Feminist groups denounce French government’s ‘silence’ after New Year’s Day femicides

Feminist campaigners have blasted the French government for failing to protect women from gender-based violence and called for tougher government action after three women were allegedly killed by their current or former partners on the first day of 2022.

The French government on Tuesday promised to step up the fight against femicides after three women died in suspected domestic violence attacks within 24 hours, sparking an outcry from feminist associations.

They accuse President Emmanuel Macron’s government of having done too little to protect women, after 113 died at the hands of men, often their male partners or ex-partners in 2021.

From 8 am to 8 pm on January 1, 2022, “at a time when families and friends celebrated the New Year,” French associations “#NousToutes” and “Féminicides Par Compagnons ou Ex” both reported three femicides in different corners of France.

They denounced “the silence of Emmanuel Macron and the government in the face of sexist and sexual violence in France”.

On Saturday, police in the southern French city of Nice found the body of a woman in the trunk of a car, and her ex-partner confessed to having strangled her.

In the eastern Meurthe-et-Moselle region, a man in his fifties admitted to killing his partner, a 56-year-old woman, whose body was found by police on Saturday with the murder weapon, a knife, still stuck in her chest.

And in the small hours of Sunday, a 21-year-old soldier stabbed his 27-year-old girlfriend, also a soldier, to death after an argument near Saumur, eastern France.

“There were more than 100 femicides in 2021 and already since the start of the year three new murders committed in scandalous conditions,” Prime Minister Jean Castex told parliament on Tuesday.

“The government and the nation are completely committed to the fight against this scourge,” he went on.

Castex said the government had already taken several steps to combat domestic violence, including the establishment of a 24/7 emergency hotline and sensitivity training for 90,000 police officers to improve the handling of mistreatment complaints from women.

Starting next year, there would also be an “equality week” at schools around March 8, on International Woman’s Day, Castex added.

The government revealed it was spending €1 billion per year on the fight against domestic violence, but associations say it is “far from enough” and explained measures should focus more on prevention, with the use of electronic bracelets — to alert women and police to the approach of a potentially violent ex-partner — still not widespread enough.

#NousToutes member Marylie Breuil further emphasized that “there is a huge disparity between the means deployed and the number of women who are targets of domestic violence,” which she said totaled more than 200,000 in France.

“The number of femicides from year to year is not falling, and that’s very serious,” she added.

The topic made a potential entry into campaigning for the French presidency on Tuesday, with conservative candidate Valérie Pécresse calling for special courts to deal with domestic violence cases.

“Domestic violence has never been so present in public debate,” Pécresse said. “But that is far from enough.”

France remains one of the European countries with the highest number of femicides per capita. It is estimated that at least one woman is killed by her partner or former partner every three days.

The collective “Féminicides Par Compagnons ou Ex” has been recording all the femicides which happened in France in the past six years – 770 deaths so far since 2016.

In 2019, 146 women were reported killed by a spouse or partner, a 21% increase from the previous year.

In September 2020, following mass protests across France, the government introduced the use of electronic bracelets to alert victims when their attackers are nearby.

The same year, there was a drop in killings, with 102 women and 23 men killed according to figures on domestic violence from the French Interior Ministry.

In 2021, 113 women died at the hands of a partner or ex-partner in France.

“It is a difficult but necessary task to ensure that these women do not remain invisible, that they are named whenever possible and do not just become one of the many anonymous victims in a global annual figure that does not raise much concern or indignation among politicians or even society,” the group said in a statement on its Facebook page.

“These are not ‘family dramas’ or ‘breakup dramas’ or ‘crimes of passion’. These are conjugal femicides perpetrated by frustrated men who think they have a license to kill,” the statement went on.

Six French police officers are also facing disciplinary hearings starting today, as they stand accused of “administrative failings” in the gruesome case of 31-year-old mother Chahinez Daoud, who was killed by her husband last May.

Daoud was the 39th of the eventual 113 women who died at the hands of a partner or ex-partner in France in 2021.

AFP

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