Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Feminicide across Europe :Spain

The 2004 Organic Law for integral protection against gender-based violence (GBV) (Law 1/2004) applies only to “violence that men exert against women who are or have been their intimate partners, or who are or have been in an intimate relationship with them, with or without cohabitation”. The Spanish Penal Code specifies several crimes related to violence against women in the case of sexual crimes. The Penal Code increases penalties when the crime is committed under conditions that are specified as GBV. Article 153 of the Penal Code specifies injury crime in relation to GBV. However, the Spanish legislation does not specifically specify femicide as a crime, and homicides and murders of women are included within Title 1 of the Penal Code, which deals with homicide and all its forms.

The restricted approach to GBV in Spain as framed in the Law 1/2004 does not align with the definitions assumed by international organizations, such as UN or the European Union. The restrictive approach to GBV under Spanish law prevents the visibilization and development of intervention for other forms of GBV to which women in Spain are exposed, e.g. murders of women in situations of prostitution, or murders of women when the murderer is not her current or former intimate partner. Official registers for such crimes do not exist in Spain.

The Spanish signature of the Istambul convention, which establishes a broad definition of violence against women based on gender and independent on the relationship between victim and aggressor, implies that the Spanish legislation needs to change accordingly. However, to date, the official response – namely, the reform incorporated in the organic Law 1/2015, 30th March, that modifies the Organic Law 1/1995, 23rd November of the Penal Code – has been insufficient. This reform includes: gender-based discrimination as an aggravating factor (art. 22.4 of the Penal Code.); crimes against life are modified to be considered as aggravated crime, when homicide is committed after sexual aggression (a172 bis); harassment (172 ter) and sharing, without the consent of the victim, of images taken in private locations with the victims’ consent (197.7 of the Penal code). However, Spanish legislation fails as yet to incorporate in the definition of GBV those cases where the aggressor is not a current or former intimate partner. This limitation has been highlighted in the CEDAW report of the 24th of July of 2015, where the need to include other types of GBV – such as caretaker violence, police violence, violence in public spaces, working places and schools – is emphasized. Although the term of femicide is used by certain social and academic institutions, its use is not generalized and it is utilized mainly in relation to the murder of women occurring within intimate relationships. In 2014, the 23rd edition of the Spanish Language Dictionary incorporated the word femicide, defined as “Murder of a woman due to her sex” (http://dle.rae.es/?id=Hjt6Vqr )

1 Data sources

Since 2003, the statistical web of the Government Delegation for GBV of the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, has incorporated information on deaths due to GBV. In addition, the following information about deaths of women over age 15 is available aggregated by year, in relation to the victim: denouncer’s characteristics, protective orders, violation of restrictive orders, country of birth, age, cohabitation with aggressor, geographical location; in relation to the aggressor: country of birth, age, whether suicide was committed (http://www.violenciagenero.msssi.gob.es/violenciaEnCifras/victimasMortales/home.htm).
Since 2007, the State Observatory of Violence Against Women, under the auspicies of the Ministry of Health, Social Services and Equality, publishes an annual report with information of all fatality victims of GBV. The latest report published includes information about murders committed in 2013 and includes women older than 15. 
a) The General Council of Judicial Power (C.G.P.J.) publishes annually data on violence against women in the judicial statistics where homicide crimes are reported (http://www.poderjudicial.es/cgpj/es/Temas/Violencia-domestica-y-de-genero/Actividaddel-Observatorio/Datos-estadisticos/?filtroAnio=2015). Since 2007, the Observatory for Domestic and GBV of the CGPJ, created in 2007, has published annually a “Report of death victims due to domestic violence and GBV within intimate relationships”. The latest published report includes information for murders committed in 2013 and includes murders of women older than 15. (http://www.poderjudicial.es/cgpj/es/Temas/Violencia-domesticay-de-genero/Actividad-del-Observatorio/Informes-de-violencia-domestica/). It is important to note that these reports have been employing the term femicide since 2009, when referring to “the violent death of a woman by her current or former partner, or a person who is or has been related to her by a similar affective relationship, and where the aggressor is a man”. 
b) Some non-governmental organizations also gather statistics on the number of women murdered, mainly by their intimate partners or ex-partners. It is important to mention the Federation of Associations of Divorced and Separated women, which facilitates access to media news published by the Spanish press in relation to femicide cases since 1999 through today. (http://www.separadasydivorciadas.org/wordpress/estadisticas/). Additionally, the “Fundación Mujeres femicidio.net” offers information on femicides committed in Spain, in any of its forms, not limited to intimate partner femicide (http://www.feminicidio.net/menufeminicidio-informes-y-cifras). 
(by Santiago Boira Sarto, Chaime Marcuello, Yolanda Rodriguez Castro, Maria Lameiras Fernandez, Laura Otero Garcia, Belén Sanz Barbero, Carmen Vives Cases, Isabel Goicolea Julian) 

In order to fight feminicide/femicide, various Latin American and European countries have adopted increasingly specific laws and legal instruments that penalize feminicide. The ratification of the Belém do Pará Convention1 in Latin America and the entry into force of the Istanbul Convention2  in Europe, demonstrate an increasingly stronger international commitment against this kind of violence. The establishment of the Bi-regional Dialogue on Gender by the European Union (EU) and the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), as well as the adoption of the Urgent Resolution on Feminicide in the European Union and Latin America3 by the Euro-Latin American Parliamentary Assembly (EuroLat) also express this commitment.    

However, legal norms, agreements, and international dialogues alone are not sufficient for the eradication of violence against women, nor its most extreme manifestation, feminicide.

Traditionally, States were only responsible for their own actions or those of their agents, but international public law has evolved and currently, the principle of due diligence makes the State responsible for the prevention, investigation, and prosecution of violence, regardless of who commits the crime. The duty of due diligence obliges States to enter the private sphere, where historically, they have not intervened, but where the majority of cases of violence against women occur. 

Therefore, it is the duty of the State to take all necessary measures to prevent human rights violations, such as feminicide, before they occur. This means, on the one hand, adopting pertinent laws and policies to prevent, investigate, prosecute, and punish those guilty of abuse, and on the other hand, successfully implement them. 

Patricia Jiménez, Heinrich-Böll-Stiftung – European Union, Brussels



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