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Letter from Athens: It’s Killing Them: Greece’s Brutality Toward Women 

December 5, 2021

Unless you’re having a gun pointed at you or a samurai sword, and you’re in fear of losing your life – not your pride – there’s exactly zero reasons why a man should ever get physical with a woman, but too many them, especially husbands, boyfriends, and partners, are abusive, and it’s getting worse in Greece.

Maybe exacerbated by lockdowns during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic that kept people confined for days and weeks and months on end with little relief, the phenomenon of domestic violence has been condoned too.

Greece is a patriarchal society still, and decades after the feminist movement really took hold and took off women are faced with danger that goes far beyond ogling or leering or crude remarks, little of which can be stopped by laws or penalties.

But at least that has to be tried, along with tougher punishments for men who hit women and kill them and a femicide wave in 2021 that has taken the lives of at least 14 women in Greece has finally opened some eyes before others are closed for good.

The question, of course, is why did it take so long?

In a message for International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said Greek society that too often treats women as chattel – and cattle – can’t look away any more at what happens behind closed doors, and to “break them [down], together with the silence that surrounds it.”

“The trauma of every woman is the trauma of every society, every country,” he said, pointing to the #MeToo movement that outed a lot of abusive men as giving women the strength to report them – even years later – but that “many still hesitate”.

“We call on them to also find the courage, to go to the authorities, to not bow their heads and put up with violent actions and behavior. They will have our support and that of all of Greek society,” he said.

Well, that remains to be seen because even after a spate of cases driven by #MeToo the slow, grinding wheels of Greek injustice haven’t seen any real major prosecutions and this phenomenon-of-the-month-or-year will pass and there will be another cause over which politicians will spout outrage before forgetting it.

At least his government is showing signs of doing something, spurred by groups like Diotima that stands for women and speaks out against violence against them but while there have been public campaigns using celebrities for COVID vaccines and other causes, where are they to support women who need them?

The government, said Mitsotakis, has in the last two years activated 73 special services in the Hellenic Police for dealing with domestic violence, with many police officers trained to deal with such incidents, and opening six pilot departments for dealing with domestic violence in Alimos.

He also referred to the 24-hour phone line at SOS 15900 where victims can ask for help and advice, 43 counseling centers around the country where women can find support, 19 women’s shelters where they can find safe haven, and special programs to find employment for abused women.

Now let’s turn, as the government has, toward punishing the cowards who attack women and using the current penal code to prosecute offenders. If that doesn’t work, you can ask: where are the fathers and brothers to take care of it?

Restraining laws don’t really work because men bent on hurting and killing women aren’t deterred by them and in that case the abusers need the kind of visit that James Caan’s character Sonny in The Godfather made to his sister’s husband.

Effie Lambropoulou, a noted Professor of Criminology at Panteion University in Athens, said there shouldn’t be a special designation for femicide because murder is murder so let the laws be applied.

“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 told The National Herald.

“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.

That gets to the heart of the matter that women have worked for generations to be equal and that the law should apply – and be used to try to protect them and properly punish their abusers and killers.

Up to 95 percent of rapes in Greece weren’t being reported and that feeds directly into abuse and murder of women.

An initiative will urge victims of domestic violence to ‘speak up’ and deliver a message there is help for women trapped in abusive relationships, Greece’s Gender Equality Minister Maria Syrengela told the Guardian.

‘What we are seeing is very worrying, and our message is ‘speak up, we are here to assist’,” she said, and that it was critical that domestic violence victims knew help was at hand. “It’s very important that women understand the warning signs,” she said.

The Greek chocolate company Lacta produced a chilling short video about a loving couple that shows the man turning into a control freak and gradually stepping up violence before beating her and tossing her off a cliff. He’s next.

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