Femicide is the big issue that nobody seems to want to talk about. In this part of the blog series, I take a look at the increasing number of cases of violence against women and girls in Europe.
politics | blog series | femicide | extremism | violence
The hatred of the other is as old as humankind. It has been the basis of many wars and conflicts and has caused untold suffering to people on all continents. You would imagine that in the year 2020, we would have put this hatred and dislike of people who are different to us in the past once and for all. With globalisation and the ability to connect with people from all walks of life and across the entire planet, perhaps we could have reached the point of no longer seeing people who look differently or believe differently from us, as "other". Unfortunately, this doesn't seem to be the case and things feel like they're getting worse on an almost daily basis. I decided to take a look at some numbers to see if the situation really is as dire as it feels.
| VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN
A survey was carried out in 2018 by the Organisation for Security & Co-operation in Europe (OSCE).
Eight countries in South and South-east Europe took part in the survey, with women aged between 18-74. The goal of the survey was to find out the different forms of violence that women have experienced throughout their lives, including childhood, and the lasting effects they have.
The results were shocking, with 70% of women (approx. 16 million) having experienced some form of violence since the age of 15. Worldwide, 1 in 3 women report experiencing some kind of violence or harassment. Long-held beliefs that women should be subservient and obedient prevail in many of the societies surveyed (Albania, Montenegro, Kosovo, Ukraine, Serbia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, North Macedonia and Moldova), with these beliefs held by both men and women.
31% of the violence that the women reported experiencing was perpetuated by a family member, 23% by an intimate partner and 60% of it was psychological in nature. Many instances of violence against women are not reported due to a general reluctance and a feeling of shame associated with sharing their experience. Distrust of the authorities also affects the data collected, and many victims describe mainly negative encounters with law enforcement. We should therefore assume that the prevalence of violence against women and girls (VAWG) is probably much higher than this survey highlights.
A continuous effort is needed to empower women to recognize that violence against them is a violation of their rights
and to increase gender equality in general.
Data surrounding violence against women and girls, and in particular, femicide, is not always reliable. Many countries do not consider femicide a separate form of violence, and therefore it is not always recorded accurately. A femicide census has been produced by the UK charity, women's aid, that highlights the worrying rise in the numbers of femicide (in the UK) since 2009.
In France there is a concerning trend in the escalation of femicide with the country recording 138 cases in 2019, an increase of 17 from the previous year, equating to almost 3 deaths per week. The data from Germany is even more alarming with the country having recorded 147 instances of femicide in 2018, the highest number in Europe for that year. Statistics from the UK are not particularly positive either; there were 139 recorded incidents for the same period.
80% of complaints from women go uninvestigated in France, the shelters across Europe are full and most do not meet the standards and guidelines set out in the Instanbul Convention. In Spain, legislation introduced in 2004 and 2009 reduced the number of femicides from 71 in 2003, to 50 in 2018. However, the numbers for 2019 have risen slightly. Often heralded as an example to the rest of Europe, Spain records each complaint and the police must always respond. However, the far-right VOX party wants less money dedicated to eradicating gender violence, and they refuse to see it as a political priority. Activists in Spain accuse judges of not having the skills to deal with cases that involve violence against women.
The correlation between violence against women and people's material living costs cannot go unmentioned. Previous studies have shown that there is a strong relationship between financial status and job stability, and the likelihood of a woman experiencing domestic violence. Men without current employment may use violence against their female partners due to a feeling of frustration at their loss of the traditional bread-winner role. The culture of toxic masculinity is still prevalent and should not be ignored.
The actual scale of the issue of violence against women is unclear. So many cases go unreported or are not recorded properly; the official data cannot be relied upon to give us the whole picture. The NGO, Equality Now has requested that states collect and share data to give us a better understanding of the scale of the problem.
| A CHANGE IS COMING
When Harvey Weinstein was accused of rape by dozens of women in 2017, it sparked a movement. Many high and not-so-high profile individuals have been confronted with sexual harassment accusations. Women have taken to the streets all over the world to demonstrate the high rates of femicide, domestic violence and sexual harassment.
The shocking statistics above can be viewed in a more positive light: if the numbers are growing, more women are prepared to come forward to say that they will no longer accept this kind of treatment.
Many governments are implementing new laws against street harassment and better ways to tackle domestic violence. Domestic violence is responsible for killing 15 times more women than terrorism. Budget cuts to refuges and domestic violence centres are leaving more and more women at risk. There is a lot more that our governments can and should be doing.
Despite some steps being taken in the right direction, with President Trump looking likely to secure a second-term in office this year, there is no room for complacency on this issue. Not likely to win any awards for his support of women's rights, Mr Trump is more likely to shoot all the progress women have made on these issues up into space to be consumed by a giant fireball. The same fireball that will presumably fall back to Earth, destroying the rest of our rights and the environment. We can only pray that it lands on him during a round of golf.
He is far from the only one we should be afraid of. Too many world leaders do not appear to be very concerned with the well-being and safety of the female members of their societies, and the rise of the far-right will only make the situation worse.
We need to stick together on this issue and not give in or give up. The fight is nowhere near over.
Support our friends, family members and colleagues, and report all incidents to the police.
The population of the world is divided almost equally between men and women; isn't it about time that everything was as equally distributed?