You watch the news on tv and you hear all the names of women and girls who are not here anymore: Michela Baldo, Federica De Luca, Debora Fuso, Valentina Tarallo, Liliana Bartolini, Luana Finocchiaro, Marinella Pellegrini and one of the most recent, Sara di Pietrantonio, a 22 year-old girl burnt alive by her ex-boyfriend.
You hear the story of Sara, a young Economics student from Rome who went out on a Saturday night and never came back home. Her ex-boyfriend Vincenzo Paduano stopped her on the way home and took out a bottle of alcohol that he had brought with him. He poured the alcohol on the car and on the girl, in order to, as he said, scare her. Then he set fire to both.
You hear the story of Yara, a 13-year-old girl from the Northern Italian province of Bergamo who was abducted, tortured and killed in 2010. A man named Massimo Bossetti was found guilty this month, after two years of negotiations between the jury and the defense.
You hear the story of Federica, who was killed by her ex-husband Luigi the day they were supposed to officialise their divorce. The man also killed their young son and later committed suicide. There is also the story of a three-year-old girl who died because of a beating inflicted by her father, a few moments after the man killed his wife who tried to defend the daughter.
This is the story of the 150 women killed in Italy every year by their husbands, boyfriends, partners, fathers, sons and strangers out of jealousy, envy, fear, obsession, control mania or mental disorders – signs which are rarely seen and healed before they commit murder.
Although the motives may vary, one of the main reasons why a man kills a woman is thinking that the latter is a personal belonging of the former.
If femicide is the final point of a long series of violence acts, why aren’t women speaking up?
Psychologists say that the process of violence makes women experience a series of phases which begin with denying or convincing oneself that the partner is innocent, and end with the fear of losing a stable relationship, even if it is dangerous. At some point, women realize that what their partner does is not right, but they either feel powerless or they do not want to put their relationship and eventually their kids in danger. Casa della Donna, an NGO addressing these issues in Bologna, suggested that in order to cope with gender violence, more resources should be funnelled into already existing anti-violence centres throughout Italy, in order to make women feel supported and empowered to change their situation.
In 2011, the European Council signed the Istanbul Convention, the first international treaty relating to violence against women.The Convention is made up of 81 articles and also covers prevention of genital mutilation, forced marriages, forced abortion and sterilisation, and the protection of children who witness domestic violence. In order to make the convention work, every EU member state had to pass laws to help prevent and intervene in femicides, as well as to prosecute the killer. In 2013, the bill became a law in Italy, helping clarify why and how the aggressors should be punished: a few years in prison may be implemented based upon the relationship that they had with the victim.
10 million euros should have also been devoted to education and prevention against these acts, but not much has been done. Most of this money had to be invested in anti-violence centres, which are centres where women can go and receive psychological support when they are victims of violence. The plan was to invest 10 million euros in 2013, 7 million in 2014 and, from 2015 on, 10 million every year. Based on June 2016 data, volunteer-run organisations who had been taking care of centres before 2013 are still waiting for the money. According to Women Against Violence Europe, all the centres, which are not enough to cover the needs of women, are run by volunteers and often do not have enough funding to keep working and must be closed down. Another part of the 10 million euros was to be invested into education, but ISTAT surveys suggest that 12.8% of women who survived violence did not know that centres for prevention existed and did not know who to talk to about what they were going through.
Furthermore, the United Nations asked Italy, back in 2012, to organise official data recording the femicides, but to this day, only Casa della Donna has been addressing this without any funding or help from the government. Despite the high number of homicides, this organization has seen a bright side of the situation: the media coverage has started digging deeper into the topic, realizing that femicide is only the tip of the iceberg and is made up of different factors and situations. Therefore, Casa della Donna is glad that the reasons behind the killings are finally being exposed in the articles in a manner that is respectful, rather than judgmental.
Even though there is are laws against violence and femicide, statistics do not indicate a significant improvement of the situation as women are still being considered inferior to men and facing objectification. Although there are many other places in the world where violence and murders are frequent realities and the situation in Italy is not as bad, dialogue must be held about it because it is still happening. There is no point in denying that women are being killed for the simple fact that they are women, and femicides should not be classified just as other homicides. If women are continually seen as less important than men, this situation will never come to an end, therefore making it important that those 10 million euros that have been devoted to education and prevention be used efficiently.