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Femicide in Eastern Europe: Calling Murder of Women the Right Word
11 May, 2020
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"March, baby" art intervention against domestic violence in Minsk, Belarus

Femicide is the murder of women committed out of gender-based hatred. This is the case when women are killed by close people who are supposed to be trusted the most – relatives, husbands, or boyfriends.

There are at least 137 such killings in the world every day. Many femicide researchers consider these numbers to be underestimated because very often official statistics leave out the true cause of the murder of a woman.

READ MORE: “Domestic violence is a pandemic within a pandemic” - UN Women Ukraine Rep on Coronavirus Impact

Activists in many countries demand the adoption of laws on femicide which would help to better understand the motive of the crimes committed against women and ensure a more thorough investigation.

“Could this happen to a man?”

Laws and state institutions do not use the term “femicide”, and activists who fight gender-motivated killings most often have to rely on articles or TV spots on crimes, and other open sources.

There are different techniques that help to recognize femicide in a host of crimes. “Sometimes it’s enough just to ask a question: could this happen to a man? If not, then this is femicide,” says Belarusian feminist Olga Gorbunova. Euroradio’s report (in Russian) which included the interview tells how Belarusian activists fight against sex crimes – when there are no laws to counter domestic violence and with the president who is actually sabotaging discussions even about the possibility of adopting such laws.

Virtues That Kill

Researchers of femicide emphasize that the problem roots in gender inequality. Women are killed because men consider themselves entitled to control the behavior of women and do not tolerate free actions and disobedience. And patriarchal societies pass these codes from generation to generation – as an incurable genetic disease that will kill you sooner or later.

READ MORE: 2 Years After #MeToo: Domestic Violence in Ukraine, Russia and Azerbaijan Through Artists’ Eyes

Millions of Azerbaijani parents are still inspiring the value of modesty and humility to their daughters.

“There is an Azerbaijani proverb: if one person is'fire', then the other must be 'water'. And the role of 'water' should always be played by a woman. Women have always been instilled that being silent in response to violence, being humble and obedient is right,” said Gulnara Mehdiyeva, a gender activist from Azerbaijan.

That is why many abused women do not even realize that what is happening to them is wrong and criminal. Read more about this in the report by Meydan.TV.

The Law Does Not Always Save

Violent killings of women also occur in those countries whose societies seem to have understood that violence is bad. Hromadske’s report from the Ukrainian city of Zaporizhzhya tells about such cases.

Ukraine was the first country in Eastern Europe to introduce a law on the prevention of domestic violence – this happened in 2001. 18 years later, domestic violence was criminalized and now the rapist can get up to two years in prison for beating. But well-written laws alone will not save lives, human rights activists believe. In order to make the law more effective and ensure its implementation, it is necessary to work with the police, judges, and prosecutors.

READ MORE: Ukraine’s Need for Gender Equality in Government and Beyond

Courage to Contact the Police

But this will not help if society believes that violence at home is a family matter. According to the report by Ziarul De Gardă (in Russian), during one of the studies in Moldova, more than a third of respondents admitted that they would not call the police after learning about the violence in the family of their friends. Another study in the country showed how small the number of victims dared to turn to the police for help is. Many women have been beaten for years, sometimes decades. Studies – both Moldovan and international – show that most of the femicide victims have long suffered domestic violence and had to put up with it.

READ MORE: “I’m the Change”: What It’s Like to Be Feminist in Moldova, Armenia, Ukraine, and Russia

Why Femicide Law is Needed

The researchers found that many of the killed women have repeatedly contacted the police, but have not received help. The JAMnews report from Georgia tells about the flagrant case where law enforcement agencies were dragging out the investigation.

Thanks to the women's movement, Georgia has come a long way in developing laws aimed at combating violence against women. In general, they are quite progressive but still don’t use the concept of femicide. Georgian activists believe that having femicide as a separate article of the criminal code ensures that the prosecutor’s office cannot ignore the real motive of the crime, as is often the case.

These people worked on the project within the Russian Language News Exchange: Nadiya Apenko, Dimitri Avaliani, Olga Bulat, Aliona Ciurcă, Igor Ionescu, Elene Khachapuridze, Masha Kolesnikova, Andriy Novikov, Diana Petriashvili, David Pipia, Liza Siviets, Egor Tankov, Alexander Vasukovich, Tatyana Zelenskaya.

/Translated by Vladyslav Kudryk