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A woman murdered every month: is this Greece’s moment of reckoning on femicide? | Femicide

When a woman reported home violence in her constructing within the Athens suburb of Dafni in July, it took 25 minutes for the police to reach. All of the neighbours might hear Anisa’s husband abusing her however the law enforcement officials didn’t hassle to get out of the patrol automobile. “They only rolled down their automobile home windows and left,” Anisa’s neighbour angrily wrote on Fb that night. “No stress, guys. Tv solely cares concerning the our bodies. So when he kills her, I’ll inform a tv channel to name you.”

Lower than three weeks later, Anisa was useless, murdered by her husband. Neither will be named in full because the case has but to achieve trial. In a press release to police, the perpetrator described how he was overcome with jealousy after Anisa allegedly cheated on him. “I took the knife with my proper hand and entered her room. She was sleeping, and I rushed to her and lay on her, stabbing her with the knife in her neck,” he stated. He later retracted his declare that Anisa was asleep when he killed her.

“He lastly killed her. That’s all I’ve to say,” their neighbour wrote on Fb after the homicide. On the time, Anisa’s homicide was the sixth femicide in Greece this yr. Since then, not less than one other six ladies throughout the nation have been murdered by their companions or ex-partners.

Feminist teams estimate that not less than one woman in Greece dies by the hands of a person every month, typically their accomplice or ex-partner. Of the 11 victims of femicide to this point this yr, two had beforehand tried to report their attacker for home violence earlier than they have been murdered, however none of the boys had been charged or convicted. A third woman within the coastal metropolis of Volos was within the course of of making an attempt to acquire a restraining order when she was stabbed to loss of life by her ex-husband.

The spate of femicides all through this yr have shone a highlight on police failings in the case of combatting violence in opposition to ladies, together with accusations from victims’ households that statements from officers acted as a blueprint for would-be attackers on easy methods to kill with impunity.

Legal professionals and campaigners additionally level to clauses within the Greek penal code that they are saying allow a tradition of impunity round violence in opposition to ladies. These enable diminished sentences for these accused of murder in the event that they have been “provoked” or the crime was dedicated in a rage – also known as a “crime of ardour” – or if the accused displayed good behaviour earlier than the incident and confirmed guilt afterwards. They are saying including femicide as a motive to the penal code would act as a significant counterweight, denying perpetrators the chance to current themselves in courtroom as harmless males all of a sudden overcome by emotion that justified homicide.

Domestic violence figures

Ioanna Panagopoulou, a lawyer who represents the households of a number of victims of femicide, says: “Nobody in my total profession has ever taken full accountability, confessing they deliberate the homicide precisely because it occurred. They attempt to make excuses and say it was a criminal offense of ardour or one thing else in order that they get a lesser sentence.”

Panagopoulou is a forceful presence. She flips via a authorized dictionary, a wall coated in spiritual icons behind her, as she describes how broadly courts can interpret clauses within the penal code that enable for diminished sentences for femicide. “If the individual cooperates with the police afterwards, that’s thought of good behaviour,” she says, including that she receives calls about home violence every single day. “Most days I obtain two or three,” she says, spreading her palms vast to indicate the scope of the issue.

Households of victims say that lax punishment for femicide is only one of a number of methods during which the Greek state fails ladies, together with ignoring them once they report home violence. Campaigners say this can show lethal, as police inaction emboldens perpetrators and can lead to femicide. Knowledge from the Hellenic police, the nationwide pressure, exhibits a gentle rise in home violence stories over the previous decade.

“There is a tradition of violence in the direction of ladies,” says Anna Razou, a forensic physician at an Athens hospital who assesses survivors of home violence. Razou says she has additionally seen an increase in complaints, together with an uncommon spike this yr throughout Greece’s annual vacation month of August, which is usually a quiet interval. She views this as an indication that Greek ladies really feel more and more compelled to report violence within the wake of Greece’s #MeToo motion, which started earlier this year.

“Everybody’s speaking about how essential it is to cease the violence, however we will’t do this simply by saying it’s dangerous. We want legal guidelines, and to be strict,” says Razou. She says few ladies she meets press expenses in opposition to their abuser, and those that do typically retract their claims, swayed by a tradition that tells ladies that male violence is excusable, in addition to a recently passed law that may pressure ladies to share custody of their youngsters with their abusers.

Knowledge from the Greek justice ministry exhibits persistently low charges of prosecutions and convictions beneath a 2006 legislation criminalising home violence. A mean of simply 3,566 males a yr have been prosecuted for home violence since 2016. Conviction charges are additionally low: on common, simply 23% of males prosecuted have been convicted, and the overwhelming majority acquired suspended sentences.

An activist holds a placard reading ‘the law forces women into silence’ at a protest in May over a controversial law giving divorced fathers equal time with their children. Rights groups say it ignores victims of domestic violence and puts women and children at risk.
An activist exterior the Greek parliament in Athens with an indication saying ‘the legislation forces ladies into silence.’ {Photograph}: Louisa Gouliamaki/AFP/Getty

The share of males serving jail time after home violence convictions additionally fell from a excessive of 16.4% in 2016 to as little as 6% in 2019 whilst convictions for home violence hit a five-year peak. It is this setting, campaigners say, that daunts ladies from reporting home violence in any respect.

Anisa’s family consider that night time in mid-July was the turning level. They are saying the dearth of police intervention allowed the perpetrator to consider he might kill with impunity. The 2 officers who didn’t get out of their automobile and examine have since been suspended.

“The homicide was deliberate. He knew precisely what he was doing,” says Anisa’s cousin Christina, who needed to maintain her surname non-public. Christina, a sublime 22-year-old, tries to comprise her anger, folding her delicately manicured palms as she speaks. “Then he washed his palms and cleaned himself up. He was very thorough. Then he went to the police. He did precisely what Balaskas stated,” she says, referring to a senior member of Greece’s police union.

Rape reporting figures

Stavros Balaskas made headlines after the homicide of the British-born Caroline Crouch by her husband, Charalambos “Babis” Anagnostopoulos, in June. Anagnostopoulos confessed following a month-long manhunt after initially blaming the homicide on a gang of robbers, and was arrested at Crouch’s memorial service. The incident captured the Greek information cycle, a lot in order that most individuals check with Crouch simply by her first identify, a byword for violence in opposition to ladies.

Caroline Crouch, 20, whose husband has confessed to her murder.
Caroline Crouch, 20, whose husband has confessed to her homicide. {Photograph}: REX/Shutterstock

For greater than 5 weeks, Anagnostopoulos, a flight teacher, had maintained the crime was the consequence of a theft, during which he and Crouch had been tied up and gagged, till he admitted he had fabricated the story to hide the killing.

In a tv interview later that month, Balaskas claimed that if Anagnostopoulos had confessed instantly, he could have acquired a diminished sentence. “It was an unlucky occasion, dedicated in anger, and he misplaced it and went loopy. If he had simply known as the police, he would have gotten 4 years in jail,” he stated. “If the moment this man killed Caroline, he known as [the police] and stated, ‘I had a struggle with my spouse and I killed her,’ he would have had a unique variety of remedy.”

A quantity of femicides that occurred after Balaskas’s assertion concerned perpetrators instantly telling the police what that they had executed. Victims’ households consider his statements emboldened would-be perpetrators, enabling the concept that accused males can sway courts by displaying behaviour that match the clauses within the penal code. “Don’t advise future murderers and make their lives simpler,” says Christina.

Balaskas claimed the quote was taken out of context, and shrugged off any suggestion that, unintentionally or in any other case, his assertion acted as a information for violent males. “I’ve a reputation as a troublesome man,” he stated. “I’ve a fame for this. Some folks need to use this in opposition to me, however individuals who know me perceive.” He stated combating the rise in home violence in Greece required ladies to talk up.

Different victims’ households say Balakas’s assertion epitomises a macho tradition within the Hellenic police that usually fails to take home violence significantly, producing gaps in policing that allow femicide. “There’s no choice to speak – that’s why ladies don’t discuss. Our society is patriarchal,” says Sofia Karasachinidou, who, along with her sister, Maria, is mourning their mom, who was shot by their father earlier this yr.

The 2 ladies say their father terrorised their household since they have been younger, however his brutal assaults on their mom elevated after their divorce in 2017, typically even going down publicly.

The sisters estimate that their mom reported their father to the police not less than eight occasions after the divorce, together with as soon as in 2018 when their father filed a counter-claim that led to the pair being held in the identical cell in a single day. The police, they are saying, then simply suggested their mom to keep away from their father, of their Athens suburb of Agia Varvara, however provided no different options.

In June, their father shot their mom within the shoulder and head, fatally wounding her. When Sofia arrived on the police cordon across the crime scene, she struggled to persuade officers their father was accountable. “I informed the police, ‘My mom known as so many occasions. How might you let this occur?’” says Sofia. “They do nothing for home violence. They don’t care.”

Their father turned himself within the day after the taking pictures and can stand trial for murder in addition to unlawful possession of a firearm. The sisters worry he’ll obtain a lenient sentence. “We’re each afraid for our lives,” says Maria.

The Hellenic police are trying to alter how they deal with home violence after Greece signed the Istanbul convention on violence against women two years in the past. This features a new division to watch how the police course of home violence complaints in addition to establishing a community of 72 police stations throughout the nation the place not less than one or two officers are skilled in easy methods to deal with survivors of abuse.

But Sofia Kyriacou, an officer within the new police division, denies that the Hellenic police have traditionally had issues aiding survivors of home violence. “Typically it’s helpful to criticise and focus on issues, however this means you’ll not focus on issues going properly,” she says. “Many law enforcement officials do their greatest and extra inside their tasks to assist these victims.”

Feminist activists paint a unique image, saying that violence in opposition to ladies has reached such epidemic proportions in Greece that they’re left with no different choice than to intervene. Historically at odds with a police pressure that Amnesty Worldwide accused of flouting international human rights law in its alleged abuse of protesters and minorities, activists stated they’re now working with the police to alter attitudes in the direction of home violence and make it simpler for ladies to report these crimes. The feminist group Diotima says they’ve skilled not less than 150 law enforcement officials on easy methods to determine abuse, easy methods to take heed to survivors and what the legislation proscribes.

“Gender-based violence is one finish of a continuum. The opposite finish is femicide,” says Anna Vouyioukas of Diotima. “It’s change into apparent in Greece. Home violence can result in femicide, and that you simply can’t change as a result of it means loss of life.”

Christina agrees. “The state does nothing for ladies,” she says, shaking her head. “So many femicides and so they do nothing.”

Within the UK, name the national domestic abuse helpline on 0808 2000 247, or go to Women’s Aid. In Australia, the national family violence counselling service is on 1800 737 732. Within the US, the domestic violence hotline is 1-800-799-SAFE (7233). Different worldwide helplines could also be discovered by way of www.befrienders.org

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