The economic crisis and policies of spending cuts and reductions in social services are undermining efforts to tackle gender violence in Europe and may be contributing to it.
In Spain, 43 women have died at the hands of their partners or former partners so far in 2012, and 600 since official figures have been collected almost 10 years ago.
Despite this, the government has cut the budget for policies promoting equality by 24% and has increased the price of court fees, creating barriers facing victims of domestic violence seeking help and justice.
Furthermore, record unemployment in the country caused in large part by austerity policies in Spain and across Europe, is adding to the problem. According to a study by the Fundación Adecco 64% of battered women do not report domestic violence for financial reasons. Between January 2007 and June 2012 735,664 incidents of gender violence were reported.
Austerity measures implemented by Spain’s central and local governments are an ‘ally’ of gender violence, argues Pilar Morales, who is responsible for women at the Workers Commissions (CCOO) trade union in Madrid. Many women cannot be separated and live with their abuser because they have no job, she said.
‘Gender-based violence is also unemployment, abuse and cutbacks in social services and this must be denounced in the street,’ added Morales. ‘We must be clear that the cuts mistreat and kill and all citizens must denounce the situation in which governments has put us.”
‘The situation of women in Madrid is increasingly precarious, as in the rest of the country. Unemployment is high and some budgets cut by more than 56% in the past five years.’
An increase in court fees to ‘prevent women defending themselves in court’ showed central and regional governments were ‘intolerant’ of the issue, she added.
Tu Voz Cuenta (Your Voice Counts) campaign group said access to justice for battered women is ‘deficient’ and means victims suffered repeatedly from domestic violence. 48,000 cases were stayed in 2011, while protection orders had been cut by 10 points since 2007, according to the General Council of the Judiciary.
The Observatorio Contra la Violencia Doméstica y de Género (Centre Against Domestic Violence and Gender ) has warned that increased court fees included the reform of the country’s Penal Code is ‘an obstacle’ to women reporting gender violence.
Your Voice Counts, joined unions and others in criticised central government cuts for ‘endangering achievements on equality.’
It said: ‘In times of crisis opportunities are dramatically reduced for women. Without equality policies the gap between men and women increases, women become poorer, have less access to education, to health, [lose control over] deciding how many of children to have and when, and, ultimately, their social and political autonomy.’
Research conducted by the European Institute for Gender Equality (EIGE) shows domestic violence against women remains widespread and under-reported, and that victims of violence are not effectively supported by public services. Insufficient specialised services for women victims of violence was found in 12 out of the 27 EU Member States.
Nine out of ten victims of intimate partner violence in the EU are women, and women victims of physical, intimate partner violence in the EU ranges between 12% to 35% across the member states.
In Portugal courts issued 208 sentences for homicide by partners in the last five years, with 35 women murdered this year. The latest figures indicate a decrease in 2011 of reported cases of domestic violence: 28,980, 7.2% less than in 2010. However, the decrease in complaints is not necessarily because of a decrease of the phenomenon, but because the economic crisis may lead many women (more than men) to consider ‘the consequences and repercussions of reporting’ according to John Lazarus, of the Association of Victim Support (Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Vítima).
In Greece too there is evidence that the crisis is adding to gender-based violence.
In Italy 120 women were murdered in 2012 with 85% of the culprits the partner, according to preliminary data. Femmicides within a relationship increased by 3%.
Sunday 25 November has seen events taking place across Europe to highlight violence against women as part of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.