Counting Dead Women is a project about women killed by men

My name is Karen Ingala Smith and I prioritise women. I prioritise the well-being of women who have been subjected to men’s violence. I try to make sure I see the women that many others disregard. I’d like to contribute to ending men’s violence against women and girls. If I can’t do that, I’ll settle for helping ensure that women have access to specialist support from women, that victim-survivors’ needs are prioritised and wishes heard, and that more people understand the realities of men’s violence against women, girls and children.

Counting Dead Women is a project about women killed by men. I started it in January 2012 as a reaction to the murder of a young woman in East London. I watch out for media reports of women killed by men – and I record them.  I record their names so that those women are never merely statistics.

Yes, I know more men are victims of homicide. You know that they’re killed by men, right? No, I’m not going to start counting dead men. Find someone who is interested in men’s violence to men to do that for you. Or, do it yourself. Yes, you’ll be busy. I know, because I’ve been Counting Dead Women for over 9 years.

Yes, I know that sometimes women kill men. Do you know that when men kill a female partner or ex-partner, the Femicide Census was able to find evidence of prior violence and abuse to the woman they killed in 59% of cases.  And we’re sure this is an undercount because women so often tell no one about what an abusive man is doing to them behind closed doors.  Do you know that the Centre for Women’s Justice found that when women kill a male partner or ex-partner, in 77% of cases there was evidence that he, the man who was killed, was the one with the history of violence and abuse and that she was the victim?

Yes, I know that sometimes men who identify as transgender or transsexual are killed. There have, as far as I am aware, been 9 since 2009. Unlike most people who faux-innocently ask me whether Counting Dead Women includes ‘transwomen’, I could name every one of them.  Whether the fact that they rejected male gender norms played a part in their deaths, I don’t know. They were all killed by men, only one was killed by a current/former partner. Incidentally, trans identified males have killed 12 people in the same time period, four of them women and one a transgender male.

Yes, I oppose violence and discrimination against people because they reject sex-role stereotypes. There is an international movement to commemorate trans victims of murder. I don’t need to.  Nor would I because I prioritise women victims of men’s violence.  

No, I don’t believe that men who identify as transgender or transwomen are subjected to misogyny.  I believe they are subjected to hate and discrimination because they dare to reject male gender norms. I support and celebrate (not actively) any man’s right to do that.  No, I don’t believe people can change sex. I think gender functions to maintain male supremacy and female subordination.

I support universal human rights but you can do that and still prioritise women. There isn’t a single human right that excludes trans people. That’s the way it should be. No one has a human right to impose their belief system on another.

Prioritising women does not mean that I don’t care about anyone else, that I don’t recognise the humanity of males, or that I am incapable of empathising with, or liking individual males, including some who identify as transgender. It doesn’t mean that I don’t recognise the pain of someone who has lost a man that they love or care for to violence.  It just means that I prioritise women. I choose to devote my energies to women. My time. My life. My choice. It really doesn’t have to be yours but I think the state of the world reflects that fewer people choose to prioritise women than prioritise men, or accept the status quo.   

Since 2009, at least 1,691 women and girls aged 14 and over have been killed by men.  This includes 1,425 named in the Femicide Census, killed between 2009 and 2018, plus another whose death has come to light since we went to publication. Plus 128 women killed in 2019 (Femicide Census figures, as yet unpublished) and 107 killed in 2020 (we haven’t got the FOIs back yet, so this includes women identified in the media only and so it will undoubtedly increase) and 31 women killed this year.

And we know there are more. There were 117 women and girls who suffered violent, premature and suspicious deaths between 2009 and 2018, where men were directly or indirectly implicated that we couldn’t include in the Femicide Census (for reasons explained in the 10-year report). Those are just the women we know about. We don’t doubt that there are more that we don’t know about.

My name is Karen Ingala Smith and I prioritise women. I count women killed by men. No, I don’t count men. No, I don’t include transwomen. And if that isn’t good enough for you, I really don’t care what you think about me.