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Machismo, Femicide and Cultural Imaginaries

In our society today we are inundated by social problems such as machismo, femicide and the cultural imaginaries that have been generated as a result of these, which create statements such as femicide is the Trojan horse that sustains the collective imaginary created by feminists who insist that women are being exterminated. But this is not a cultural imaginary created over the years; it is a reality in societies which over generations have normalized certain behaviors that today are generating unimaginable social problems, such as femicide.

It is a feminist ideal

It is impossible to ignore that in the last year the number of femicides has increased alarmingly. Some people think that it is a feminist ideal to insinuate that because one is a woman, one is in more danger in society, which is like the idea that women could not wear pants in the 19th century because they would lose their femininity.

However, a study conducted by the ONU in 2021 showed that every hour, five women or girls die in the world just because they are women. The most delicate issue is to see how countries around the world such as Brazil, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay and Colombia are taking action on the matter, leaving aside the enforcement of laws and creating new ones to control the increase in cases of femicide.

the different cases of deaths of women in such a violent way evidence the viciousness and cultural patterns that are impregnated in our society and culture
Figure 1. Silenced woman asking for help (Mart Production, n.d.)

Femicide in Latin America

An example of this is Colombia, where only in 2015 the government created a law against femicide ("Ley Contra el Feminicidio"), after the terrible death of Rosa Elvira Cely in 2012, which shocked the whole country because of its cruelty. This law modified the current Penal Code and introduced the concept of "femicide" as such. Before this date, the violent death of a woman was considered a homicide, which gave a different penalty to the accused than the current one for femicide, which gives longer sentences and cannot allow any type of agreement with the prosecution. However, it is striking that there have still been cases where the prosecution has illegally made agreements with defendants, as evidenced by the research conducted by the ONU and the National University in 2017, where the accused, after pleading guilty to committing femicide, received a sentence reduction of up to 25%. Doubt or discomfort with the various struggles that are taking place against femicide take refuge in the fact that femicides are homicides, yet also claim that cases where a man dies do not generate so much controversy.

From controversy to reality

It is not a matter of giving more attention to femicides than to the homicides involving men; what is relevant in all this is that the different cases of deaths of women in such a violent way evidence the viciousness and cultural patterns that are impregnated in our society and culture, as mentioned by Lugo (1985):

"Machismo appears with the mestizaje, dramatic transculturation by the violent form that the Spaniards printed in their union with the Indians. However, in the pre-Hispanic world women were also considered a devalued, inferior being, without rights" (p.3)

This was impregnated in the imaginary, social and cultural features that over the years generated behavioral patterns that were accepted and instilled in the new generations. These behaviors and imaginaries reflect that when a woman is killed in this way, her murderer seeks to subordinate, submit, humiliate and demonstrate superiority and power, as evidenced in the time of colonization.

Figure 2. Close-up of a wooden hammer (Shimazaki, 2020).

National statistics and laws

The problem is that national statistics are not concrete, as the ones in legal medicine, the prosecutor’s office and associations such as the Fundación Feminicidios Colombia, the Observatory of Femicides Colombia and the feminist antimilitarist network are completely diverse and incongruent. One example are the femicide data from January to June 2020. The number of femicides reported by the governmental entities was 291 cases, but when you confront this number with the figures presented by the Femicides Foundation, who reported that the number of femicides was 119, and Forensic Medicine, who reported 240, it does not correspond to the number in the national figures.

This reflects a rather big problem in the coherence of the data presented, but this does not only happen in Colombia. The United Nations affirms that in 2022 the problematic figures are only the tip of the iceberg, because not only must these numbers be verified but also the social, cultural, communicative problems and collective imaginaries that develop in each society in order to determine the main triggers.

It has been demonstrated that in many cases the difficulty in advancing improvements and creating adequate laws begins in the governmental entities that in the majority do not have reliable or updated reports and leave aside the international protocols for the investigation of femicides. As a consequence, many of these cases are left between the quotation marks of a newspaper headline and a few days later remain in a vague memory if they do not manage to generate a great commotion in readers and viewers.

Figure 3. Person in Jail (RODNAE Productions, 2020)

It is difficult to understand cases like the one that occurred on March 8, International Women's Day, when a young girl of 13 was a victim of femicide. The aggravating factor in this case was that the perpetrator already had seven convictions for rape and was free. We should also remember the case of Sofia Cadavid, 18 months old, who was killed by her own father in December 2020. In this instance, it was also announced that this man already had some complaints against him for domestic violence. We are doing something wrong because every day the cases increase, and it is worrying to see the actions taken by government entities when they must face these processes. One thing is certain: Many of these deaths could have been prevented if the processes had had the right attention and actions.


Although the world is constantly developing tools, methods and campaigns to reduce femicide, it is necessary to emphasize that the role of governments is fundamental, since they are the ones who in some way are putting up the barriers that prevent significant progress. This is being demonstrated in the difficulty of meeting the proposed goals to reduce the rates of femicide, obtaining real and concrete data and ensuring the proper enforcement of laws.

The main thing is to start changing societies and the imaginaries that are being built, and for this we must start from the new generations, instilling more information and education in this regard.

Bibliographical References

Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability (n.d). The history of the term ‘femicide’ | Femicide in Canada.

Deus, A., & Gonzalez, D. (2017). Analysis of Femicide/Feminicide Legislation in Latin America and the Caribbean and a Proposal for a Model Law [Press release]. UNWomen.

Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean. (2022, December 20). ECLAC: At Least 4,473 Women Were Victims of Femicide in Latin America and the Caribbean in 2021.

Judicial, R. (2021, May 11). Despite being prohibited, the Prosecutor General's Office has made pre-agreements in cases of femicides. El Espectador.


Law Against Femicide. (n.d.).

Lugo, C. (1985). "¿De dónde viene el machismo?" In Machismo y violencia (Vol. 78, p. 3). Nueva Sociedad.

Ordorica, C. (n.d.). The Invention of a Concept for the Murder of Women: a Historical study on the Development of Feminist Knowledge Production [Thesis]. Central European University.

Salcedo, D. (2017). Challenges for the Identification and Prosecution of Feminicides in Colombia | Heinrich Böll Stiftung | Brussels office - European Union. (2017, December 1). Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung.

UNWomen. (2015). Law Against Femicide. Global Database on Violence against Women.

Reuters. (2018, November 23). Colombia Struggles to Convict Killers of Women, Experts Say. VOA.

Visual Sources


Author Photo

Manuela Jaramillo

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