Uneven distribution of homicides in the world

The global homicide study of the UNODC(1) shows that the number of homicides continues to rise, although rates are going down due to the rise in population. In 1990, 362,000 cases were detected and in 2017, 463,821. The study deals with illegal intentional homicides(2) that have been committed in the world until 2017.

If we focus on continental data, a great impact is stressed in the two Americas that, according to 2017 figures, concentrate 37% of homicides with a mere 13% of the world’s population. The global rate of 17.2% per hundred thousand amounts to an overall record since 1990, which is the first year that reliable data was used. Venezuela, El Salvador, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Colombia and Brazil are the countries with the highest rates.

The second continent on the list is Africa with 13 per hundred thousand, but care must be taken with these figures as there are doubts about their reliability. Apart from America, only South Africa reaches maximum levels. Europe has experienced a drop of 68% since 2002 and 38% since 1990, amounting to 22,009, a rate of 3 per hundred thousand, leading Oceania (2.8 per hundred thousand) and Asia (2.3 per hundred thousand)(3)

Most homicides (54%) were committed with firearms (the main instrument used in America, with the exception of Canada, and in the Balkans), 22% were committed with a knife and 24 % using other means

The perpetrators of homicides are mainly men (90%). If we look at homicide in terms of criminal convictions, only 6% of those convicted were women. In Europe the figure reaches 9%, whereas in the Americas it is 7%, and in Asia, 6%, and in Africa, 5%. Regarding the victims, they are usually men (81%), with the most affected age group being the one between 15 and 29 (basically due to the American reality), although in Europe the most affected age group is between 30 and 44. Women are their partner’s victims (34%), of other members of the family (24 %) and in 42 % of cases, people who are not part of the family context, meaning that the inner and family circle is the most dangerous for them. If we focus on cases involving couples, 82% of the victims are women. Another noteworthy piece of data is that, the higher the number of homicides, the bigger the percentage of male victims.

The report refers to contexts that may facilitate violence and, consequently, an increase in homicide. At the same time, it flouts traditional stereotypes in this area. More specifically, it states:

  • Socioeconomic development (or a lack of this) explains the levels of homicide in Europe and Asia, but is more difficult to explain per in the Americas and Asia. Organised crime, political instability and the availability of firearms are crucial factors in these continents. However, organised crime (and drug trafficking) do not always generate high homicide rates.
  • Inequality in terms of standard of living and distribution of wealth. Countries with the highest rates of economic inequality are the ones with the highest rates of homicides.
  • Long-term investment and educational policies are associated with a drop in homicide rates.
  • Improvements in the rule of law is key to reducing homicide rates.
  • Urban growth does not seem, in itself, to cause an increase in homicide.
  • Police officers can be both a source of violence and its victims.
  • Emigrants are predominantly killed by other emigrants.
  • In some countries (Chile, El Salvador, Argentina, Panama, Honduras, Botswana and Montenegro) prisons are places where a higher risk of being a homicide victim is detected.

[1] Vid. https://www.unodc.org/documents/data-and-analysis/gsh/Booklet1.pdf

[2] They have no legal protection, which could be a jusifying cause or constitute a conviction in a country that applies capital punishment.

[3] Àsia experiences four times more homicides than Europe, 104,456, but has six times its population.


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