From an original article in the Morning Star

25th November 2017

There is no official record or commemoration of women killed by men in the UK, so KAREN INGALA SMITH is taking to social media to remember them

IN JULY 1981, at the first Feminist Conference for Latin American and Caribbean Women in Colombia, November 25 was declared an annual day of protest in memory of three activist sisters Patria, Maria Teresa and Minerva Mirabel who had been assassinated due to their involvement in efforts to overthrow the fascist government of Rafael Trujillo.  

Eighteen years later, the United Nations designated November 25 as the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

This year, as I have done for the last few years, I’ll commemorate UK women killed by men (or where a man is the principal suspect in the killing of a woman since many of the cases have not yet completed legal proceedings) over the last year.  

Starting at 8am, on the Twitter account @countdeadwomen, I’ll give the name and age of each woman and, where I have been able to find it, a photograph of her.

So far, I have scheduled the names of 127 women and girls. Tweeting their names every 10 minutes will take more than 10 hours.

I started the project that I came to call Counting Dead Women in January 2012 after the murder of 20-year-old Kirsty Treloar.

Kirsty had been referred to the charity where I work just a few weeks earlier. When I heard that she had been killed, I took to the internet to try to find out more.

What I found was report after report of women who had been killed by men since the beginning of the year.  

I started making a note of their names just in an attempt to count how many there were.

I found out that eight women had been killed in the first three days of the year: three shot, two stabbed, one strangled, and two beaten to death.

Once I started the list of their names, I couldn’t bring myself to stop. It feels like if I do, I’m as good as saying that the next woman doesn’t count. I’ve now recorded the names of over 800 women on my website.

There is no official record or commemoration of women killed by men in Britain, there is no international femicide or women’s remembrance day.

When people think of women killed by men, they usually think of intimate partner violence, and while it is true that women killed by partners or ex-partners usually make up between two-thirds and three-quarters of the women killed by men every year, it’s important that people realise that the problem of men’s fatal violence against women is bigger than that.

Every year, a number of women are killed by men who were never their partners, including but not limited to their sons, grandsons, brothers, burglars and sexually violent predators.

This year, for the first time since I started keeping the list, women killed in the context of terrorism will be included.

Leaving aside the argument that men’s violence against women is in itself a form of terrorism — after all, it is violence used to further an ideology — the patriarchal oppression of women is central, though certainly not unique, to religious extremism.  

We also know that histories of violence against women are now routinely identified in men who perpetrate terrorism.

It’s important to me that we look for the connections across the different contexts in which women are killed by men, because ultimately, I believe that the root cause is in society, in the structural inequalities between women and men rather than simply the pathologies of an individual or relationship outside a social context.

We have to recognise the roles of socially constructed gender and the objectification of women in creating the conditions for men’s violence against women and maintaining sex inequality.

Gender is a hierarchy, the concepts of masculinity and femininity are critical tools in maintaining the oppression of women by men.  

None of this means that individual men can escape taking responsibility for their actions and choices, but that if we want to end men’s violence against women and girls we will have to dismantle the structures that support inequality between women and men. Without this almost any intervention that we might make will have little impact.

Commemorating women victims of men’s fatal violence will not change the world, but I hope it might contribute to highlighting one of the most extreme manifestations of misogyny and inequality between women and men.   

Karen Ingala Smith is a feminist activist and CEO of nia, a charity supporting women who have been subjected to sexual or domestic violence. As well as providing direct services the charity is involved in ground-breaking legal cases to hold the government to account and improve the lives of marginalised women. If you would like to make a donation to support their work, please click here.