Programmed or Licensed to Kill? The New Biology of Femicide

Radford, Lorraine orcid iconORCID: 0000-0002-6095-3845 (2004) Programmed or Licensed to Kill? The New Biology of Femicide. In: The New Brain Sciences: Perils and Prospects. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp. 131-148. ISBN 9780521537148

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This chapter considers the contributions that new biological research in the areas of behavioural genetics, brain anatomy and neurochemistry may make to our understanding of and responses to male violence against women as a public health problem. It also tests recent claims that the new biology can seek out and treat the dangerously femicidal and violence-prone.


‘Femicide’ is the ‘misogynous killing of women by men’ (Radford and Russell, 1992). The term points at the politics of woman killing at both the individual level and that of governance. It covers the many forms it takes – marital, stranger and serial killings as well as racist and homophobic killings of women. This said, however, most of the research discussed in this chapter homes in on either marital femicide (wife or partner killing, often called uxoricide) or the much rarer ‘lust driven’ serial killing of women by men. The rate of general homicide overall in England and Wales is relatively low – 15 per million of the population, with men showing higher rates of victimisation than women at all ages. On average 70% of homicide victims in England and Wales are males and 30% are females. Women less frequently kill and they are much more likely than are men to be killed by a partner. On average in England and Wales, two women are killed by male partners or ex-partners each week (Criminal Statistics, 2001).

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