of drugs on their persons without concern for health or safety, only reinforces their disposable value.


Sexual orientation

The sexual orientation femicide is often characterised as a form of ‘hate crime’ targeting female persons of the LGBTI2 group. The perception that lesbians ‘steal’ intimate partners from men has been one of the reported causes of sexual orientation femicide.


1 Abrahams, N., Mathews, S., Martin, L. J., Lombaard, C. and Jewkes, R. (2013), ‘Intimate Partner Femicide in South Africa in 1999 and 2009’

2 Lesbians, Gays, Bisexual, Transgender and Intersex

Contact us

Contact the Chief Directorate: Promotion of the rights of Vulnerable Groups for more information.

contact info

  • Department of Justice and Constitutional Development
    Promotion of the Rights of Vulnerable Groups
    Mr Mulalo Netshisaulu
    Tel: 012 315 1512