Why is it not a “crime of passion”?
The murder of a woman, that is due to the use of violence on behalf of her partner or spouse or as a result of misogyny can’t be described as a “crime of passion”, because to do so is to justify the offender’s motives and to intend to embellish the crime. A man doesn’t kill a woman because he was “madly in love” nor because he “loves her too much”. He kills her because she didn’t respond to the role he had assigned to her, that is the role of an inferior being that is the man’s property and has to follow his decisions and obey his commands. The use of gender-based violence has nothing to do with love. It’s all about the enforcement of the male dominance.
Why use femicide instead of homicide?
The main difference is the offender’s motive. Femicide is every woman’s homicide when the offender’s motive has a gender-related dimension. In that case it’s not just a homicide. It’s not a murder of a woman but a murder because she is a woman. Her life is taken with intend as the peak of an unequal power balance between her and a man. This is why the establishment of femicide as a distinct crime will help society to combat them more efficiently, both in terms of their suppression as well at the stage of prevention. At the same time, such recognition would help shift the current culture and mentality within society.
Is the term femicide “trendy”?
No, it’s a matter of visibility. The term was introduced by the criminologist Diana Russell back in 1976, in order to describe the worst stage of gender-based violence. It has also been widely used by the feminist movement worldwide, especially in the case of the iconic example of Spain. The large number of femicides that became publicly known in Greece, especially in recent years, have caused structural changes in the way Greek society perceives crimes of that nature and approaches female vulnerability. A factor that contributed to that, was the birth of the Greek #metoo movement one year ago, as well as the dramatic increase in gender-based violence incidents during the pandemic, that led many women and children to feel unsafe inside their homes. Then, due to the murders of Vasiliki in Chania (January 2021), of Konstantina in Makrinitsa (Apri 2021) and that of Caroline in Glyka Nera (May 2021), the term “femicide” entered the domain of Greek social media and was adopted by almost every useress and user. This fact helped to put pressure on media regarding the way they handled and broadcasted this type of murders. With a certain reluctance, most of them have started including the term “femicide” in their news reports, though they’re yet to abandon stereotypical viewpoints regarding the relations between men and women.
What’s happening in other countries?
In recent years, the term “femicide” has been recognised by the World Health Organisation, the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE), EUROSTAT and the UN. Yet, the first efforts for the legal establishment of the crime of femicide were made in Costa Rica in 2007, with the majority of the Central and South American countries following in voting amendments to address the phenomenon – though there are differences between the way each of these countries choose to deal with femicide. 1 Namely in Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, Mexico and Peru, femicide is a distinct crime category that carries different jail time sentences. In Argentina and Venezuela, femicide is considered as an aggrieved homicide case.
In Europe, the situation is rather different and laws tend to be “gender-neutral”, despite strong suggestions 2 to the contrary stated in the Istanbul Convention 3 and the fact that the European Parliament requested back in September 2021 for gender-based violence to be included as a distinct crime in European Law. The Penal Codes of some countries such as France, Belgium, Portugal, Spain and Italy state that it’s an aggravated circumstance if a homicide is committed by the victim’s current or former spouse/ partner or by a family member.
Of those, only Spain and Italy approach violence against women as a distinct social and legal phenomenon, while the rest do not give a gender related dimension 4 to the issue. Finally, last October, Cyprus 5 recognised femicide as a distinct criminal offence that is punished with lifelong imprisonment.
Why is there no available data regarding femicides in Greece?
In countries where there isn’t a legal definition of femicide, it proves to be extremely difficult to gather, enter and process data. Even on a European level, the data is incomprehensive. In Greece, though, the situation is disheartening, as there’s a structural inability to record domestic and gender-based violence and also there isn’t a central official body in charge of gathering data that is relevant to the murder of women because of their gender. The data that is available is often fragmentary (be it from the Police’s yearly statistics, the Consulting Centres or the SOS Helpline 15900) and this is due to the fact that the policy to prevent and eradicate gender-based and domestic violence is also unsystematic and often depends on short-term funding programs. In the past few years, the investigation and documenting of such incidents was done by bodies and feminist and women’s organisations.
Even so, the depiction of the femicides that happened in the last three years presents numeric inconsistencies – an issue that occurs in other countries as well. This is most likely due to the fact that in some cases, the toll only includes murders commited by sexual partners and husbands and not by relatives (fathers or brothers). In other cases, indirect types of femicide are included in the statistics, such as the thousands of women that die every year because of complications of illegal abortions or the maternal deaths that happen due to childbirth under unsafe conditions and without medical assistance. Those are approximately 300.000 every year, or one every two minutes. 6
In order to align the existing statistical approaches for the femicide toll, the United Nations Statistical Commission requested from the UNODC to develop a “statistical framework regarding gender-related crimes, focusing on homicide targeting women and girls’ gender”. UNODC along with UN Women are running a deliberation process on an experts’ level, in order to develop an international statistical framework for counting femicides, in the lines of International Classification of Crime for Statistical Purposes (ICCS).