NIAS Europe Monitor

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NIAS Europe Monitor
Femicides in Europe: The case of France

  Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan

Errors in data analysis, government inaction, and a weak response have increased femicide cases in France. 

In early January 2022, feminist groups in France called for the government to take stringent action against the rising violence against women. Their comments highlight the issues of femicide in France, as three women were allegedly killed by their partners/ex-partners on 1 January. The new year's killings have brought the rising cases of femicide to the forefront of France and Europe. In France, in 2020, there was a drop in femicide cases; 90 were killed, compared to 146 in 2019. Though the statistics seem optimistic, UN data from September 2020 suggested otherwise; France saw a 30 per cent increase in calls and reports on domestic violence. 

This commentary looks into the reasons behind the rise and also looks at whether France is a unique case.

Data error
The 30 per cent increase in calls and reports on domestic violence should have been alarming, but it was not considered to be significant as, at the same time, there was a drop in femicide cases. The feminists in France have played a crucial role in highlighting the errors. Feminist groups also took up the discrepancy with the UN data. The groups further talked about how awareness about the issue was still in its beginner stages as until 2014 the term femicide was not known by many. Only in recent years was it taken up by politicians and groups as an issue to discuss during their political campaigns. The problem of increasing cases of femicide has been consistent in Europe, as even Greece recorded 17 instances of femicides in 2021. However, the Greek government had not yet accepted the amendment regarding the institutional recognition of the term' femicide.' 

Government inaction
Chahinez Daoud's case is an example of the government's inaction. She was brutally murdered by her ex-husband, who was already convicted of domestic violence against her. She even had complained against him months before the attack, but she lost her life because of the government's dormancy. Eight months after the incident, six police officers were facing disciplinary hearings as they were accused of "administrative failings."

Feminist groups played a critical role as they called out the government for failing to protect women against domestic violence. The feminist group #NousToutes accused Macron's government of "scandalously" remaining silent on the recent killings. The group further stated that they denounced: "the silence of Emmanuel Macron and the government in the face of sexist and sexual violence in France." Furthermore, #NousToutes alleged a disparity in measures adopted earlier as they were not implemented correctly, for example, the use of electronic bracelets to prevent crimes. Electronic bracelets alert the individual and the police when their violent partner is around, this had reduced the number of femicide killings in 2020, but its implementation had dropped recently. 

In November 2021, large-scale protests took place across France, calling on the government to prevent violence against women. The demonstrations were a part of a more extensive week of action worldwide to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on 25 November. The equality minister Elisabeth Moreno then defended the government's stance on the issues by mentioning the current policies. For example, the government had increased emergency accommodation places by 60 per cent, introduced emergency telephonic services for victims of violence, and introduced training for police officers. However, the measures were not implemented well enough to stop the killings. 

Prime minister Jean Castex mentioned that the government had taken measures to tackle the issues of femicide and further said: "This includes setting up a 24/7 emergency hotline and sensitivity training for 90,000 police officers to improve the handling of mistreatment complaints from women." The French government has revealed that the government was spending EUR one billion on measures to fight domestic violence. He also announced an "equality week" in schools on international women's day to spread awareness on femicide. 

Is France the one case of rising femicide in Europe?
France, Turkey, Austria, and Spain have all started campaigning against the rise of femicide cases and increased violence against women. Nevertheless, their reasons for the rise in cases are not so similar to France. Women in Austria have been facing issues due to the income gap between men and women. As a result, women undergoing domestic violence continue living or engaging with their partners for economic dependence. 

While in Turkey, there are some similarities with France as the President of Turkey's Supreme Court of Appeals, Mehmet Akarca downsized the issue of femicide in the country even though 280 women were killed in 2021. At the same time, Spain has taken a revolutionary step in dealing with the rise of femicide and domestic violence by including it in the official statistics. Spain's equality minister has promised that it would “be the first country in Europe to officially count all femicides.” Nonetheless, compared to France, Spain's role in implementing the law that holistically covers femicide would help deal with the issues better than leading to errors in statistical data. 

About the Author
Ashwin Immanuel Dhanabalan is a research scholar at the National Institute of Advanced Studies. As part of the Europe Studies at NIAS, his research in the program looks at regional politics, governments and governance. His research interests are also in Security and Conflict Resolution.

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