Feminicide: A Global Phenomenon - From Santiago to Brussels

In order to fight feminicide/femicide, various Latin American and European countries have adopted increasingly specific laws and legal instruments that penalize feminicide. The ratification of the Belém do Pará Convention1 in Latin America and the entry into force of the Istanbul Convention in Europe, demonstrate an increasingly stronger international commitment against this kind of violence. The establishment of the Bi-regional Dialogue on Gender by the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), as well as the adoption of the Urgent Resolution on Feminicide in the European Union and Latin America3 by the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat) also express this commitment.

However, legal norms, agreements, and international dialogues alone are not sufficient for the eradication of violence against women, nor its most extreme manifestation, feminicide. Traditionally, States were only responsible for their own actions or those of their agents, but
international public law has evolved and currently, the principle of due diligence makes the State responsible for the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of violence, regardless of who commits the crime. The duty of due diligence obliges States to enter the private sphere, where historically, they have not intervened, but where the majority of cases of violence against women occur.

Therefore, it is the duty of the State to take all necessary measures to prevent human rights violations, such as feminicide, before they occur. This means, on the one hand, adopting pertinent laws and policies to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish those guilty of abuse, and on the other hand, successfully implement them.

Developed, as usual, from articles written by prominent advocates of the human rights of women, academics, and civil society representatives from Latin America and the EU, this fourth publication in the series “Feminicide: A Global Phenomenon” has as a common theme the compliance of States to the duty of due diligence. Once more, the articles show that the situation is similar and serious in both continents, and that written commitments and declarations contained in laws and international treaties must urgently be put into action. These texts also identify different ways to make this possible.

This fourth publication also includes a chapter on abortion. Criminalized in the majority of Latin American countries, clandestine abortion, which women are forced to resort to, is the cause of death of numerous women; these are deaths of women for reasons of gender that are perfectly avoidable.

The duty to act with due diligence to guarantee the life and health of these women, obliges States to adopt all necessary measures to avoid these deaths or consequences for the sake of the health of these women. Meanwhile, the States’ passivity, reflected in the preservation of laws that oblige women to risk their lives in clandestine and unsafe abortions, also makes them responsible.


Against all odds, the Rosa Elvira Cely law, a law that punishes feminicide with harsher prison sentences for the perpetrators, was approved in Colombia on the 2nd of June 2015. Unfortunately, the Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung received this amazing news after the publication had gone to print. Therefore, please be informed that some of the information in the article on feminicide in Colombia by Adriana Benjumea is now outdated.

Contra todos los pronósticos, la ley Rosa Elvira Cely, una ley que castiga el feminicidio con penas de prisión más severas para los perpetradores, se aprobó en Colombia el 2 de junio 2015. Desafortunadamente, la fundación Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung recibió esta increíble noticia cuando la publicación ya estaba en imprenta. Por lo tanto, les informamos que alguna de la información en el artículo sobre feminicidio en Colombia por Adriana Benjumea queda desactualizada.


Product details
Date of Publication
June 2015
Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung European Union
Number of Pages
Language of publication
English, Spanish