Women and hidden violence

Hi, it’s Veronika, a data vis writer here at Datawrapper. Today, I’d like to talk about a serious topic: violence against women and the things we (don’t) know about it.

The United Nations’ annual 16-day campaign against gender-based violence kicked off last Thursday. Nearly half way through today, it’s a good opportunity to look at this important issue and the (lack of) data surrounding it.

Long way ahead to “orange the world”

The United Nations picked orange as its campaign color to represent a bright future free from violence against women and girls. Last week, the organization published a new report on gender-related killings that shows how much there is left to do to achieve its campaign call to “orange the world.”

On average, more than five women or girls were killed every hour in 2021 by someone in their own family.

UN News

While men make up the majority of all homicide victims, women are five times more likely to be killed at home:

Of the 81,000 women and girls intentionally killed last year, 45,000 – around 56 per cent – died at the hands of intimate partners or other family members.

UN News

Unfortunately, these numbers remain consistent year to year, without a dramatic increase or decrease. The data may not be surprising but it’s still shocking. And what’s even more striking is how patchy and inconsistent it seems to be.

What the data hides and what it reveals

There are different ways to look at violence against women around the world. Femicides, the intentional killings of women and girls because of their gender, are the most damning but also the most hidden metric.

The map below shows the rates of “intentional female homicides” — that is, murders of women and girls regardless of their context and motive. These numbers are more widely reported, but still show large gaps.

The UN body responsible for collecting the data makes it clear that its quality and quantity are insufficient and might be hiding much higher numbers. That’s because countries don’t always track homicides by gender and even when they do, context that would clarify intentions is often missing.

In fact, over a third of the world’s countries and territories failed to report a single number in the past 11 years. The data gap is most pronounced in the regions of Africa and Oceania.

The missing data is particularly worrying when compared to the rates of non-homicidal violence against women. Reported rates of intimate partner violence are highest in the regions of Africa, Oceania, and South Asia where homicide data is missing.

It’s time to speak up

Much of the data describing trends in violence against women is either outdated or missing, but there are some things that are changing. Initiatives to tackle the data gap already exist, from the Data Against Femicide community project to the kNOwVAWdata training program for Asia and the Pacific.

And people are speaking up. When faced with violence or violations of women’s rights, societies across the world have come out to protest. Recent events in Poland, the United States, and Iran are all good examples.


UNODC: UNODC Research - Data Portal – Intentional Homicide (Accessed on 25 November 2022)

UN Women, United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (report: Gender-related killings of women and girls (femicide/feminicide): Global estimates of gender-related killings of women and girls in the private sphere in 2021 Improving data to improve responses)

UN Women, Women Count Data Hub (Thematic Area Dashboard)

Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project (ACLED): Political Violence Targeting Women & Demonstrations Featuring Women (25 November 2022) dataset

That’s all from me! Next week, our software engineer Simon will be back with a Weekly Chart of his own.