Femicide, the murder of girls and women because of their gender, is something that’s happening all around us. Every 11 minutes, a woman is murdered somewhere in the world by a sexual partner, an ex or current spouse or by a family member. She’s murdered just for being a woman.
Why are we looking into the matter?
The term “femicide” slipped in our everyday conversations with increased regularity during this past year, even though the term has been used by feminist and women’s groups for more than four decades now. In 2021 thirty 1 women were murdered in Greece and in most cases, the crime was committed by ther ex or current spouses/ partners. Even though the number of murdered women seems to have increased significantly compared to the past two years 2 , it isn’t really indicative of the real picture, as in Greece there is no official public organisation that gathers and records data that’s relevant to the murders of women due to their gender. Such incidents are considered to be homicides, both in terms of evidence collection, as well as on a penal sentencing level, making it near impossible to document the extent and the nature of the issue, as well as to compare any statistics for each year.
This State gap is filled by organisations and bodies/ entities, such as the Greek Division of the European Observatory on Femicide (EOF), which, for the past three years, has been gathering and analysing the social traits of femicides in the country. Also, the terrifying increase in incidents of domestic and gender-based violence that was (partly) due to the pandemic and for which we have official records 3 , renders the demand for the legal recognition of the term “femicide” all the more urgent and relevant. It’s a demand expressed by a large part of society and it is voiced with passion at women’s protests across the country. It has been expressed by parties of the Opposition in Parliament 4 , with interventions and amendment suggestions.
Why are we looking into femicides? We’re doing so because they’re the most extreme form of gender-based violence and we will continue to do so until brave measures are taken to recognise the issue and prevent it from happening. Establishing the term “femicide” is a first but necessary step that will render gender-based violence more visible and will contribute in the broader recognition and dealing of the issue, and also it’ll raise awareness in society that will help apply pressure for concrete actions.
Also, we had to look into the matter of femicides, because of a series of worrying data that should under no circumstances be ignored. First of all, the pandemic 5 has led to a dramatic increase of domestic violence worldwide and domestic violence is an indicative precursor of femicide 6. Greece is no exception, with numbers soaring even after the lockdown periods 7 . The issue has reached extremely worrying levels, as incidents of gender-based violence increased by 227.4% during the first month of the pandemic, according to data gathered by the 24 hour SOS Helpline 15900 8 . In other words, this soaring number of victims of domestic violence could very well be the next femicide .victims in Greece. At the same time, there’s an even larger number of women and children that do not feel – and therefore are not – safe in their homes.
Secondly, all the femicides that were committed in Greece have one thing in common: There has been a common pattern of manipulative behaviour and unequal power dynamics between the man and the woman. Femicide, just like all forms of gender-based violence, are about the woman’s role in society and are linked to the perceptions and social stereotypes imposed by the patriarchy. Those perceptions and stereotypes justify the viewpoint that women aren’t equal members in a relationship, that they’re sex objects and that (physical or sexual) violence excerted by men can be acceptable.
Another finding that should worry us is that, despite the fact that on a European level 9 most of the women who suffer gender-based violence find it hard to speak up, in some of the femicides that occurred in Greece, the victims or people from their environment had had the strength to report 10 abusive incidents to the Authorities. Their pleas for help were left unanswered because the relevant agencies underestimated the gravity of the situation, but also because of the general insufficiency of the available protection system for women against such phenomena.
For all of the above reasons, it becomes clear that in order to stop femicides from happening, we should focus on educating society. What’s important is to teach the offenders that they shouldn’t commit such acts, rather than instruct the victims on how to protect themselves. The issue also requires legal initiatives that should work on legally establishing the term “femicide” and also cover the whole spectrum of abuse against women: There should be targeted awareness actions to encourage women – especially those belonging to more vulnerable groups and minorities – to report violent events.
Most such incidents are not reported to the Authorities due to lack of trust towards them, but also because the women fear the offenders’ retaliation if/when they find out. There should be a direct support system for rape survivors and we should apply internationally accepted practices in order to trace substances such as GHB, with a urine sample, within 12 hours and not later, as was the recent case of Georgia from Thessaloniki 11 . Also, we should establish an approach that focuses on the survivors of gender-based violence, according to international protocols. This way, the chain of evidence can be adhered and there will be less mistakes or omissions during transferring the collected evidence and data from one agency to the other.