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Politics

After Two Women Slain, SYRIZA Wants Separate Femicide Offense

ATHENS – After two more women – within 24 hours – were allegedly murdered by their husbands, the major opposition SYRIZA again called for a special category of femicide as a criminal offense.

In a post on social media,  central committee secretary Rania Svigou said theres a need for the “creation of a supportive framework for victims of gender-based violence, with hostels, psychological support and legal aid.”

“Above all, social awareness must change. We are already behind,” she added. While the phenomenon wasn’t as bad during SYRIZA’s 4 1/2-year reign that ended in defeat to the now ruling New Democracy in July, 2019 snap polls, the Leftists didn’t move during their time to create a femicide offense.

In December, 2021, after 17 cases of women killed by their husbands or partners, SYRIZA and women’s rights activists said there should be a separate classification for femicide cases.

At the time, SYRIZA leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras, adding to his crescendo of criticism against his rivals, said that “Disgust and fury is not enough, it’s time for action.”

“We’re already late,” he said of the refusal of the Parliament controlled by the government to talk about stronger legislation. “Recognition of femicides by the state ought to be only the beginning,” he said.

He didn’t mention that while in power his government moved to make even violent crimes such as rape – mostly against women – to be treated more leniently, putting them at greater risk.

Eirini Agathopoulou, SYRIZA’s spokeswoman for human rights and gender equality, however, said a femicide law was paramount to protect women from their abusers – their husbands and partners.

“It has to be recognized as a term and as a crime. We have tabled proposals twice in Parliament but the government simply refuses to discuss it,” she said at that time.

The New Democracy government said it would respond with legislation and other measures to try to deal with the problem, increase penalties and protect women but it hasn’t fully happened.

Up to 95 percent of rapes in the country aren’t reported to police, media stories had indicated earlier, and domestic violence is also on the increase, decried by activists crying into the wind, unheard.

With more than a woman a month being killed, what’s being done about it? While there’s little or nothing that can be done to prevent crimes of passion, critics said the penalties aren’t severe enough to bring deterrence.

Media reports said the women were shot, strangled suffocated, stabbed, beaten and drowned with many of their arrested partners reportedly confessing to the murders.

The crimes have coincided with a surge in cases of alleged sexual abuse, including against actors, arts figures and sports officials which have been slow to be prosecuted in a patriarchal society.

CRIMES OF PASSION, VIOLENCE

In November, the government – defending itself and noting a string of efforts to combat the problem – began a public campaign urging victims of domestic and gender-based violence to speak out, set up a 24-hour helpline and said it would expand counseling centers around the country.

There have been some changes to the law as well to bring stronger penalties for the murder of women and prevent the perpetrators from claiming it was done in passion to lessen sentences or mitigate why they killed.

The Justice Ministry said then it would also revise domestic violence legislation drafted more than a decade ago, with Gender Equality Minister Maria Syrengela telling The Guardian that, “There’ll be no ability for men to claim they acted in the heat of the moment, that it was a crime of passion.”

She added that, “When the domestic violence law is redrafted in line with the Istanbul convention, we will of course advise that femicide is included,” she said. “It’s about time.”

It was appalling, she added, that in cases of homicide, men in Greece had been able to claim “provocation”, or claim that it was a crime of passion or that they had been provoked to explain what they did.

“We will be one of the first countries in Europe to have a law that refers to femicide and that is what is important,” she added, noting no EU country had yet incorporated intentional killing of women and girls as a separate criminal offense.

Effie Lambropoulou, Professor of Criminology at Athens’ Panteion University was skeptical that special femicide laws would work or be effective and opposes creating a separate category for the offense.

“Femicide is homicide, namely first-degree or second-degree murder … what would be the benefit of creating a neew crime, apart from symbolic reasons and party politics? How much longer than life long imprisonment can the offender of murder be punished?” she told The National Herald.

“If there is proof that the offender has committed the crime exactly because the victim was a woman, we have, at least in Europe and in particular in Greece, the possibility to use the article of the Criminal Law about aggravating circumstances,” she also added.

“The Constitution foresees the equality before the law and that discrimination before the law because of the gender is not permitted, which means making women a special category,” she also said.

“I don’t see why the law should differentiate a murder of an older woman by her godson, from another woman by her husband. What about homosexuals? What about murder of a woman by another woman e.g. the mistress of her husband etc. or the acid cases?”

She also said that there wouldn’t be a deterrent effect. “I don’t think that making punishment more severe would have any effect. There is always the danger the gender to be used as a justification for imposing more severe sentences even though there is most srong evidence for the motive.”

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