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22-year-old Italian student Giulia Cecchettinová went to the shopping center with her ex-boyfriend on November 11. No one has seen her since that day.
The face of the missing girl filled the Italian media for a week. Then news spread across the country that Giulia’s body, with more than twenty stab wounds, had been found dumped in a ditch by a lake near the Slovenian border.
The main suspect was the girl’s ex-boyfriend Filippo Turetta, who, according to Giulia’s family and friends, could not cope with their recent breakup. Police arrested him on a freeway in eastern Germany at the weekend after his car broke down.
He had been on the run since that fateful November 11, when street cameras in one of the parking lots caught him punching Giulia during an argument.
Giulia Cecchettin was killed by several stab wounds that hit her in the head and neck. This is what emerged from the external cadaveric inspection carried out until a few minutes ago by the medical examiner Antonello Cirnelli, in the presence of the replaced prosecutor of Pordenone Andrea pic.twitter.com/6cDMpdnj2H
— Ultimara.net (@ultimoranet) November 18, 2023
The murder of a young girl drove thousands of people into the streets all over Italy and stirred up debates about a phenomenon that remains strongly present in the country’s society: femicide, or the murder of women and girls for one simple reason – that they are women and girls.
“Femicides and violence against women are part of a structural problem, it happens every day. There remains a patriarchal system in which men still insult and murder women,” said Anna Pramstrahlerová, a sought-after expert on women’s rights, who founded the Casa delle Donne non-profit center for women in Bologna, Italy (we talked about its activities here) in an interview for Nauzal .
Data from the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT) shows that while the number of homicides in Italy has fallen overall since the 1990s and the number of male victims has decreased significantly, there has been only a slight improvement for women and the number of those killed by someone close to them surroundings, remains high.
- Femicide is the killing of women and girls because they are women or girls. This is the highest form of discrimination and violence perpetrated against this part of the population.
- Experts distinguish several types of femicides, depending on the relationship between the perpetrator and the victim and the circumstances in which they occurred. According to Femicide in Canada, for example, one can talk about femicides with the perpetrator in a partner relationship with the victim and outside the relationship. The first category is the most common, the second has a wide range – it includes, for example, a case where a father kills his daughter, but also situations where the perpetrator is a stranger.
- As for the circumstances, the Canadian organization mentions, for example, violence against women during armed conflicts, culturally determined murders of women or cases where a woman became a “side” victim of another woman’s murder. The list also included transphobic and lesbophobic femicides, femicides with sexual overtones or, for example, murders that resulted from organized crime.
According to Italy’s Interior Ministry, Giulia is the 102nd woman to be murdered in Italy this year and the 53rd to die at the hands of a current or former partner.
The feminist movement Non Una Di Meno (in translation Not one less) lists Giulia as the 91st victim of a gender-motivated murder committed by a loved one.
Statistics show that the perpetrator of femicide in Italy is in most cases the partner or ex-partner of the victim, only very rarely is it someone the woman did not know.
“When a woman starts thinking about herself and decides to leave her partner, he kills her. This is how it happens very often,” explains Pramstrahlerová, who previously worked in a commission set up by the Italian Senate that dealt with femicides and violence against women, for Nauzal.
Cases in which the murder is committed by the victim’s son, father or other relative are also not unusual.
Even the relatives of the murdered Giulia see a system behind her death. “Filippo Turetta is often described as a monster, but he is not. A monster is an exception, a person on the fringes of society, a person for whom society does not have to be responsible. But he has to carry it here. Monsters are not sick individuals, but healthy sons of patriarchy and rape culture,” said Giulia’s sister Elena in an interview with the Italian media.
According to Pramstrahler, this statement is a very brave and at the same time an important gesture, as it shows that Giulia’s death cannot be perceived only on the level of a personal loss, but must be viewed as a political issue.
“The state and the government bear partial responsibility for femicides, as they are not able to provide women with protection,” he claims, recalling the case of another of the murdered women, who tried to alert the Italian police seven times that she did not feel safe, but still received no help.
Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni released a statement on social media a few days ago in which she condemned the murder of young Giulia and promised to work to improve the situation in the country. “Every woman killed who is ‘guilty’ of being single is an aberration that we cannot tolerate and that makes me continue to fight to stop this barbarism,” she said.
She announced that she had increased funding for women’s shelters and promised to step up an awareness campaign in schools in the future to eradicate the toxic culture of violence that continues to exist in the country.
Pramstrahlerová considers both to be a step in the right direction, but she is not sure whether the current government, even though it is led by the first female prime minister in Italian history, can properly address problems such as femicide and violence against women.
“This government is very right-wing. Prejudice against women and stereotypes are very strongly rooted in it. It is not enough to say ‘I am a woman and therefore I cannot have a patriarchal mentality’. That is not true. Even a woman can be sexist, macho, and doesn’t understand what it means to be a feminist,” says Pramstahlerová.
In addition, according to her, the Italian government relies too much on the perspective of men, who do not understand the complex issue of violence against women, which is why their efforts to eradicate femicide have not been effective. “You can’t do a proper awareness campaign if you don’t invite women who have been working on these topics for a long time,” explains Pramstrahlerová.
Protests against violence against women in pictures:
Opposition leader Elly Schleinová, who usually finds it difficult to find common ground with Meloniová, also offered a helping hand to the government in combating femicides and violence against women. “Let’s at least put aside political clashes in the fight against this killing of women and girls and try to move the country forward,” she said.
Her words were apparently heard. On Wednesday, Italian senators unanimously supported the bill expanding the protection of women at risk, which the right-wing government of Meloni came up with.
According to Pramstrahlerová, however, the only way to eradicate violence against women will be a total change in the mindset of the Italian public. According to her, in addition to extensive education, proper training of professionals who come into contact with women at risk, such as police officers, social workers or judges, is also key.
What needs to change, according to Italian feminist and human rights organizations, is the way the media reports on femicides. According to them, the case of the murdered Giulia revealed that in their output they mirror the patriarchal organization of society and bet too much on sensations.
“The local media organized a morbid hunt for intimate details to sensationalize the story,” warns the Non Una Di Meno movement. He points out that in the week that Giulia and her ex-boyfriend went missing, the media quoted Turetto’s family and friends as describing him as a “nice boy” who would not have been capable of murder. She also used their private pictures from when they were still a “happy” couple for the articles.
“We are not against talking about femicide, but it has to be talked about in the right way,” sums up Pramstrahler. “Not as a scandal, a spectacular crime spectacle, but so that women feel they can ask for help. And even in situations that are not full of blood,” he adds.
A series of protest marches have been held across Italy since Saturday, when it was revealed that the missing girl was another victim of femicide. The largest ever is planned for November 25, when the world commemorates the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.
The News List Project dedicated to femicides