Over the past year, people took to the streets to protest the brutal deaths of women – and in some cases their children – by their current or former partners.
The New Year’s Day murders in France shocked many and led to renewed calls for tougher action against those who perpetrate violence against women and girls. Speaking to CNN, Marylie Breuil, spokeswoman for Nous Toutes, a French feminist campaign group, said that while the killings were “shocking”, activists in the country were sadly “not surprised” by the turn of events. “Violence doesn’t stop with the New Year,” she said.
Police said a 56-year-old woman was found dead with a knife in her chest in Labry, northeastern part of the country, after officials were called on January 1 to report domestic unrest. A formal investigation has been started against a man for the crime of “murder of a partner”.
In the second case, according to the public prosecutor, a 28-year-old recruit was found stabbed to death near Saumur in western France. A 21-year-old soldier was arrested in connection with her death; Investigators suspect a possible killing by her partner.
Then the body of a 45-year-old woman was found in the trunk of a car in Nice. According to Maud Marty, the southern city’s assistant prosecutor, she had been strangled. Prosecutors have opened a formal investigation into the manslaughter and willful death of her 60-year-old ex-husband.
Cases of violence against women are causing growing outrage across Europe. In Greece, where femicides were registered according to public broadcaster ERT 17 in 2021, the government has been criticized for rejecting an opposition amendment introducing institutional recognition of the term femicide. In November, after a 48-year-old woman was stabbed 23 times by her husband in Thessaloniki, opposition leader Alexis Tsipras wrote on Facebook: “There should be no political disputes when we experience the dramatic effects of gender-based violence on a daily basis.” . “
Activist: Women need to be heard
In France, after the first two deaths became known on January 1, Nous Toutes urged French President Emmanuel Macron to act and tweeted that “starting this count again is unbearable”.
“We know that 65% of these women could have been saved if things had been handled right, if their complaints had been recorded, if we had listened to these women,” stressed Breuil.
The French government quickly condemned the January 1 killings, and Equality Minister Elisabeth Moreno tweeted that she deplored the violent death and feels for the victims’ children and other bereaved relatives. Police, judges, health services and other agencies are “constantly being mobilized” to tackle “this scourge,” she said. The activists, however, remain unfazed by the government’s response to the tragedies.
“After the three femicides that took place in France within 24 hours, only the gender equality minister was discussed with the associations,” said Breuil.
This is not the first time the French government has come under fire for dealing with domestic violence.
However, Nous Toutes claims that Macron and his government are “completely out of step with what is happening on French territory,” said Breuil. “To us, Macron and the government are silent, and that’s shameful,” she added.
This week, five officers were sanctioned in connection with Daoud’s killing, a spokesman for the director of the national police confirmed to CNN.
Breuil criticizes the French police, who they claim are “not at all properly trained” to deal with such cases.
‘Tip of the iceberg’
Daoud was one of 113 women killed by their current or former partners in France in 2021, according to the French advocacy group FÃ©minicides par compagnons ou ex (Femicides by Partner or Exes).
This represents an obvious increase from 2020, when 102 women were killed by their partner or ex-partner, according to an interior ministry body affiliated with the French National Police. Another 146 women were killed by their current or former partner in 2019, and 121 women in 2018, the same body said. The government figures for 2021 have not yet been released.
French criminal law recognizes “murder by a partner” but does not distinguish between male and female victims. The term âfemicideâ is therefore not officially used.
And while seeing the value of the statistics, Nous Toutes claims that, according to Breuil, those numbers are “only the visible part of abuse within couples”. “You are just the tip of the iceberg,” she said, emphasizing that before any murder there is usually a whole series of abuses that the public is unaware of.
The real cost of femicide matters
Spain previously recorded as gender-based violence all killings of women where there is evidence that they were or were related to the perpetrator.
But from the beginning of this year, the official statistics on gender-based violence will be expanded to include the murder of women and children in which gender is said to have played a role.
The five categories range from murders of women in connection with sexual violence, including human trafficking and prostitution, to murders by men in women’s families, such as so-called honor killings. This includes “vicarious femicide”, defined as “the murder of a woman or minor child by a man as an instrument to harm another woman”.
Spain has been rocked by recent incidents of violence against women and their children.
“The defendant’s plan was to cause his ex-partner as much pain as possible by deliberately creating uncertainty about the fate of Olivia and Anna,” a court document from the news agency said.
Gender Equality Minister Irene Montero said the new system would mean that all “sexist murders of women for being women” would be counted. “Naming feminicides is the easiest way of redress for all victims of sexist violence to bring justice,” she said in a government press release.
In this way, says Montero, “we are making progress in making all forms of sexist violence visible, in order to carry out the public measures necessary to eradicate it. What you do not name does not exist.”
French activists support this move and urge the introduction of a similar framework in their country. Nous Toutes wants femicides on young girls and women outside of couples to be counted, “so that we can show the extent of abuse against women in France,” said Breuil.
French society is “ready for change” because it “understands that these abuses are not inevitable” and can be avoided, Breuil concluded.
Contributors to this report are Duarte Mendonca, AnaÃ«lle Jonah, Chris Liakos and Camille Knight of CNN.