The three tragic femicides that took place within 48 hours, with a difference of only a few days from the two savage matricides in Neapoli, Thessaloniki and Heraklion, Crete (a 79-year-old woman and a 67-year-old woman killed by their sons), bringing the number of murdered women to thirteen, demonstrate once again the great dimensions and irreparable consequences of gender-based violence in Greece.
The GBV continuum
They also show that gender-based violence in all its forms (physical abuse, sexual violence, psychological abuse, sexual harassment, economic violence and deprivation of resources, rape, etc.) is a continuum, extreme form of which is femicide.
The patriarchal and sexist background of family/ partner relationships is the pre-eminent ground for the exacerbation of gender-based violence, which occurs and unfolds on a daily and systematic basis, undermining the freedom and self-determination of women (partners, spouses, mothers, daughters, workers, students, etc.) and their right to a life worth living.
What is eternalizing this phenomenon?
We should question ourselves about the resilience of the deeply enshrined patriarchal power relations and masculinist views, according to which women, as subservient to men, remain exposed to “correction” and “punishment”, through the exercise of control and any other form of gender-based violence.
We should also ask ourselves about the visible or invisible mechanisms (institutional, political, social / cultural) that act as a catalyst in the perpetuation or even exacerbation of the phenomenon.
How, for example, secondary victimization of survivors is caused through inadequate response, the apathy of the competent police and judicial authorities, or the discouragement of women from initiating further proceedings.
And how victims are targeted or even stigmatized by undermining their speech and testimonies, and by blaming them (victim blaming) for what they experience, while at the same time many excuses for perpetrators (abusers / rapists / femicide perpetrators) are invented, by a system that seems to ostentatiously ignore the principle of zero tolerance towards gender-based violence.
If we look at the special characteristics of recent femicides, the ones of 56-year-old Georgia from Rethymno, 41-year-old Eleonora from Zakynthos and 17-year-old Nikoleta from Peristeri, as well as the two (anonymous) women who were murdered by their sons, we find that they reveal what women’s and feminist collectives have been eloquently describing over the years, and raise questions such as:
- Whether and how a woman, seeking to free herself from an abusive relationship, is supported, that is to say, how does the constitutional State acts and how do we, collectively, seek to prevent and protect victims of gender-based violence.
- Whether the close and wider environment is helpful in this direction or, on the contrary, is discouraging or stigmatizes those who dare to speak up and denounce. The ministerial presumption that this is a complex case, in order to justify inertia and obstacles, which are found in the chain of services to support and protect women from gender-based violence, is outrageous.
- Whether it is enough to put the emphasis in the recording of the number of murdered women and the use of the term femicide by the media, when the recording and critical presentation of the daily, chronic and systemic gender-based violence suffered by women in their private space, in partner / marital relationships, in their work, in the public space, in places of education, sports, entertainment, the internet, etc., is almost completely absent,
- Whether the protection and safety of survivors is adequately ensured – which is the responsibility of the competent bodies and professionals – especially given that personal safety is a fundamental right enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
In this context, it is necessary for the state to prioritize the following:
- The immediate adoption of measures to prevent gender-based violence and the elimination of sexist, racist, homophobic stereotypes and extreme neoliberal perceptions of sexuality, motherhood, companionship and gender.
- The open public debate on consent and the non-negotiable right of women and femininities to a life free of violence.
- The legal recognition of femicide, which will firstly contribute to highlighting the grim social reality and sexist motives of this singular crime, and secondly to the understanding of the dual / plural dimension of femicide, which on the one hand is an extreme criminal act and on the other hand an extreme lethal form of gender-based violence. The legal recognition of femicide is one of the ways to make the phenomenon visible in order to highlight its social and gender dimension and to emphasize that it is a crime committed on the basis of gender discrimination and unequal power relations, elements that cannot be covered by the Criminal Code today.
Diotima Center, unlike the Minister of Justice, considers that the introduction of the term femicide into the Penal Code would not lead constitutionally and morally to a “relativization” of human life.
The standardization of femicide does not introduce unconstitutional discrimination on the basis of gender, since not all homicides which have women and femininities as victims and male perpetrators are considered as femicides.
Also, Diotima Center is opposed to far-right and neoconservative approaches promoted by carceral feminism and alt-right perceptions, seeking to tighten sentences and impose stricter social control. Together with feminist organizations and collectives, we demand the emergence and understanding of the causes that can lead to femicide, considering it as an extreme outcome of the continuum of gender-based violence.
Additional measures at institutional level
At the same time, being aware that legislation alone is not enough to overturn and eliminate sexist stereotypes and gender inequalities, we consider that at an institutional level it is additionally necessary:
- to increase and strengthen the existing public support structures for survivors of gender-based violence (counseling centers and shelters of the General Secretariat for Gender Equality, the Research Center for Equality Issues and Local Government Organizations) with human and financial resources,
- to increase and establish in their post the staff of the above structures, and to ensure the continuation of the operation of the network of structures,
- to ensure the immediate response of the prosecuting and judicial authorities with a view to the safety and protection of the lives of victims and their children and to the administration of justice, especially given that the current legislation provides for the ex officio prosecution of crimes falling under Law 3500/2006 and Law 4531/2018.
Finally, as emphasized by international organizations (e.g. UN, Council of Europe, etc.), it is appropriate and necessary for the State to strengthen and cooperate closely with women’s / feminist NGOs, which systematically support survivors of gender-based violence, supporting their work in practice.