Femicide Volume Special Issue 2022: Femicide Observatories and Psychological Violence against Women, especially Mothers

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A two-day Online Expert Meeting was convened in Vienna in November 2021. The objectives of the meeting, held in English, were to discuss:

a. Data collection of cases of femicide and gender-based violence, including psychological violence; b. The adoption and implementation of tailor-made policies in this regard; c. The establishment of Femicide Observatories at the national level; and d. Lessons learned from existing efforts to combat femicide and psychological violence. 

This special issue of FEMICIDE contains the speeches of the participants of this conference, the recommendations for Austria in a Declaration and Action Plan dated 10 December 2021and the latest report to the General Assembly of the United Nations by the Special Rapporteur Dubravka Šimonović evaluating the progress made during her term in office.

Introductory remarks by Michael Platzer and Ourania Roditi

The first Symposium on Femicide was held on the International Day to eliminate violence against women in 2012 the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). It was sponsored by the Permanent Missions of Argentina, Austria, the Philippines, Spain, Thailand and the United Kingdom to the United Nations (Vienna) and attended by senior officials of UNODC, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, and Diana Russell, the American feminist who had popularized the term at the First International Tribunal on Crimes against Women in 1976. Messages of support were received from the Executive Director of UN Women, the Austrian Federal Minister for Women, and a Declaration on Femicide was agreed by the participants.

The Declaration recognized the different forms of femicide, that its eradication required efforts on all levels of society, and the due diligence obligations of United Nations Member States to investigate, prosecute and redress these crimes. It proposed education programmes to change the mindsets of men, a goal to half the number of feminicides by 2025; that the relevant United Nations agencies and entities collaborate on research, on what works and data collection. It encouraged the Human Rights Council, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) and the Commission on the Status of Women to actively cooperate with each other and civil society organizations. It called for the creation of a platform where enforcement officials, prosecutors, judges, academics, law and feminists could exchange good practices and transfer knowledge across regions.

Princess Bajrakittyabha Mahidol, of Thailand inaugurated a photo exhibition on theoccasion of the Symposium and spoke of the alarming numbers of gender-related killings (a leading cause of death to women), that those crimes continued to be accepted, tolerated, even justified, with 4 impunity as the norm and that we needed to end violence against women and bring perpetrators to justice. She, along with the Ambassador of Argentina, led the effort to adopt the resolution in the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice. Rita Banerji, founder of the 50 million missing campaign, outlined a strategy to establish separate and specialized police and court units to deal with femicide cases, honour killings, murder of daughters, foeticide of girl babies, and the forced marriage of children.

Angela Me, of UNODC presented the Global Study on Homicide 2011 and reported that violence against women could occur at home, on the street, or in the workplace but was most likely to occur at hands of current or former male partners. Anna Alvazzi del Frate, another advocate for analyzing the rising rate of the murder of women, based on the data gathered by the Small Arms Survey in 111 countries, said there were very high rates in some countries. The campaign on eliminating violence of women has been ongoing in Austria, with regular meetings and pubications over the last decade. Nine years after the first a two-day symposium was convened in Vienna to examine the progress against femicide in Austria, with particular reference to the the vulnerability of women in custody battles with their former partners to physical and psychological violence.

This special issue of FEMICIDE contains the speeches of the conference participants, the recommendations for Austria in a Declaration and Action Plan of 10 December 2021, and the latest report to the General Assembly of the United Nations by the Special Rapporteur Dubravka Šimonović evaluating the progress made since her term in office. The Austrian Federal Minister of Justice opened the 2021 conference, saying,

"Femicide is a tragic global phenomenon …. The current situation is unacceptable and forces us to step up action against gender-based violence".

Elena Kountoura, Member of the European Parliament, said the statistics are alarming. One in three women had been the victim of abuse, but two out of three did not file a complaint. Mirella Dummar Frahi, Chief of the UNODC Civil Society Unit, listed the Handbooks for gender responsive police services and the projects in Bolivia, Kyrgyzstan, Liberia, Mexico, Senegal, and Sierra Leone that had been undertaken in last ten years. Reem Alsaleem, the new Special Rapporteur on violence against women, reported that on every continent there were countries that still did not have femicide observatories that the gap often had to be filled by NGOs or academic institutions.

The other topics dealt with during the two days were the impact of COVID on violence against women, online stalking, psychological and emotional violence, persistent ridicule, children witnessing domestic violence, and a critique of the new Austrian draft law proposing automatic joint custody for both parents—married or not—at the birth of a child, even in cases where there is a propensity to violence against the mother and/or the child.

What became clear in this conference, is that the killing of women is only the final act of violence embedded in structural discrimination, denigration of women, impunity, and lack of adequate support for victims. The Femicide Campaign has drawn attention to the vulnerability and weak position of women in societies. It is hoped that by focusing on the worst forms of male behaviour we all become more aware of the more subtle ways in which women are disrespected. With this publication we intend to bring these issues forward to the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice 2022 at a side event on "Ten Years of Anti-Femicide Campaigning at UNODC".

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