It has seen people take to the streets over the past year in protest of women’s brutal deaths – and in some cases their children – at the hands of their current or former partners.
The New Year killings in France shocked many and prompted a renewed call for tougher action against those who commit violence against women and girls. Marylie Breuil, spokeswoman for Nous Toutes, a French feminist campaign group, told CNN that although the killings were “shocking”, campaigners in the country were unfortunately “not surprised” by the course of events. “Violence does not stop with the new year,” she said.
According to police, a 56-year-old woman was found dead with a knife in the chest in Labry in the northeastern part of the country after officers were called to reports of a domestic unrest on January 1. A man has been put under formal investigation for the crime of “murdering a partner”.
In the second case, a 28-year-old female military recruit was found stabbed to death near Saumur in western France, according to city prosecutors. A 21-year-old man, a soldier, was detained in connection with her death; Investigators suspect a possible homicide from her partner.
The body of a 45-year-old woman was then found in the trunk of a car in Nice. She had been strangled, according to Maud Marty, deputy prosecutor in the southern city. Prosecutors have launched formal investigations into manslaughter and premeditated murder of her ex-husband, 60.
Across Europe, cases of violence against women are provoking growing outrage. In Greece, where 17 homicides were recorded in 2021, according to the public television station ERT, the government was criticized for rejecting an opposition change that would have established institutional recognition of the concept of homicide. In November, after a 48-year-old woman was stabbed 23 times by her husband in Thessaloniki, opposition leader Alexis Tsipras wrote on Facebook: “There should be no political strife when we dramatically experience the effects of gender-based violence on a daily basis.”
Activist: Women need to be heard
In France, after news of the first two deaths surfaced on January 1, Nous Toutes urged French President Emmanuel Macron to act, tweeting that “starting this count again is unbearable.”
“We realize that 65% of these women could have been rescued if things had been handled properly, if their complaints had been taken up, if we had listened to these women,” Breuil stressed.
The French government was quick to condemn the killings on January 1, and Gender Equality Minister Elisabeth Moreno tweeted that she regretted the violent deaths and sympathized with the victims’ children and other bereaved relatives. Police, judges, health care and other agencies are “constantly mobilized” to combat “this scourge,” she said. However, the campaign is still not impressed with the government’s response to the tragedies.
“After the three murders of women that took place within 24 hours in France, the only thing that was done was for the Minister for Gender Equality to go and discuss with the associations,” Breuil said.
This is not the first time the French government has come under fire for its handling of domestic violence.
Nous Toutes, however, maintains that Macron and his government are “completely out of step with what is going on in French territory,” according to Breuil. “For us, Macron and the government are silent, and that’s shameful,” she added.
This week, five officers were sanctioned for Daoud’s killings, a spokesman for the director of the National Police confirmed to CNN.
Breuil is critical of French police, who she claims are “not properly trained at all” to handle such cases.
‘The top of the iceberg’
Daoud was one of 113 women killed in 2021 in France by their current or former partners, according to the French advocacy group Féminicides par compagnons ou ex (Femicides of partners or exes).
It represents an apparent increase over 2020, when 102 women were killed by their partner or former partner, according to an interior ministry linked to French national police. A further 146 women were killed by their current or former partner in 2019 and 121 women in 2018, the same body said. The government figures for 2021 have not yet been released.
French criminal law recognizes “murder committed by a partner”, but does not distinguish between male and female victims. The term “murder of a woman” is thus not officially used.
And although they see the value of the statistics, Nous Toutes maintains that these numbers “are only the visible part of abuses that take place within pairs,” according to Breuil. “They’re just the tip of the iceberg,” she said, stressing that before any murder, there are usually a large number of assaults that the public is not aware of.
To count the true cost of homicide
Spain has previously registered as gender-based violence any killing of women where there is evidence that they were or had been in a relationship with the perpetrator.
But from the beginning of this year, the official statistics on gender-based violence will be expanded to include the killing of any woman or child where gender is considered to have played a role.
The five categories range from killings of women in connection with sexual violence, including human trafficking and prostitution, to murders committed by men in the woman’s family, as in so-called honor killings. They also include “surrogate homicide,” defined as “the murder of a woman or minor children, by a man as an instrument to cause harm or harm to another woman.”
Spain has been shaken by recent cases involving violence against women and their children.
“The accused’s plan was to inflict on his ex-partner the greatest pain she could imagine, by deliberately creating uncertainty about the fate that Olivia and Anna had suffered at his hands,” reads a court document, according to the news agency.
Gender Equality Minister Irene Montero said the new system would mean that all “sexist murders of women, because they are women,” would be talked about. “To name feminicide is to do justice, the most basic exercise of compensation for all victims of sexist violence,” she said in a government press release.
In this way, Montero said, “we are making progress in exposing all forms of sexist violence to carry out the public policies necessary to eradicate them. What you do not mention does not exist.”
French campaigners support this move and are pushing for a similar framework to be adopted in their country. Nous Toutes wants women killings of young girls and women outside of couples also “counted so we can show the extent of abuse against women in France,” Breuil said.
French society is “ready to see a change” because it “understands that these abuses are not inevitable” and can be avoided, Breuil concluded.
CNN’s Duarte Mendonca, Anaëlle Jonah, Chris Liakos and Camille Knight contributed to this report.