It has seen people take to the streets over the past year to protest the brutal killing of women – and in some cases, their children – at the hands of their current or former partners.
The New Year’s Day killings in France shocked many and sparked a renewed call for tougher action against those who perpetrate violence against women and girls. Speaking to CNN, Marielle Bruel, a spokeswoman for Nos Totes, a French feminist campaign group, said that although the killings were “horrific”, activists in the country were unfortunately “not surprised” by the turn of events. “The violence does not stop with the coming of the new year,” she said.
According to police, a 56-year-old woman was found dead with a knife in the chest in Labri, in the northeast, after officers were called in for reports of domestic disturbances on January 1. A man has been placed under official investigation. For the crime of “partner murder”.
In the second case, a 28-year-old female soldier was found stabbed to death near Saumur in western France, according to the city’s public prosecutor. A 21-year-old soldier was arrested in connection with her death. Investigators suspect that her partner may have been murdered.
Then, the body of a 45-year-old woman was found in the trunk of a car in Nice. She had been strangled, according to Maud Marty, the southern city’s deputy attorney general. Prosecutors have launched formal murder and premeditated murder investigations against her ex-husband, 60.
Across Europe, cases of violence against women are fueling growing anger. In Greece, where 17 femicides were recorded in 2021 according to public radio ERT, the government has been criticized for rejecting an opposition amendment that would have established institutional recognition of the term femicide. In November, after her husband stabbed a 48-year-old woman 23 times in Thessaloniki, opposition leader Alexis Tsipras posted on Facebook: “There should be no political disagreements when we feel so much the effects of gender-based violence on the grounds of daily . “
Activist: Women should hear
In France, after news of the first two deaths emerged on January 1, Nos Tots called on French President Emmanuel Macron to act, tweeting that “to start this count again is intolerable.”
“We are aware that 65% of these women could have been saved if things were handled properly, if their complaints were addressed, if we had listened to these women,” Bruell stressed.
The French government was quick to condemn the killings on January 1, with Equality Minister Elizabeth Moreno tweeting that she regretted the violent deaths and felt for the victims’ children and other bereaved relatives. She added that police, judges, health services and other bodies were “constantly mobilized” to fight “this scourge”. But activists remained unhappy with the government’s response to the tragedies.
“Following the three murders that took place within 24 hours in France, the only thing that was done was that the Minister of Equality went to discuss the matter with the associations,” Brouil said.
This is not the first time that the French government has been criticized for its handling of domestic violence.
However, Nos Totis asserts that Macron and his government “do not fully agree with what is going on on French soil,” according to Bruel. “For us, Macron and the government are silent, and this is shameful,” she added.
A spokesperson for the Director of National Police confirmed to CNN this week that five officers had been punished in connection with Daoud’s death.
Bruel criticizes the French police, who claim they are “not at all adequately trained” to deal with these kinds of cases.
“Tip of the iceberg”
Daoud was one of 113 women murdered in 2021 in France by their current or former partners, according to French advocacy group Féminicides par compagnons ou ex (Femicides by partners or exes).
This represents a clear increase in 2020, when 102 women were murdered by their partner or ex-partner, according to the Interior Ministry body linked to the French National Police. The same body said 146 women were killed by their current or former partner in 2019, and 121 women in 2018. Government figures for 2021 have yet to be published.
French penal code recognizes “accomplice murder” but does not distinguish between male and female victims. Hence the term “female murder” was not used officially.
And while they see the value of the statistics, Nous Toutes stresses that these numbers are “only the visible part of the abuse that occurs within couples,” according to Brill. “They’re just the tip of the iceberg,” she said, stressing that before any murder, there’s usually a whole host of abuses that the public doesn’t know about.
Calculating the true cost of femicide
Spain has previously recorded any killings of women as gender-based violence where there is evidence that they were or were related to the perpetrator.
But from the beginning of this year, official statistics on gender-based violence will be expanded to include the killing of any woman or child in which gender is believed to have played a role.
The five categories range from murders of women linked to sexual violence, including human trafficking and prostitution, to killings by men in a woman’s family, also called honor killings. They also include vicarious femicide, which is defined as “the killing of a woman or minor children, by a man as an instrument to cause injury or harm to another woman.”
Spain has been shaken by recent cases of violence against women and their children.
A court document stated that “the defendant’s plan was to cause his former partner the greatest pain you could possibly imagine, by deliberately causing uncertainty about the fate that Olivia and Anna suffered at his hands.”
Equality Minister Irene Montero said the new system would mean that all “sexual murders of women, because they are women” would be accounted for. “Labeling femicides is justice, and it’s the simplest exercise of reparation with all victims of sexual violence,” she said in a government press release.
In this way, Monteiro said, “We are making progress in exposing all forms of sexual violence in order to implement the public policies needed to eliminate it. What you don’t call it, doesn’t exist.”
French activists support this step and are pushing for a similar framework to be adopted in their country. Brill said Nous Toutes also wanted to “count the murders of young girls and women from outside husbands, so we can show the extent of abuse against women in France”.
Brouil concluded that French society is “ready to see change” because it “recognizes that these abuses are not inevitable” and can be avoided.
CNN’s Duarte Mendonca, Anael Jonah, Chris Liakos, and Camille Knight contributed to this report.