Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

As the UK publishes its first census of women killed by men, here’s a global look at the problem

A picture of two stick figurines, one with its hands around the others neck, depicting a violent scene.

More than half of women and girls killed by men are murdered by their current or previous partners. Image: Unsplash/Charl Folscher

Douglas Broom
Senior Writer, Forum Agenda
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SDG 05: Gender Equality

  • Six women are killed every hour by men around the world, most by men in their own family or their partners.
  • A new report shows that in the UK a woman is killed by a man every three days.
  • COVID-19 is overshadowing the issue, the United Nations says.
  • On International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the UN is calling on nations to act.

Six women are killed by men every hour in a “global pandemic of femicide” that is being partly hidden by COVID-19 – and the United Nations is calling for urgent action.

More than half of women and girls killed by men are murdered by their current or previous partners, according to UN data.

Have you read?

The latest UN figures show that 137 women across the world are killed every day by a partner or member of their own family – a total of 50,000 women a year murdered by people they know and should be able to trust.

Women are more likely to be killed by their current parents or relatives.
80% of murders were committed by men in 2017. Image: Statista

“As the world grapples with the devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and its negative impact on women, a pandemic of femicide and gender-based violence against women is taking the lives of women and girls everywhere,” says Dubravka Šimonovic, a UN human rights expert.

Violence against women and girls is “still so deeply embedded in cultures around the world that it is almost invisible,” the UN says, describing it as “a construct of power and a means of maintaining the status-quo”.

Preventable deaths

The World Economic Forum’s Global Gender Gap Report 2020 found that between a fifth and nearly a half of women globally suffer physical or sexual abuse from their male partners. The Middle East and North Africa has the highest rate with 45% of women being harmed.

Share of women who suffered intimate partner physical and/or violence.
45% of Middle Eastern and Northern African women have been subjected to physical and/or sexual violence. Image: World Economic Forum

But the problem persists across the world. In North America, the rate was 32% and in Western Europe 22%. And in the UK, a new first-of-its-kind report from the Femicide Census shows that a man kills a woman every three days in the country – a statistic unchanged across the 10 years studied.

“Men’s violence against women is a leading cause of the premature death for women globally but research in the UK and Europe is limited and unconnected,” said Karen Ingala Smith, co-founder of the Femicide Census.

“By providing detailed comparable data about femicides in the UK since 2009, including demographic and social factors and the methods men selected to kill women, we can see that these killings are not isolated incidents, and many follow repeated patterns.”


Speaking ahead of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the UN’s Šimonovic called for countries to halt the problem by setting up “national multidisciplinary prevention bodies or femicide watches/observatories on violence against women”.

“Many of these femicides are preventable,” she adds, noting that although a growing number of states have begun to tackle the problem it has been mostly left to human rights and women’s groups to highlight the scale of the death toll.

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