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Giulia Cecchettin’s Femicide Sparks Outcry in Italy – and Calls for Change

The feminicide of Giulia Cecchettin has resonated strongly across Italy. The manner in which it occurred, the commitment of her sister, who spoke on live national television about rape culture and state violence, and years of work by feminist movements, seem to have produced a response in at least the public discourse on the issue.

Giulia was reported missing on November 11. Social media shared her photos, reporting that she had vanished with her ex-boyfriend. Many had already lost hope. Her dead body was found on November 18 in a remote location in Friuli-Venezia-Giulia.

The discovery of a woman’s dead body is tragically common. According to the statistics body ISTAT, Italy has seen 106 femicides this year, 87 of which occurred within the familiar/affective context, and 55 at the hands of a partner or ex-partner. According to ISTAT, the current year shows an increase of 3 per cent in the number of murders committed by a partner or ex-partner and a 4-per-cent increase in the number of female victims compared to 2022.

Not a crime of passion, a crime of power

In a letter published in the newspaper Corriere della Sera, and in statements made on a national live television program, Elena Cecchettin, Giulia’s sister, brought to the forefront the discourse that Italian feminist movements have been advocating for years.

The video of her speech has reached a million views. Giulia’s family, which was expected to display the victimizing pain of loss, gave visibility to a death which, like many others, could have been avoided. The speech addressed various components and levels of society, making of the events not only a tragedy but a social and political issue.

Filippo Turetta, Giulia’s suspected murderer, “has been talked about these days, and many have pointed him as a monster, as a sick person. But he is not a monster because a monster is an exception to society … Instead, he is a healthy child of a patriarchal society that is full of rape culture,” she said.

These words remove the alleged murderer from the light of exceptionality that the media use to portray feminicide murderers. In a country where there is a significant gender pay gap, where the right to abortion is poorly protected, where a woman dies every 72nd hour of femicide, there is no exception but a systemic problem.

Elena then exposes the state: “Femicide is state murder because the state does not protect us. We need to implement sexual and emotional education to prevent these things. We must fund anti-violence centres so that people can seek help when needed,” she said.

On November 22, the Minister of Education, Giuseppe Valditara, presented the “Educating for Relationships” project, which includes discussion groups, information campaigns and awareness-raising activities in schools. The initiative is not mandatory and is extra-curricular.

The plan was developed involving some sectors of civil society but no experts on gender-based violence. The project was initially thought up earlier and its coordination was assigned to Alessandro Amadori, who has co-authored a book that traces gender violence back to evil, makes a comparison of male with female violence and addresses controversial topics such as the danger of substituting a patriarchal system with its opposite, the “Gynarchy”.

As the D.i.Re, Donne in Rete Contro la Violenza, association  told the government, however, it is not possible to act on the problem without experts on gender violence – or continue to follow an emergency-led approach, which intervenes in crimes and punishments without consistently increased funds for law-enforcement and prevention activities.

“All men have to be careful. They must call out the friend who catcalls passers-by, they must call out the colleague who checks their girlfriend’s phone. You must be hostile to these behaviours that may seem like trivialities but are the prelude to feminicide,” Elena said. Another target of her speech is society, particularly the male one.

A Facta News piece, titled “Italy is not (yet) a country for women”, references data from the Women, Peace & Security Index. This reveals Italy’s 24th position in Europe concerning female social inclusion, security, and justice. Disparities extend across employment, education and health. These factors collectively reinforce a societal framework where men occupy positions of power and privilege, inherently existing on a distinct level compared to women. This authority, particularly evident in cases of feminicide, is wielded to its fullest extent. In the days that followed Giulia Cecchettin’s murder, the majority of comments on social media were written by women. In many, there is a direct call for men to take a responsible stance about gender-based violence.

The feedback to Elena’s speech has been diverse. On the political front, Stefano Valdegamberi, a councillor from the Veneto Region and a member of the Lega Nord Party, on Facebook expressed suspicions about the girl’s involvement with the murder, since her outfit “with certain satanic symbols” should concern the audience.

The police have meanwhile tried to raise awareness, appropriating the poem by Cristina Torre Cacéres, “Si mañana me toca, quiero ser la última” (“If it’s my turn tomorrow, I want to be the last”), used by feminist movements in Europe and Latin America. However, the police’s post did not elicit the desired reaction: numerous comments, especially from women, highlighted the difficulties in reporting abuse and being believed, exposing the inaction and complicity of the state apparatus.

According to Arianna Gentili, head of the violence and stalking help line, since the beginning of these events calls to anti-violence hotlines have nearly doubled. From 200 daily calls they have reached 400, with peaks of up to 500. According to Gentili, such a peak is usually reached before and after the November 25 anniversary, marking the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. Calls also increased not only from direct victims of violence but also from parents of potential victims.

Noise instead of a minute of silence

According to the newspaper Il Manifesto, 500,000 people marched in the national protest called in Rome by the Non Una Di Meno, (Not One Less) NUDM movement.

Contrary to Elena’s plea “for Giulia don’t make aminute of silence, for Giulia burn everything down”, Education Minister Giuseppe Valditara called for a minute’s silence in all Italian schools and universities on November 22. In many Italian universities students made a minute of noise, as silence on feminicides is far too much. During the week leading up to November 25, feminist and student collectives in many cities organized torchlight walks and “angry walks” to counter the decorous silence demanded by institutions.

The actions and reactions triggered by Giulia Cecchettin’s feminicide encapsulate, if not the seed, at least the hope of a turning point in the discourse and mobilization on issues of violence and gender, even while the institutions are still stuck.

The statements of Elena, who transformed her grief into a tool for condemnation and a fight for all, and the evident institutional inconsistency, prompted thousands of people to take to the streets on the November 25. Messina, Padova, Turin and Milan saw similar initiatives, also with a strong participation. A continuous wave of pink flooded the streets in protest against patriarchal violence. According to NUDM the tide has risen and will not go down. The squares certainly speak for themselves. For Giulia, for all of them.

Source : Balkan Insight

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