Greece focuses on violence against women
Greece is once again focusing its attention on women's rights after the recent rise of femicides. Indeed, in the space of a few hours, three women who faced violence and abuse from their partners were murdered in different parts of the neighboring country.
At the same time, the Greek “Me Too” movement, that has gained momentum during the past years, continues to reveal the level of harassment and violence that women are facing. Numerous women have joined in sharing their stories of gender-based violence and harassment, whilst the authorities have arrested many the perpetrators of gender-based crimes.
Non-governmental organizations in Greece warn that the economic crisis and the consequences of the Covid-19 pandemic has led to the further decline in women's rights. Experts emphasize the need to revise the education system by implementing more gender-sensitive approaches and to rethink the patriarchal family structure.
The murder of a companion for 42 years
A new case of femicide that shook Greece occurred on Sunday morning, 31 July, in the village of Ano Malaki in Rethymno, Crete. The husband confessed to the murder of his wife.
The victim of the murder in Crete was a 56-year-old woman who received a fatal knife blow to the neck by her husband during a fight in the kitchen at around 10:30 on Sunday morning, 31 July. According to new information, the perpetrator took a butcher knife and stabbed his wife, who was later found in a pool of blood by the eldest son of the family.
According to neakriti.gr, the 60-year-old suspect described his relationship with his wife during his brief statement to the Rethymno prosecutor, saying that they had been together for 42 years, since he was 18 and she was 16. According to the 60-year-old suspect his wife made three attempts to leave her home during the last three months.
The murder of a spouse
Almost simultaneously, in the town of Tsilivi in Zakynthos, a 51-year-old husband killed his wife, 10 years his junior, with multiple stab wounds to the chest and neck.
The perpetrator escaped the house after killing his wife and the police launched a manhunt to find and arrest him. In an attempt to blame the victim, the 51-year-old suspect said during his arrest that, “I killed her because she was cheating on me.”
Prior to her murder, his woman had reported her husband to the police for domestic violence. According to new information about the murder, a neighbor of the family called the police at 23:00 on Sunday night because of a noise disturbance. When police teams arrived at the scene, they found the woman injured and bleeding on the balcony of the ground floor house. The woman, who had been beaten and stabbed by her attacker was transported to Zakynthos hospital, but she could not be saved.
The son of the murdered woman stated that “Our mum was working two jobs to make ends meet, and I wasn't here. She did everything for us. Only for her children. She was a perfect mum. I feel sorry for my brothers and sisters, we need to find a solution and move on.”
The murder of a young girl
While two women were murdered by their husbands in Zakynthos and Crete, a young girl of only 17 years old was been murdered in Peristeri, Athens.
The young girl, who was found dead by her mother in their apartment in Peristeri on Tuesday morning (2/8), had bruises on her body.
According to preliminary information, the authorities are focusing on the girl's partner. In detail, the authorities are looking for a person of Pakistani origin who may have been with the 17-year-old girl at the time of the murder. This person lived with the family. The suspect disappeared the night of the murder with his belongings.
“We are a sexist and patriarchal society”
“Women who are murdered because they are women are overwhelmingly murdered by men, the majority by partners and husbands, former and current.” stresses Anna Lazou, Assistant Professor of Philosophical Anthropology at the University of Athens. The scholar brings to the fore an important issue that experts on femicide are focusing on. Both in Greece and abroad, the killers often come from the close environments of the victims. The perpetrators are usually the spouses. They are people who have a sexual relationship with their victims. These are men who resort to violence and who reflect the problematic social norms in their relationships.
Anna Vougiouka, a social scientist and gender expert at the Diotima Centre for Women's Studies and Research, focuses on the problematic conservative social norms that fuel femicides. “We are a sexist and patriarchal society. Patriarchy means control, it means not taking no for an answer. If women decide that they want to leave the patriarchs, the violence escalates.” stresses Vougiouka.
The expert's remark remains relevant in modern Greece, in a country where the Greek Orthodox Church still plays an important role in everyday life and influences education. In modern Greece, the church maintains multidimensional relations with the State and intervenes on various issues. Most Church representatives put forward conservative positions that often clash with fundamental freedoms.
“An important parameter of the phenomenon is the position of women, their equality and their rights at the individual and social level. In this context, the victimization of women is linked - besides psychological victimization - to both physical and sexual abuse, and there are many cases that result in homicide.” adds Christina Zarafonitou, Professor of Criminology in the Panteion University.
Zarafonitou focuses on another aspect of the subject, arguing that the criminalization of violence against women should be taken seriously. “The replacement of the term ‘homicide’ with “femicide” would discriminate against women's rights. Prevention through education is the real need.” states Zarafonitou.
The Greek “MeToo” moment
A few years after the MeToo movement in the US, the former sailing champion Sofia Bekatorou revealed she had been harassed by a senior functionary of the Greek sailing federation and a prominent member of the ruling conservative New Democracy Party. Bekatorou is one of the most decorated athletes in Greek history, winning 10 medals, including an Olympic gold and bronze and four gold medals in World Championships.
Bekatorou´s revelations led to a flood of Greek women coming forward with personal stories of sexual abuse and gender-based harassment signaling the beginning of the Greek Me Too movement. Sportswomen, students, journalists and actresses shared their experiences of sexual harassment.
Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis endorsed the movement and told parliament that his conservative government would seek to toughen penalties for sex offenders.
*Dr Nikolaos Stelgias was born in Istanbul. He is an independent researcher, writer, historian and journalist. His doctorate is in the field of the modern Turkish political system (Panteion University, 2011). His latest book “The Ailing Turkish Democracy” was published by the Cambridge Scholars Publication in 2020. Dr. Stelgias was a correspondent of the newspaper "Kathimerini (Cyprus edition)" for Turkey and the Turkish Cypriot community from 2009 to 2021. Currently, Dr. Stelgias works at the Cyprus News Agency. Dr. Stelgias publishes in Turkish news articles and analyses on Cyprus and Greece on the news website 'Duvar".