Crime: Domestic Violence and Femicide – What States Are Doing About It

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Written By Maya Cantina

Abused, strangled, beaten to death, stabbed or shot: cases of serious domestic violence and femicide continue to shock society. Most victims are women, and during Corona, cases of domestic violence have increased many times in some countries of the European Union. The Council of the EU recently gave the green light to an EU directive to combat violence against women and domestic violence. Until now, the measures have looked very different in the individual countries. An overview:

Lack of women’s shelters in Germany

In Germany, the number of victims of domestic violence continues to increase. According to current statistics, there were more than 256,000 victims in 2023 – an increase of 6.5 percent compared to 2022. What the data clearly shows: women are particularly affected. Last year, 155 were murdered by their partner or ex-partner. Reducing intimate partner violence is therefore the focus of the federal government, which points out that it has already initiated a number of things: the federal government funds several helplines, including the ‘Violence against Women’ telephone line and also the ‘Violence-Free Telephone Line’. to the future”app”. According to the Federal Minister of the Interior, this is possible Nancy Faeser (SPD) are hidden on the cell phones of those affected, documenting violence in a way that can be used in court.

In addition, the federal government wants to issue stricter rules for convicted partners and ex-partners: they will have to follow anti-violence training in the future. According to Faeser, the use of electronic anklets is also currently being investigated. Family Minister Lisa Paus (Greens) wants to enshrine in law a legal right to protection and advice for those affected and make the federal government permanently financially responsible. Which in turn could be crucial in creating urgently needed shelters for women. According to the union Police There is a national shortage of 14,000 places – a major problem that those affected have been complaining about since yesterday.

Spain as a model country

Spain is a pioneer in Europe in the fight against violence against women. The first laws were introduced more than twenty years ago and a state observatory on domestic and gender-based violence has since been established. Since 2017, the issue has even been a “high priority state task”. There are fast trials, strict penalties, hotlines with advice in more than 50 languages ​​and special training for judges, lawyers, teachers and police officers. The problem is part of the school curriculum, is often discussed on talk shows and is the subject of many films and TV series. But at every station the police officers know how to act in an emergency. If there is a suspicion and even if the victim does not report the crime because he or she is afraid of the perpetrator, he or she must take action. Depending on the level of danger, specialized judges will immediately order preventive measures, including 24-hour personal protection of the victim. Technology is also being used: digital ankle bracelets have been in use for more than 15 years, and by the spring of 2024 there were more than 4,000 across the country.

Outrage in France

Femicides have repeatedly sparked outrage in France, where the murdered women had previously contacted authorities without success. The government is trying to get the problem under control. Reports of domestic violence are given priority and the police are held responsible for this. There should also be special domestic violence units in the courts. The government also announced that it would set up a women’s shelter for victims of violence in each of the approximately 100 French departments and that in future those affected by violence and their children would receive immediate protection within 24 hours upon order.

While French Justice Minister Éric Dupond-Moretti announced that the number of femicides had fallen by 20 percent to 94 murders last year, women’s rights groups expect this number to remain higher. The organization ‘Nous Toutes’ spoke of 134 cases in 2023.

Electronic surveillance in Switzerland

A pilot project is underway in Zurich in which potential perpetrators and potential victims are monitored electronically. It’s about women taking legal action to force a man to keep his distance. If the two people get too close to each other, an alarm will sound in the control room. If this is successful, it should be continued and implemented in other cantons. According to statistics, there were 2023 in the Switzerland 25 deaths due to domestic violence, of which 20 were women and girls. The new law on sexual offenses will come into effect in July. Unlike before, rape or sexual assault can also occur in the future if the perpetrator has not explicitly threatened the victim. Next year, for the first time, a central telephone number will be set up where people affected by violence throughout Switzerland can be contacted 24 hours a day.

More powers for police officers in Austria

In Austria, men who threaten women can be immediately evicted from their shared home. This approach and entry ban was imposed more than 15,000 times last year. It is seen as an important weapon against domestic violence. Unlike many other countries, it is not the courts but the police officers who decide whether dangerous people are sent away for fourteen days. They must also complete counseling. “You can use it to prevent violence that is about to arise or explode,” says Birgitt Haller of the Institute for Conflict Research in Vienna.

According to the expert, further measures are needed to prevent femicides. Last year, 26 such murders were documented. Haller has prepared a study for various ministries. In it, she recommends information campaigns about offers of help from the police and victim protection organizations, which are currently underused. She also calls for more social work with young men and better health care for mentally ill men.

“Code Red” in Italy to protect women

In Italy, femicide has been a phenomenon in society for years. According to the Ministry of the Interior, more than 30 femicides have already been committed in Rome this year. The “Codice Rosso” (in German: “Code Red”) to protect women has been in place for five years. For example, the 2019 law allows police and courts to intervene more quickly to protect women in domestic violence, making it easier to make temporary arrests and use ankle bracelets in the event of a no-contact order.

Last November, Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni’s government took further measures against violence against women, amid a wave of outrage in Italian society after several femicides. The package includes increased monitoring of men who commit domestic violence. In addition, women’s protection centers should be expanded.

“Panic button app” in Greece

According to the Interior Ministry, femicide and serious domestic violence have increased in Greece in recent years. They always cause terrible headlines and outrage among the population. Recently, a young woman was stabbed by her ex-boyfriend right in front of a police station where she had previously asked for help. The government has now developed a panic button app, wants to make people aware of domestic violence and set up more women’s shelters and contact points for help.

The ‘panic button app’ was previously tested as a prototype in the major cities of Athens and Thessaloniki and is now available nationwide for both women and men. At the touch of a button, the app mobilizes the police, who must intervene immediately. According to the Ministry of the Interior, the number of requests for help increased by 60 percent in May compared to the previous year. In the same month, 1,000 people were arrested for domestic violence.

High penalties for perpetrators in Cyprus

In the EU island republic of Cyprus, femicide has been an independent crime (delictum sui generis) since July 2022. The perpetrator faces severe penalties, including life imprisonment. The law made a “socially disturbing reality” visible, parliament said. According to the Association for the Prevention and Treatment of Violence in the Family (SPAVO), Cyprus, with a population of more than 900,000 people, has seen 22 femicides in the past four years.

Women’s rights activists in Türkiye criticize the government

In Turkey, women’s rights organizations are waging a bitter battle against femicide and violence against women. They see the government as one of their biggest opponents. More than three years ago, she withdrew from the international Istanbul Agreement, which is intended to encourage states to adopt rules and laws that better protect women. The government under President Recep Tayyip Erdogan stated that national rules were already sufficient.

Women’s rights activists criticize the withdrawal as a favor to the perpetrators and complain that violence against women in Turkey is often not adequately punished. The Turkish government does not publish official figures on violence against women. The “We will stop femicide” platform has been counting femicides and suspicious deaths among women since 2010. In the first four months of this year alone, more than 120 women were murdered by men in Turkey. In 2023, there were almost 90 in the same period.

© dpa-infocom, dpa:240610-99-336998/2

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