Femicide in France: ‘He killed me,’ she said with her dying breath

France attempts to confront domestic violence and women’s struggle to be heard

A woman lays flowers on a fence marking the site where a woman was found dead the day before in Cagnes-sur-Mer, southeastern France on September 2nd, 2019, making her the 100th victim of femicide in France.  Photograph: Getty

A woman lays flowers on a fence marking the site where a woman was found dead the day before in Cagnes-sur-Mer, southeastern France on September 2nd, 2019, making her the 100th victim of femicide in France. Photograph: Getty

 

Julie Douib tried to do everything right. She left her abusive partner. She reported his violence to police at least a dozen times. After he forced her to give up custody of their two children for the weekend, she told police that he had a licence for a gun and that she was afraid he would shoot her.

“Madame, I am sorry,” the officer replied, according to Douib’s father, “but his license cannot be taken away unless he points the gun at you”. He did so 48 hours later and fired twice, hitting Douib in her chest and arms. “He killed me,” she said with her last breath, said Maryse Santini, the downstairs neighbour who found her.

Douib’s death in March crystallised the issues of domestic violence and the difficulties that women in France face in getting authorities to take their fears and complaints seriously and to act on them. She was the 30th woman in France to die this year at the hands of her partner and more than 70 additional women have been similarly killed since then. A woman is killed in France by her partner or former partner every three days, according to government figures.

The 100 deaths is the earliest such a terrible benchmark has been reached in France, according to advocates who track the issue. Though it is unclear what factors may be behind the toll, the issue has drawn wider attention in France since French president Emmanuel Macron started using the term “femicide”.

People gather on the Trocadero square in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris during a demonstration called by the “Nous Toutes” feminist organisation to denounce the 100th femicide of the year, on September 1st, 2019. Photograph: Getty
People gather on the Trocadero square in front of the Eiffel Tower in Paris during a demonstration called by the “Nous Toutes” feminist organisation to denounce the 100th femicide of the year, on September 1st, 2019. Photograph: Getty

The most recent Eurostat data, from 2015, shows that more women are killed each year in France than in Britain, Netherlands, Italy or Spain. In western Europe, only Germany and Switzerland had more.

What is being done?

The toll is increasingly catching the attention of French officials, who have begun taking more urgent steps to combat the trend. On Tuesday, the French government opened national debate in an effort to stamp out what some lawyers and prosecutors call femicide to underscore the particular nature of the crime. The term femicide was first coined in the 1970s to refer to gender-related killings. Femicide is not recognised in the French criminal code, but junior minister for gender equality Marlène Schiappa said recognition would be discussed in the coming weeks.

The consultation process started on Tuesday and is to continue until November 25th, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. Over the course of those 12 weeks, 91 conferences will take place across France to discuss how to prevent femicide, protect the victims and punish offenders. – New York Times