(HELÔ D'ANGELO for Huffpost, 2021)
Since the beginning of the year, femicides have been the dominating issue in Greece’s news stories and local conversation. In the early months of 2021, Greeks witnessed the national breakout of the #MeToo Movement, after a Greek gold medalist accused a high-standing official in the Hellenic Sailing Federation of sexually assaulting her almost 20 years ago. The medalist, Sofia Bekatorou, sparked a wave of confessions of women that took the chance to finally speak out and unload the burden of their own experiences. The confessions transcended to the acting sector and it was revealed that multiple established actors were using their power to assault their female colleagues. For several months, the stories of these women being propositioned in their workplace, abused, and lured in private rooms and empty theaters to be raped, were the only matters anyone talked about in formal and informal settings. In some of these cases, the actors have been legally investigated and litigated.
The conversation about the challenges women faced was eye-opening for many, but not surprising for the most. The number of cases of men who did not deem a woman’s consent necessary to take right over her body was alarming. However, the public acknowledgment of the situation felt like a turn in history—a wake-up call to prevent others from behaving the same way. However, Greece experienced one femicide after another for every month of 2021. A horrifying example was in May, when a young woman was killed inside her home by her husband. After suffocating her with a pillow, he proceeded to tie himself up, call the police, and pretend that they had been robbed. He even killed their dog to make it look more convincing and left their baby sobbing near her lifeless body.
People sympathized with his story until he was revealed to be the killer, sparking the outrage of public opinion. It was then that a prominent police officer went on a popular news show and shared his thoughts on what he should have done to get away with it or serve minimum time. His statements came off as an instruction guide of what a man should do if he wants to kill his wife or girlfriend. And the most tragic fact of all, some men listened and followed the guide.
Shonagh Rae at Heart Agency/The Guardian
Every few weeks, there is a new story of a man who picked up the phone and called the police to confess the murder of his wife or ex-partner, minutes or hours after taking her life. In shows, in the news, in social media, in family dinners and friend calls, women wondered if they were going to be next. The reasons given by the murderers were jealousy, economic reasons, or "unacceptable" behavior towards them—usually meaning that they were trying to break off their relationship and the man was not on board. One claimed, rather infuriatingly, that it was just a bad moment.
A “bad moment,” unfortunately, determines if a woman can have her life or not.
Still, people questioned, wondered, and debated publicly and privately. Why were some people titling these heinous crimes as femicides? Is the term homicide not an inclusive enough term? Why should the gender of the deceased matter? To explore the issue further, take a look at the definition of femicide.
The World Health Organization defines femicide as "generally understood to involve intentional murder of women because they are women...Femicide is usually perpetrated by men, but sometimes female family members may be involved. Femicide differs from male homicide in specific ways. For example, most cases of femicide are committed by partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner."
The Greek Parliament illuminated in a gesture of solidarity. (Greek City Times, 2020)
The take-away from this definition is that the woman was killed because of her gender and because of her special relationship with the murderer. The crime can be interpreted by the devaluation of women that is deeply rooted in patriarchal communities. Greece has a long way forward to abolish these kinds of notions and view women as equal even if their rights are formally accepted. The conversation also surged around whether or not femicide should be acknowledged as a legal term and incorporated in the National Penal Code. The idea is that it will act as a preventative measure for people who plan to harm women but want to avoid the implications of their actions.
In 2012, the United Nations held a symposium on femicide. The conclusion was that the adoption of the term "femicide" in the national penal system in Chile impacted the number of femicides in a very positive manner. And in 2014, the Committee on Women's Rights and Gender Equality in the European Parliament asked the Member States to acknowledge femicides as a legal term and formulate a framework for stopping them. At the time, Greece had not yet signed the Istanbul Convention on Violence against Women.
Our policies are inadequate. Our interest is inadequate. We have not cared enough to take the necessary actions. 2021 was a horrible year that made a lot of women realize how unsafe they were in their own homes. The fact that remains is that not all men are abusive but enough of them are. And those that are not, need to be our allies. They need to care more. The police need to care more. The state needs to care more. Men and women need to protect each other.
Apostolou, N. (2021, October 22). Investigating femicide: A gijn guide. Global Investigative Journalism Network. Retrieved November 27, 2021, from https://gijn.org/2021/06/07/investigating-femicide/.
DCN5: Symposium on femicide: A global issue that demands action. United Nations : Office on Drugs and Crime. (n.d.). Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.unodc.org/unodc/en/ngos/DCN5-Symposium-on-femicide-a-global-issue-that-demands-action.html.
Guardian News and Media. (2021, November 10). A woman murdered every month: Is this Greece's moment of reckoning on femicide? The Guardian. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2021/nov/10/a-woman-murdered-every-month-greeces-moment-of-reckoning-on-femicide.
Ioannou, T. (2021, October 5). Twelve femicides in Greece in less than a year: Experts respond. GreekReporter.com. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://greekreporter.com/2021/10/05/twelve-femicides-in-greece-in-less-than-a-year-experts-respond/.
World Health Organization. (n.d.). Understanding and Adressing Violence Against Women. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://apps.who.int/iris/bitstream/handle/10665/77421/WHO_RHR_12.38_eng.pdf;sequence=1.
Image 1. D’Angelo (2020, March 6) for Huffpost article by Brazil, H. P. (2020, March 6). This country passed a law addressing violence against women 5 years ago. it's failing in many ways. HuffPost. Retrieved November 26, 2021, from https://www.huffpost.com/entry/brazil-femicide-laws_n_5e617dd6c5b691b525efba8f.
Image 2. Rae S. at Heart Agency/The Guardian (2021, August 26). Unacknowledged rape: The sexual assault survivors who hide their trauma – even from themselves. The Guardian. Retrieved November 27, 2021, from https://www.theguardian.com/society/2021/aug/26/unacknowledged-the-sexual-assault-survivors-who-hide-their-trauma-even-from-themselves.
Image 3. G, B. (2020, November 26). Hellenic Parliament lit up in Orange as symbol against violence. Greek City Times. Retrieved November 29, 2021, from https://greekcitytimes.com/2020/11/26/parliament-orange-against-violence/.
For Greek Readers
Μαροπούλου, Μ. (n.d.). Γυναικοκτονία: Όρια και όροι Αποδοχής ενός Νέου Νομικού Όρου. Diotima. Retrieved November 27, 2021, from https://diotima.org.gr/wp-content/uploads/2021/01/%CE%9C.-%CE%9C%CE%B1%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%80%CE%BF%CF%8D%CE%BB%CE%BF%CF%85_%CE%93%CF%85%CE%BD%CE%B1%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%BF%CE%BA%CF%84%CE%BF%CE%BD%CE%AF%CE%B1-%CE%BF%CE%B9-%CF%8C%CF%81%CE%BF%CE%B9-%CE%B3%CE%AD%CE%BD%CE%B5%CF%83%CE%B7%CF%82-%CE%BA%CE%B1%CE%B9-%CE%B1%CF%80%CE%BF%CE%B4%CE%BF%CF%87%CE%AE%CF%82-%CE%B5%CE%BD%CF%8C%CF%82-%CE%BD%CE%AD%CE%BF%CF%85-%CE%BD%CE%BF%CE%BC%CE%B9%CE%BA%CE%BF%CF%8D-%CF%8C%CF%81%CE%BF%CF%85.pdf.