UN Special Rapporteur on Femicide and Violence against women in Italy

The Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women reported on femicide worldwide and gender violence in Italy during its latest session of the UN Human Rights Council, in June. WIDE Plus was presented through different organizations during the session, for which this event is one step in an ongoing process to realize gender equality in Italy. Claudia Signoretti from Fondazione Pangea onlus reports.

During the 20th session of the UN Human Rights Council, on 25 June 2012, the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Rashida Manjoo, introduced the session with her report on gender violence in Italy and the thematic report on femicide.

It was the first time that a thematic report on the gender-related killings was submitted to all the countries delegates, gathered at the UN in Geneva for the Human Rights Council. In this report the Special Rapporteur Manjoo stated “Rather than a new form of violence, gender-related killings are the extreme manifestation of existing forms of violence against women. Such killings are not isolated incidents which arise suddenly and unexpectedly, but are the ultimate act of violence which is experienced in a continuum of violence.

The report also points to the role states lack to fulfil properly: “femicide is a State crime tolerated by public institutions and officials – due to the inability to prevent, protect and guarantee the lives of women, who have consequently experienced multiple forms of discrimination and violence throughout their lifetime”. The report argues that “these manifestations are culturally and socially embedded, and continue to be accepted, tolerated or justified – with impunity as the norm. States’ responsibility to act with due diligence in the promotion and protection of women’s rights, is largely lacking as regards the killing of women”.

However international human rights instruments clearly condemn such crimes: “Violence against women has been affirmed in human rights instruments and by human rights bodies, as a violation of the rights and fundamental freedoms of women. The killing of women constitutes a violation of amongst others the right to life, equality, dignity, non-discrimination, and the right not to be subjected to torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment”.

After the thematic report, Manjoo briefly presented an overview of the main findings from the country mission conducted in Italy from 15to 26 January 2012. During this mission, the Special Rapporteur looked at the issue of domestic violence, femicide, violence against women who face multiple and intersecting forms of discrimination, including Roma, Sinti and other migrant women, detained women, women with disabilities and transgendered people. The civil society organizations, many belonging to the Italian WIDE – CEDAW platform, managed to organize many meetings, in addition to the official visits. These meetings taking place in Rome, Milan, Bologna and Naples brought together organizations and individuals from the civil society – doctors, lawyers, psychologists, academics and so on – as well as  survivors of violence. The Rapporteur had the opportunity to visit anti-violence shelters for women, an authorized camp for the Roma and Sinti community, prisons and detention facilities for women and children, an immigration detention centre for irregular migrants and a university.

In her report Manjoo highlighted that: “violence against women remains a significant problem in Italy despite efforts to combat such violence, and there is an urgent need to address the underlying structural causes of inequality and discrimination”. After having pointed out the increasing numbers of victims of femicide by partners or former partners, she expressed her concern that: “most of the violence is underreported in the context of a patriarchal society where domestic violence is not always perceived as a crime; where victims are largely economically dependent on the perpetrators of violence; and perceptions persist that the state responses will not be appropriate or helpful”.

The Special Rapporteur concluded that the problem lies mostly with the implementation of the laws, not the laws themselves: “although the Italian legal framework largely provides for sufficient protection for violence against women, it is characterized by fragmentation, inadequate punishment of perpetrators and lack of effective redress for women victims of violence”. In this regard she stressed that the weak political will and the lack of funds for activities in the area of women rights: “affects the responsibility of the Central Government to fulfil, with due diligence, its international and national obligations to effectively address violence against women”.

The report calls for holistic and coordinated efforts in addressing the individual needs of women, including Roma and Sinti women, migrant women and women with disabilities. It encourages: “practical and innovative use of limited resources to address the social, economic and cultural barriers underlying such violence including through law and policy reforms, societal changes and awareness-raising initiatives, capacity building of support services, and statistics collection”. Finally, Manjoo appreciated the vast amount of experience and expertise in the legal, social, psychological and economic assistance provided to the victims by both state and non-state actors and she emphasized not to loose it in spite of the current difficult economic situation.

The engagement of the civil society along the road to gender equality 

Pangea Foundation, the International Association of Democratic Lawyers and the Italian Shelters’ Network Against Violence (D.I.R.E) on behalf of the Italian WIDE – CEDAW platform were in Geneva to actively participate in the session. Three written statements and two oral statements were submitted for the session by the platform.

Moreover, the same day a parallel event, titled “Italy – violence against women – femicide – UNSC resolution 1325” was organized by the Italian WIDE – CEDAW platform to discuss experiences and challenges to prevent and contrast violence against women in Italy. International and national panellists took part in the event to assess to what extent existing efforts and experiences address the issues related to the gender violence and which are the main commitments the Institutions are required to fulfil.

The Panel, moderated by Simona Lanzoni, from the Pangea Foundation, centered on the importance of improving and strengthening the institutional efforts, in accordance with the international provisions, since Italy has the obligation to prevent, investigate and punish all cases of violence against women, as well as to provide redress to surviving victims and their families. After the opening statement sent by the Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo, the interventions were as follows: Patricia Schulz, from the CEDAW Committee, recalled the 2011 CEDAW recommendations to Italy; Hilary Fisher, form WAVE (Women Against Violence Europe), outlined the commitments included in the Council of Europe Convention on Combating Violence Against Women; Barbara Spinelli, International Association for Democratic Lawyers, gave an overview on Femicide in Italy and Europe; Titti Carrano, D.I.R.E network, pointed out strengths and weaknesses of the Italy National Action Plan on Violence Against Women; Claudia Signoretti, Pangea Foundation, talked about the Italian National Action Plan of UN SC Resolution 1325; Lois A. Herman, from WUNRN (Women’s UN Report Network), showed a PowerPoint on VAW in Italy.

The events in Geneva represented one of the several steps of the path that the civil society is taking towards women’s empowerment and gender equality in Italy. The process started with the elaboration of the CEDAW shadow report by the Italian WIDE – CEDAW platform to analyze and raise attention to all the critical aspects of the Italian protection system against gender discriminations and gender violence. This report was presented at the UN in New York during the 49th CEDAW session (July 2011) and to the Italian parliament (January 2012). The recommendations formulated in 2011 by the CEDAW Committee after the evaluation session – which identified the fight against gender stereotypes and violence against women as the major priorities for the Italian government – and those formulated by Rashida Manjoo in 2012 represent the essential instrument of this process, especially with a view to the forthcoming follow-up in 2013, when the Italian state is required to provide information on the steps undertaken to implement the recommendations.

The grassroots continuous activism of the Italian WIDE – CEDAW platform, of the Italian network D.I.RE and of all the feminist and women organizations, played a crucial role. They gave a valuable contribution in elaborating policy briefings and political statements to the UN and the Italian institutions. They made it possible to get punctual and specific UN recommendations UN regarding the policies and measures to be adopted, thus to guarantee an effective progress in the promotion and protection of women rights, freedoms and dignity. They contributed to identify the critical issues and the guiding principles to build a long-term strategy and elaborated the next National Action Plan on Violence Against Women, encouraging an effective and close collaboration between governmental and non governmental actors. Thereby the Italian WIDE – CEDAW platform goes on acting as a watchdog of the international provisions and recommendations, it holds the government accountable, and makes sure that women rights are respected and that no more violations are tolerated.

Claudia Signoretti, Fondazione Pangea onlus

For more information: about the Italian WIDE-Cedaw activities, you can read more here or contact Claudia Signoretti: 30YEARSCEDAW(at)gmail.com.

Or about the meeting: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/HRC/Pages/NewsMedia.aspx