The Body Bag For Her was created to call attention to the prevalence of femicide in Canada. We call on the Government of Canada to take the meaningful steps towards ending femicide across the country and to declare femicide an emergency in Canada.
About the Pink Bag
The Body Bag, For Her intentionally takes marketing tropes and clichés directed towards women and flips them to demonstrate the scale of the femicide crisis. Drawing on these traditional advertising tropes, the pink body bag was created by a women- and survivor-led team to illuminate the fact that every other day a woman is killed in Canada, most often by a man. The Body Bag, For Her shows the sobering realities of femicide in Canada, and how it isn’t the same as homicide. Women are being killed by men, precisely because they are women. And these murders are completely preventable.
This is an emergency.
Every two days in Canada a woman or girl is killed violently, most often by a man, because she is a woman.
Femicide is the most violent manifestation of misogyny against women and girls – it is the ultimate control of women and girls to dictate their fate and, ultimately, their death.
Misogyny – the hatred of women – is a huge driver of femicide all around the world.
The Canadian government has still not officially recognized the term Femicide in any legislation.Femicide is real, and it’s happening in Canada.
Ignoring it will not make it go away. Recognition of this most extreme form of male violence against women is the first step forward to addressing it.
We’re not waiting anymore.
A deeper look at femicide
Created in partnership with the
Femicide is the killing of a woman or girl because of their sex or gender, mostly by men, who are driven by misogyny and a need to maintain power and control over their victims. It is deeply connected to gender inequality, patriarchy and colonialism, and entrenched beliefs of the roles of women and men.
Femicide is a hate crime, like race- or religious-motivated violence, because misogyny – the hatred of women – often underpins male violence against women and girls. We must recognize the gender-related aspects of the murders of women and girls, and how they differ greatly from the killings of men. Femicide is recognized worldwide as a distinct form of killing that warrants its own label and its own examination for effective prevention.
In most cases of femicide there are multiple indicators present, which help us better understand the nature of femicide, and also help prevent it. In Canada, 84% of the killings of women and girls by a male accused involved at least one indicator of femicide.
Some common indicators of femicide are:
• Misogynistic beliefs of the perpetrator – hatred toward women, sexism, seeing women as property of men/inferior/submissive, etc.
• Recent separation of the woman from her partner
• Prior violence (this is not always physical and not always reported)
• Coercive-Controlling behaviours of the perpetrator
• Victim being exploited illegally
• Sexual violence committed before the femicide
• Overkill – perpetrator used excessive violence, mutilation, torture
• Body disposed in a public place
Femicide: The Facts
When women and
girls are killed by violence, it is almost always in the context
of their intimate relationships with men.
Women and girls have most to fear from men they know well. During a 5-year period (2018-2022) in Canada, at least 57% of women were killed by a male accused with whom they shared a current or former intimate partner relationship. Another 22% of victims involved male accused who were family members. In short, 4 out of every 5 women and girls were killed by a male they should have been able to trust (79%). It is important, though, to recognize that these killings, which are often inaccurately described as private violence, are intricately linked to public violence against women and girls and the ongoing issue of male violence against women.
Femicide happens to women from all walks of life, but some women and girls are more at risk than others because of who they are or where they live. Intersectionality matters.
Indigenous women and girls are at an increased risk of femicide compared to non-Indigenous women and girls, a situation that has been documented over many decades by numerous studies and organizations, national and international. During a 5-year period, at least one in every 5 women and girls killed were Indigenous (20%), despite representing only about 5% of the population.
The risk of femicide for women and girls with other racialized identities (e.g., Black, South Asian) is difficult to determine given a lack of consistent and quality data; however, it is recognized that they face increased barriers, including systemic racism and discrimination, which can exacerbate their risk of femicide.
Women and girls killed in non-urban regions of the country (45%) are disproportionately at risk compared to their representation in the population, whereas those killed in urban centres (55%) are underrepresented.
Women aged 24 to 44 years are consistently overrepresented as victims of femicide; however, adolescent femicide and femicide of older women are also recognized as emerging risk groups based on age. In fact, despite men more often being victims of homicide overall, women begin to outnumber men as homicide victims in older age groups such that elderly victims of homicide are more likely to be women than men, the majority of which will be femicide.
When there are multiple or overlapping identities or discriminations (e.g., sex/gender, race, class, age, sexuality, ability, geography), the risk of femicide is compounded significantly.
How is femicide different from homicide?
Femicide is a form of murder that underscores the ‘how’ and ‘why’ women and girls are killed because of their sex or gender – which is distinct from how men and boys are killed, although both are killed primarily by men.
Femicide is also deeply connected to intimate partner violence (although it can also happen at the hands of strangers). In contrast, when men are murdered, it is rarely connected to maintaining power and control in an intimate or familial relationship.
Femicides are smaller in number than male homicides; however, violence prevention should never be a competition. Our prevention efforts do not and should not only focus on those forms of violence which occur most often. For more on this issue, see More men are killed than women, so why focus on violence against women?
Children and Multiple Victims of Femicide
With Intimate Partner Violence, one of the most dangerous times for a woman and her children is actually after leaving. To maintain control and “show them who’s boss”, some men will kill their ex-partners. In extreme cases, abusers will kill their own children (filicide) to punish Mom for leaving, and as a way to continue abusing their ex-partners through their children. These murders are deliberate and calculated, as the abuser knows there is no greater pain for a Mother.
Keira, forced to see her father by Family Court even after numerous reports of domestic violence by her mother, was killed by her father in this way. As are approximately 30 other children in Canada every year. These tragic deaths are completely preventable. Aura Freedom was honoured to support Jennifer Kagan, Keira’s brave Mother, who used the worst pain imaginable for change. Jennifer recently succeeded in passing Keira’s Law, which will train Family Court judges and protect children from domestic violence.
Murder-suicides are often cases of femicide and male violence against women and children. For example, a man may kill his wife (femicide), children (filicide) and then himself (suicide) because of a recent separation or as a way to punish his partner for filing for divorce and/or child custody. However, the attention in media articles is often given to the graphic and tragic nature of the ‘murder-suicide’ (the crime) rather than the true nature of femicide and the most extreme manifestations of male violence against women that happen far too often in Canada.
Femicide often results in the deaths of multiple victims in addition to the woman who was the male perpetrator’s primary target. Some cases, contexts, or circumstances indicative of femicide result in the deaths of many women, men, and/or children, which often obscures that these killings were femicides or the result of femicidal motivations. During a 5-year period (2018-2022), in addition to the 850 women and girls killed in Canada, another 138 victims were killed. This does not include ‘living victims of femicide’ which, when focusing on the children left behind, left at least 868 children in Canada without their mothers.
Dispelling Myths About Femicide
Femicides, especially when perpetrated by male partners, are portrayed as ‘crimes of passion’; however, these killings are as likely, or more likely, to be pre-planned than other types of killings.
Femicide at the hands of an intimate partner happens even when there is no prior history of physical violence in the relationship. However, such violence is frequently unreported by victims and/or unrecorded by police so it is often difficult to determine.
Femicide is rarely an isolated incident; rather, these killings are often the result of targeted, chronic, and/or escalating violence against women and girls by men, whether in the context of intimacy or perpetrated by men with histories of violence against women and girls more generally.
Femicide is often attributed to perpetrators’ mental health issues. While it is possible mental health may sometimes play a role, an overemphasis on this factor as a contributing factor stigmatizes the many people living with mental health issues (including women) who are never violent.
Femicide is not only perpetrated by a stranger on the street. Women and girls face the greatest danger in their own homes and are more likely to be killed by men they know (i.e., intimate partners or family members).
Many mass killings (i.e., Montreal Massacre, Toronto Van Attack, Nova Scotia Mass Shooting) are also mass femicides and deeply connected to misogyny and incel culture. It’s important we begin to connect the dots between misogyny, white supremacy, Male Violence Against Women, and mass killings/mass femicide.
Gun ownership increases the risk of femicide. One study showed that domestic violence incidents with a firearm make death for the woman 12 times more likely.
Femicide is preventable. In fact, it is one of the most preventable forms of homicide. There are known risk factors which allow the Police, the justice system, and service providers to prevent femicide – these risk factors must be recognized and observed. Training is key.
“The Montreal Massacre, the Toronto Van Attack, the Nova Scotia Mass Shooting. These massacres were not the result of the actions of ‘madmen’. No.
They were calculated acts of misogyny deeply rooted in patriarchy. They targeted and brutalized women because they were women. And the killers in each case had a history of domestic violence and a hatred of women.
We must first recognize these murders as femicides and hate crimes if we are to end them. When will women matter enough? ”
Marissa Kokkoros, Executive Director, Aura Freedom
Femicide & MMIWG2S
Created in partnership with the
The Final Report of the National Inquiry into MMIWG highlights how the deliberate human and Indigenous rights violations are directly connected to Canada’s staggering rates of violence against Indigenous Women, Girls, and 2SLGBTQQIA People.
The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls (MMIWG) found that Indigenous women are 12X more likely
to be killed than any other women in Canada.
Read that again.
During a 5-year study,
at least 1 in every 5 women and girls killed were Indigenous (20%), despite representing only 4-5% of the population.
A study by the Native Women’s Association of Canada found that Indigenous women and girls make up only 4% of Canada’s population, but 50% percent of sex trafficking survivors.
Indigenous women experience spousal violence at a rate
3.5X higher than non-Indigenous
“Indigenous Women are mothers, daughters, aunties, and sisters. They are leaders, protectors, warriors, life-givers. They are beautiful, artistic, strong, proud, ground-breaking and they are recalling their spiritual power. Indigenous Women are SACRED.”
Pamela Hart, Executive Director, Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto
MMIWG2S is not an “Indigenous issue”. It is genocide.
The crisis of MMIWG has been internationally recognized as genocide. It started with first contact and the intent to eliminate Indigenous Peoples, destroy the family and “kill the Indian in the child”.
This genocide was no accident. It was all meticulously planned through Canada’s systems. From residential “schools” and brutal family separation, to forced sterilization, child apprehension and birth alerts, over-policing and incarceration, and the environmental destruction of Indigenous lands.
Indigenous women and communities are aware of the fact that the genocide of MMIWG2S+ is pervasive and ongoing for a specific reason. In the words of Audra Simpson (2016), “Canada requires the death and so called ‘disappearance’ of Indigenous women in order to secure its sovereignty” (p 1). The murders and disappearances of Indigenous Women and Girls work to further break down Indigenous communities and their cultures, because our women are matriarchs and stewards of culture in our families and communities. Violence against Indigenous women, and the impacts of GBV such as losing children to the child welfare system, create cyclical, ongoing genocidal patterns that violently remove women and girls from communities because their presence threatens the very foundations of the Canadian state. (An excerpt from Portrayals of Gender-based Violence in the Media – written by Sabrina Lamanna, Indigenous Research lead for Aura Freedom’s GBV In The Media project)
Systemic and structural racism, combined with the objectification of and disregard for Indigenous women’s lives, continue to contribute to and perpetuate the harm to Indigenous women, which too often ends in death. On the front lines of our communities, we continue to see the consequences of first contact, residential schools, systemic racism and MMIWG. We continue to see the harm and danger our women face each day. We see the systems that continue to fail these women and will continue to cause harm… systems that are not inherently ours and were designed with intent to eliminate the community. The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls has 231 Calls for Justice for all levels of government, industries, citizens, and more to respond and take action. The process of the National Inquiry opened the hearts of Indigenous communities, and their stories must be heard, respected, and answered to. In the end, the National Inquiry concluded that the violence experienced by Indigenous women in Canada amounts to genocide.
Today, the majority of the Calls for Justice have not been answered and more than half have not even been started. The genocide continues.
4000 Cover Stories is a project by the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto created to commemorate the lives of the thousands of Indigenous Women who have been taken from their loved ones, and to create awareness of the ongoing genocide of Indigenous Women. NWRCT created a newspaper filled only with cover stories of missing or murdered Indigenous women—4000 of them—to help get our stolen sisters the attention they deserve. The newspaper was hand-delivered in Ottawa to the doorstep of Canada’s leader, demanding the attention Indigenous Women are owed.
To date, no response from Canada’s leadership has been made.
“The actual number of missing and murdered Indigenous women is still unknown. This, in itself, speaks volumes. It means that Indigenous Women and Girls were not important enough to count or to search for. It means that the pain and cries of their families were not important enough to consider. This, to me, is Canada’s greatest shame.”
Marissa Kokkoros – Executive Director, Aura Freedom
Aura Freedom would like to thank the Native Women’s Resource Centre of Toronto and the Canadian Femicide Observatory for Justice and Accountability for their collaboration, solidarity, and most of all, their sisterhood.
Aura Freedom would also like to thank Forsman & Bodenfors, Folktale Films, Cactus Sewing Studios, Veritas for their partnership, creative brilliance, and compassion. From the bottom of our hearts, we thank you for walking alongside us with empathy and curiosity during the creation of the For Her campaign, and for all your work done in the name of altruism and humanity.