Monday, September 17, 2018

Feminicide across Europe: Italy

The notion of femicide has circulated in Italy since 2004, when the European SARA and subsequently FEAR projects (both funded by the Daphne framework) were implemented. As a result of these projects, publications (Baldry, 2006) and conferences (2005) disseminated the term. In 2006, Spinelli authored a book bearing that title (Spinelli 2006). For the last decade, due to social, political, and NGO’s movements, the term has been used intensively, and even exploited by the media, with the aim of raising awareness on the topic. Debates are still ongoing as to whether the term should be used, or even if there should be a ‘dedicated’ legal term identifying these crimes. Attention peaks on specific dates in the year (8th March, International Women’s Day and 25th November, International

day against violence against women), when most of the media will discuss the issue and conferences are organized. Due to the fact that there is one femicide every three or four days in Italy, on average, media attention responds cyclically, focusing on the crime in the news. Social perception for the rates of violence against women is shaped by these waves of media response, together with social and political attention

1 Sources
Given that the definition of femicide is not always consistent between agencies and social contexts, in relation to ‘counting’ the victims, differences could also emerge. With this limit in mind, we can identify three bodies in Italy that collect data on gender-related killing of women in the country:
a) The most accurate and long-standing database on femicide is gathered by EURES (Center for Economic and Social Research). Since 1990, this private research center has collected data from media sources on voluntary homicide and it validates this information against the Ministry of Interior source that releases official data at the end of each year. Since 2000, EURES has also focused on femicide, by systematically collecting an extensive number of variables (inter alia: age, marital status, education, employment, etc.) related to both the victim and the perpetrator (Piacenti & Pasquali 2015). .  b) Casa delle donne per non subire violenza (Women's Home) in Bologna is part of the National Networks of DiRe shelters. This is an independent, women’s only NGO, established in the 1980s and aiming at preventing and eliminating all forms of violence against women. They publish and annotate data, but this activity does not appear to be a continuous endeavour.  c) Since 2014, the Ministry of Interior publishes a short report annually on intimate and family homicide. d) The National Institute of Statistics gathers data on homicide, based on data from the Ministry of Justice and the Interior.

2 Definition
In reliable sources, femicide, although not used in the legal framework, is best defined as the killing of a woman because of her gender. Most cases refer to killing by an intimate partner. However, other killings of women would be included (e.g. a woman who is raped and then killed, an exploited woman or prostitute who is killed, other family related murders, could fall under this category). ‘Partner’ or ex-partner includes the current or a previous husband, living and dating partner, lover, occasional partner. The expression "family femicide" is also used to indicate killing by a relative, such as a father, son, or other.
 (by Anna C. Baldry, Consuelo Corradi and Augusto Gnisci)

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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