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Femicide. Plans for a European observatory, amidst identity crises and the “male question”

A European Observatory on femicide. A network comprising 32 Countries is developing the project aimed at examining this phenomenon in detail, to exchange good practices in terms of prevention and adopt counter measures. According to Consuelo Corradi, sociologist, coordinator of a EU research, in Italy - marked by "low murder-risk” but where every two / three days a woman is killed by her partner - there is a male identity vacuum. Meanwhile, the anti-violence centres are reeling, waiting for the promised funds.

A European Observatory on femicide. The project is being developed by the Cooperation in Science and Technology network – COST – involving 32 European countries. Sociologists Consuelo Corradi, expert in violence as a social phenomenon and against women, Vice Rector of LUMSA University in Rome, together with Shalva Weil ,(Hebrew University of Jerusalem), coordinated the research “Femicide across Europe”, presented recently in Vienna on the occasion of the Forum of Sociology, examining data released by Eurostat which shows that every year about 13 million women in Europe are victims of acts of violence, assaults, attempted murders. The phenomenon has intensified over the last six years. The authors of a study conducted by Munich University ascribe the recent increase to rising unemployment rates and the resulting increase of male frustration and insecurity.

The survey “Femicide across Europe” shows that in Italy the so-called “homicide risk” (violence-indicator established by the UN) is low, amounting to less than 1 per million inhabitants. Italy’s figures are similar to those registered in Germany and The Netherlands, less than half the figures at European level (2/1.000.000). Only four European Countries (Slovenia, Germania, Malta e Austria) register lower numbers. In spite of this – pointed out Consuelo Corradi – in Italy a woman is killed by her partner every 2-3 days, as in England and Spain.” Portugal registers the worst figures in Europe – 4-6 women killed per million; soaring figures have been recorded in Eastern Europe, with peaks of 20 women per million. “Comparisons at international level – Corradi underlined – show that it’s possible to prevent this carnage, which in most cases is characterised by death foretold.” Thus the project that is being developed by the European network has a twofold purpose: to issue local, regional, national recommendations to local governments by March 2017 “for early prevention at local level”, and to “release guidelines aimed at the creation of a permanent Observatory on femicide in Europe, to analyse the phenomenon in detail and promote the exchange of best practices in the area of prevention.”

A few days ago Italy’s Interior Ministry released data on the first six months of 2016: 74 femicides, 22.92% less compared to the same period in 2015 (96 femicides), but the numbers are still too high. The sociologist excludes a climate of domestic violence at national level:
“Moreover, the state of emergency is due to a constant, which transforms man-women confrontations in violent conflicts and clashes, marked by dramatic outcomes.”

Hence, are we facing a male question, an identity vacuum? “We are. Given the changes in male and female identity, men are suffering from a sort of ‘vacuum’, for traditional male roles have been questioned by women’s empowerment and by their achievements in terms of equality, freedom, social recognition.” This “authority” crisis doesn’t only involve the older generation. In fact

“Many young men find it hard to reconsider their role in terms of equality, instead of one of control and dominion.”

The spark is often triggered when the couple breaks up, but it had been smouldering for some time under the surface.
While the debate on Ministry of Education national guidelines is underway, what could be effective means of prevention? “It is necessary to start with young people, but I’m not among those who advocate discussions on gender violence in schools.
The specific theme of violence is but an aspect of a broader issue regarding respect for others, relational education, welcome, and the recognition of the unique value of every person.The school environment can do its share, but the first prevention is done inside the family. Also the Church – with her parishes, associations, and oratories – can give a great contribution in terms of education.” Moreover, continues Corradi, although precise figures are lacking, “many institutes of women religious provide support to the victims of violence”, but early interventions would be best. “A mediator should be present at the first outbreak of conflicts inside the couple. Sometimes the trigger is a lack of dialogue: stress, coupled by the hectic pace of modern life can easily lead to conflict, while dialogue and pacified relations are what we need the most. A ‘third’ figure, external to the couple, perhaps could be found even inside the parish.”

Every femicide is a “foretold death”, as it is preceded by stalking and violence which women, Corradi goes on, “should report to the police, or at least speak about. But many of them ignore the existence of anti-violence centres, where they can find support, counselling, and in extreme cases also a shelter for themselves and their children.” Sadly such initiatives strive to go on. According to Di.re Donne in rete, which every year welcomes in its 73 centres (on some 450 at national level) 15 thousand women in need of help, EUR 16.5 million have been earmarked for the period 2013-2014 to the regions for these Centres, but only a small part has been delivered to date, while 18 million appropriated in the Stability Law for the period 2015-2016 have not yet been granted, pending the State-Regions Conference. And last month alone, three anti-violence centres have shut down.

Men’s voices. In the past weeks the Minister for Constitutional Reforms, in charge of Equal Opportunities, Maria Elena Boschi announced the creation of a task force against femicide, which, she explained, “is not a female issue”, as it requires “the efforts of everyone.” Advisors include Lucia Annibali, the Italian attorney disfigured in an acid attack perpetrated by her former boyfriend. Annibali, together with the deputy leader of the Democratic Party in the House, Alessia Morani, have called upon the male population to take action in person by signing the #seseiunuomofirma petition (Change.org platform). “The laws are there,” she said, but laws alone are not enough:

“The issue needs to involve women as well as men. Their voices are not being heard.”

Men’s voices could become a veritable change of pace to face the situation; the first step of a necessary cultural revolution to redefine identity and roles, and defeat this phenomenon.

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