Femicide in France: Three women brutally killed in one day at the “unbearable” start of the new year


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.” . “

In the UK, following the kidnapping and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard in March by a male police officer and persistent police crackdown on a memorial vigil, activists criticized a culture of misogyny within the police force.
Meanwhile, in comments aired in December, Pope Francis said that men who commit violence against women are doing something that is “almost satanic”. Police data released in Italy in November showed that there were around 90 incidents of violence against women in the country every day and 62% of cases of domestic violence.

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”.

The murders are “an indication of the current climate in France and the impunity of the attackers,” said Breuil, emphasizing that one of the three women had complained to the police about her alleged attacker. Statistics from a French Ministry of Justice report in 2019 showed that 65% of women killed had contact with the police before they were murdered.

“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.

Since widespread protests against violence against women took place in France in 2019, the government has announced a series of reforms. This includes increased funding for emergency shelters and specialized police officers to handle complaints, as well as efforts to encourage the appointment of specialized courts and prosecutors to streamline law enforcement.
A French woman was shot and burned by her estranged husband, officials say, as anger over femicides builds
Address by reporters in October, Interior Minister Gerald Darminin stressed that combating domestic violence “must be a priority” for law enforcement agencies.

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.

In May, the country was shocked by the case of a 31-year-old woman, Chahinez Daoud, who, according to official reports, was shot and burned in the street in Mérignac near Bordeaux by her husband, who was separated. The police arrested the husband, identified as Mounir B., shortly after the incident. Bordeaux prosecutor Frédérique Porterie told reporters at the time that the man had seven previous convictions, including a 2020 charge of violence in the presence of a minor. Chahinez had filed charges of aggression against him just two months before her death.

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.

Forensic experts will arrive at Chahinez Daoud's home in Merignac, Bordeaux, on May 5, 2021.

‘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 Féminicides 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.

"The best place in the world to be a woman"  is sued for misogyny
Femicide, also known as femicide, is generally defined as “willful murder of women because they are women”. However, there is no global, standardized or consistently recorded data on femicides.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO)“Most femicide cases are committed by partners or ex-partners and involve persistent home abuse, threats or intimidation, sexual violence, or situations where women have less power or resources than their partner.”

French criminal law recognizes “murder by a partner” but does not distinguish between male and female victims. The term “femicide” 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

In the meantime, on New Years Day in Spain, a new system was brought in that the government says it will make the first country in Europe to officially count all femicides – including cases where children are killed by men to harm women.
The number of women killed by gender-based violence in Spain in 2021 reached 43 on December 27 according to the government delegation for gender-based violence. Since 2003, 1,125 women have been killed in gender-based violence in the country.

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.

According to the WHO, one in three women worldwide experiences violence in their lifetime

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.

In late December, a three-year-old girl was killed in an alleged case of gender-based violence in Madrid. said the government – one of seven children who lost their lives this way last year.
Angry demonstrations took place in cities across the country in June after a man was accused of killing his two daughters Olivia, 6, and Anna, 1, and dumping their bodies into the sea off the Spanish island of Tenerife. Reuters reported.

“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.

A woman takes part in

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, Anaëlle Jonah, Chris Liakos and Camille Knight of CNN.


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