Europe has seen a resurgence in deadly violence against women as attackers experience a ‘loss of control’ they have enjoyed throughout the coronavirus lockdowns.
In Spain, for example, since the end of the state of emergency in May, a woman has been killed every three days, compared to an average of a week earlier.
In Belgium, 13 women have died of violence since the end of April against 24 for the whole of 2020, while in France, 56 have been killed so far this year against 46 for the same period one year earlier, according to NGO figures.
Chahinez (left), a French mother of three, was burned alive by her ex-husband, while Cristina Ramos (right) disappeared on a bike ride in Spain in May
Many of their faces make headlines and spark protests, such as Chahinez, a French mother of three who was burned alive by her ex-husband, or the five women killed in three weeks in the spring in Sweden.
“With women gaining more freedom, abusers feel like they are losing control and react with more extreme violence,” said Victoria Rosell, head of the Spanish government’s gender-based violence task force.
“In the case of the growing number that we have seen in recent months, we have seen how the easing of restrictions has revealed another underlying pandemic, that of male violence. “
In 2004, Spain approved the first European law specifically punishing domestic violence, making the sex of the victim an aggravating factor in cases of assault.
The President of the Women’s Foundation, Anne-Cécile Mailfert (pictured during a protest) called on the government to act against the rise in gender violence
And with the recent rise in deadly violence, Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez reiterated his desire to put a definitive end to this “misogynistic scourge”.
Across Europe, closures have made it more difficult to deal with cases of domestic violence.
Forced to stay at home with their attackers, victims could only seek help with extreme discretion.
During Spain’s three-month lockdown at the start of the pandemic, calls for help rose 58% from the same period in 2019 with online – or ‘silent’ – calls increasing 458% , according to figures from the Ministry of Equality.
“It shows how women weren’t even able to make a phone call from their homes,” Rosell said.
Prosecutors say Chahinez from Bordeaux was shot dead by her ex-husband and set on fire in the street.
Her killer, known as Mounir B, had recently been released from prison for domestic violence ben when Chahinez told police in March this year that he assaulted her after her release, as authorities failed to report. could find it.
The Fondation des femmes en France asked why Mounir B did not wear an electronic badge after his release from prison.
Flowers are placed on the site where Chahinez was hit in the legs and burned alive in Bordeaux
Group president Anne-Cécile Mailfert told France Info that only 40 electronic bracelets were distributed last year, despite the government’s commitment to use tags to enforce restrictive orders.
The same is true in Italy and Germany, with calls to domestic violence hotlines peaking in April and May 2020, while in the UK, the NGO Refuge said calls were almost doubled between spring 2020 and February 2021.
To provide a lifeline for women at risk, different countries have come up with innovative ways to call for help, such as Italy, where women could call a police emergency number and say, ‘I’ would like to order a pizza margarita ‘the operator to send a patrol.
In Spain, women could alert authorities by going to a pharmacy, one of the few stores open during confinement, and asking for “a purple mask”.
Although the number of calls for help has increased, the number of complaints and murders has declined during the closures, said Angeles Carmona, head of Spain’s Observatory of Domestic and Gender-Based Violence.
In France, Italy and Spain, the number of women killed by their partner or ex-partner fell last year to 90, 67 and 45 respectively, while in Belgium it remained unchanged at 24.
But the numbers come as no surprise Angeles Jaime de Pablo, director of Themis, a Spanish organization of women lawyers, who says the combination of working from home and lack of social contact has created the “ideal conditions for exercising control violence.” .
And with that in mind, the recent increase in deadly violence was “predictable,” she told AFP.
Under normal circumstances, such violence is often triggered by divorce or separation, or when an ex-partner begins a new relationship – situations that were largely put on the back burner during lockdown.
“Once the state of emergency and the confinements ended, many victims took matters into their own hands and decided to leave,” explained Carmen Ruiz Repullo, a sociologist specializing in gender violence.
“And this is where the risk is much higher and where you start to see these murders.” “