What is femicide, the crime John Poulos is charged with in the Colombia murder case?

NOW: What is femicide, the crime John Poulos is charged with in the Colombia murder case?

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- As John Poulos awaits trial behind bars, prosecutors are working to prove the Wisconsin native killed his Colombian girlfriend, Valentina Trespalacios, because of her gender as he is charged with femicide.

Poulos is accused of traveling to Colombia, meeting with girlfriend Trespalacios, killing her and attempting to avoid authorities by fleeing the continent.

Femicide, or feminicide, is codified in some form in most Latin American countries.

"Around the 2000s, 2010, is a growing awareness and a push to really mark the murders of women as being on account of their gender," UW-Madison professor Sara McKinnon told CBS 58 in an interview.

High-profile killings of women in different countries in Latin America sparked movements for change. That included creating charges of femicide -- the murder of women on account of their gender.

"The notion of feminicide or 'feminicidio' is really to spotlight that these are murders that happen because women are women and to really give attention to that rather than to obscure the way that gender matters in this context," McKinnon said.

McKinnon said it is no surprise the death of Valentina Trespalacios has struck an emotional chord in Colombia, where national discussions around femicide have been around for years.

The U.S. does not have a femicide criminal charge in law, but McKinnon said the issue of gender-based killings is still discussed in different ways here.

"That's not to say it hasn't been taken up in civil society. There are really important social movements and pushes to address gendered violence and murders of women, murders of trans women in the United States," McKinnon said.

According to data from the World Bank, the U.S. has about 2.6 intentional homicides of females per 100,000 females compared to 3.5 females per 100,000 females in Colombia.

If convicted on the femicide charge, Poulos faces a minimum of about 40 years in Colombian prison.

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