ATHENS – It’s been a deadly year for women in Greece with at least 17 cases of murder by husbands and partners, showing no sign of relenting and leading to cries from activists for a special law to deal with it.
That toll included two women killed within a five-day period even after there had been an outcry against the growing phenomenon and speculation why it has been occurring during the lingering COVID-19 pandemic.
In those cases, both men allegedly told police they killed their wives in fear that they were going to leave them, the British newspaper The Guardian said I a feature about femicide in the country.
Shortly after, police kept an 18th victim from being added to the sad tally when officers broke down the door of the couple’s house as he held a knife to her throat, saving her at the last moment.
The crimes have seen calls as well from the major opposition SYRIZA for the New Democracy government – which has gotten tough on refugees and squatters – to do the same with men killing their wives and partners.
Leftist leader and former premier Alexis Tsipras, adding to his crescendo of criticism against his rivals as he had repeatedly called for early elections to try to get back into power after being routed in July 23, 2018 snap elections, 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.
The New Democracy government though has responded and is preparing legislation and other measures to try to deal with the problem, increase penalties and protect women.
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.
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-ohour helpline and said it would expand counseling centers around the country.
SHE MADE ME DO IT
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 it would also revise domestic violence legislation drafted more than a decade ago, the report said, with Gender Equality Minister Maria Syrengela telling the paper 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 that no EU member state had so far incorporated the intentional killing of women and girls as a separate criminal offence.
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 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 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 said: “No 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 nost rong evidence for the motive.”
Eirini Agathopoulou, SYRIZA’s spokeswoman for human rights and gender equality, however, still wants a femicide law.
“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.