Global Burden of Armed Violence 2015

Chapter Three:
Lethal Violence against Women and Girls

Introduction & Chapter Summary

On the verge of a post-2015 development framework, and in view of the 20th anniversary of the Beijing Platform for Action, the focus on ending violence against women is ever-present in policy and research agendas. The Council of Europe 2011 Istanbul Convention spells out the obligation to address and prevent violence against women and domestic violence, building on previous international instruments, such as the 1979 United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).1 The last few years have also seen a convergence of the international agenda on women, peace, and security with that of small arms control, specifically through the adoption of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1325 and the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) (Bastick and Valasek, 2014).

Map 3.1 Female homicide victims per 100,000 women, 2007–12

Source: Geneva Declaration Secretariat (2014)

Yet as countries attempt to forge targeted programmes to tackle and reduce violence against women and girls, that violence remains widespread and enduring, with far-reaching consequences for individuals, families, and society at large. Despite the increased awareness, there is a persistent lack of data on the killing of women, whether inside or outside the home. The chronic absence of details on circumstances surrounding female homicides also makes it difficult to understand and tackle the phenomenon effectively. Moreover, the lack of standardized guidelines, categories, and definitions renders cross-country comparisons difficult.

Photo: Red shoes line the steps of the Piazza della Santissima Annunziata to raise awareness of violence against women during International Women’s Day, Florence, March 2014. © Maurizio Degl’ Innocenti/ANSA

This chapter provides an update on the findings presented in the 2011 edition of the Global Burden of Armed Violence (GBAV) by examining the figures and patterns of lethal violence against women globally and in selected cases. In highlighting the most recent and comprehensive data on female homicide available, it explores intimate partner femicides, conflict-related deaths and sexual violence, and firearm-related killings of women. The chapter finds that:

  • On average, based on data available from 104 countries and territories, the GBAV estimates that 60,000 women and girls worldwide were killed violently every year, from 2007 to 2012. These deaths account for approximately 16 per cent of all intentional homicides committed globally.
  • Since the 2011 edition of the GBAV, the median rate of women killed has decreased slightly and female homicide rates have become polarized, as the number of countries with very high and very low rates of lethal violence against women increased.
  • While much of the lethal and non-lethal violence against women and girls takes place in non-conflict settings, the risk of multiple or repeat victimization of women is compounded during conflicts.
  • In countries with high rates of firearm-related lethal violence the percentage of women killed with firearms is also higher.
  • While the majority of homicide victims are men, women are the primary victims of intimate partner homicide, including homicide–suicide events.
  • In countries with low levels of female homicide, most killings occur inside the home and are generally perpetrated by an intimate partner or member of the nuclear or extended family.


1 Signed in 1979, the Convention contains an agenda for national action to tackle discrimination and ensure gender equality (CEDAW, 1979).