In June, the U.N. released a report on domestic violence in Italy, finding that it is the most prevalent form of violence in the country. This year, 105 women in Italy have been killed by present or former male partners. The citizens of Italy are rightfully calling this a femicide, and are calling for action.
According to an article on NPR, head of the gender crime unit in Rome, Police Inspector Francesca Monaldi, says, “Murders of women take place mostly within the family, and mostly at the hands of former husbands or boyfriends. They also cross class lines and are committed just as often in rich families as in poorer ones.” Unfortunately, the crimes also remain largely unreported; more than 90 percent of victims of domestic violence in the country do not report the crimes to police.
Crimes that are reported were, until a short time ago, treated as crimes of passion. As such, men who committed murder were often acquitted. To give you a sense of how misjudged these crimes were, it wasn’t until 15 years ago that domestic rape was considered a crime in Italy.
Many believe the problem is a cultural one, and the report justifies that belief. According to the report, in 2006, only 2 percent of women in the media were in any way linked to professionalism or social commitment. Instead, women in Italy have predominantly been shown on television as sex objects or homemakers. However, in real life, women are now gaining a sense of individuality and independence and asking men to chip in when it comes to housework and other traditionally female tasks.
In Italy, the amount of housework men do is among the lowest in the world. Lorella Zanardo, a filmmaker, believes that this shift in perspective on the part of the country’s women is causing a last ditch effort by the patriarchal society to control them. Zanardo says, “The fear is that in the relationship in the future, we will not have anymore a person who is more important and a partner who is less important, but they will be equal also in the relationship. This is very difficult to accept.”
Whatever the reason, Italy’s femicide needs to be addressed, and the U.N. agrees. The country is permeated with women who have stories like 47-year-old Anna Maria, a resident of a shelter for battered women in Rome. It took her 29 years before she spoke up and got out of her abusive relationship. She says the abuse started the day she got married, and she decided to stay for her children. Now, though, with the help of her children, she was able to leave her husband and speak up about her experience.
The U.N. report recommends that the government create programs dedicated to gender equality in the country, with a specific focus on training judges on how to deal with cases of domestic violence. This might help battered women come forward with concerns, and it might also help them leave their abusive relationships rather than suffer in silence. However, if the country as a whole does not address the root of the issue — the desire of Italian men to hold women back from their independence by any means necessary — the problem will, unfortunately, continue.
The women of Italy are outraged, and rightfully so. This outrage, along with women like Anna Maria sharing their stories to educate the next generation are steps in the right direction to help Italian women live their lives without fear of domestic abuse.
Photo Credit: Simon Cocks