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The numbers of Intimate Partner Violence and femicide in Italy: methodological issues in Italian research

Abstract

The article reviews the research conducted in Italy on the issue of gender-based violence and in particular on femicide, a phenomenon that has become increasingly important in the media agenda in the last decade. The research is mainly aimed at detecting the magnitude of the phenomenon from a quantitative point of view. In Italy, in line with other European countries, one in three women claims to have been the victim of physical and/or sexual violence, especially by current or ex-husbands and partners, in the course of her lifetime. In addition, a femicide occurs every 2/3 days. The paper highlights some methodological questions related to the construction of the research system, starting from pre-established aims. In particular, it focuses on the interpretative paradigms and definitions of “gender-based violence” and “femicide” used, which guide the choice of corpus and categories of research analysis, ranging from feminist and sociological approaches to citizens’ safety and a psycho-individualistic paradigm. These different approaches make it difficult to compare data at both national and international level.

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Notes

  1. Among the most recent laws we note 38/2009 which introduced the crime of stalking and 119/2013 which provides for an increase in penalties for those who commit gender-based violence or stalking. The Istanbul Convention ratified by the Council of Europe in 2011 and by Italy under Law 77/2013 should also be mentioned.

  2. In order not to over burden the text, the term "femicide" is used, even if, as will be shown below, the literature on the subject uses two terms: "femicide" and "feminicide", with slightly different meanings (and unfortunately used in various contexts with meanings not always consistent with the original definitions provided by American scholars).

  3. In this regard, note the existence of associations of journalists (such as Gi.u.li.a) that set out good practice for correct information about femicides, such as avoiding suggesting, even unintentionally, that the killer was justified by motivating the violence with "loss of work", "betrayed by the victim", or "depression" (Manifesto di Venezia, 2017).

  4. Recently the preferred definition is Intimate Partner Violence to better clarify the fact that it is a question of violence occurring in the context of intimate relationships in progress or past, between cohabitants or otherwise, and therefore not necessarily "within the home" (see Baldry 2006).

  5. The conference was organized as part of the research project "Social representations of violence against women: the case of femicide in Italy" funded by the Ministry of Education, University and Research (Prin 2015) and coordinated by Pina Lalli (Department of Political and Social Sciences, University of Bologna), which involves five research units in as many universities scattered throughout Italy. The writer was part of the academic and organizational management team for the conference. The conference featured two major international scholars: Rashida Manjoo (from 2009 to 2015 she held the position of United Nations Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, its Causes and Consequences) and Karen Boyle (University of Strathclyde, Glasgow, Scotland). Videos of the speeches are available at: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCn10xryv-nw-QjGYWZ0buwA/videos.

  6. In Italy Linda Laura Sabbadini is considered the "pioneer of gender statistics", having guided ISTAT's change towards gender-sensitive analysis related to social, family, demographic and labour transformations, in addition to gender-based violence. From 2011 to 2016 she was the Director of ISTAT’s Department of Social and Environmental Statistics, only to be dismissed from office, which upset a large section of Italian society.

  7. In addition, the rape or attempted rape was carried out by a friend in 24.5% of cases, 18.7% by an acquaintance, 9% by a partner or former partner, and 7.9% by an employer/colleague. In addition to being "on the street", more than 40% took place in "familiar" places: 9.3% "at home", 19.1% "at the home of friends/relatives/acquaintances", and 8.1% "at work".

  8. The definition was the result of pressure from the women's movement and included in the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women adopted by the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1993 and by the UN World Conference on Human Rights (Vienna, 1993), which states that women's rights are "fundamental human rights".

  9. This is in line with findings of research carried out in European countries. The research carried out by the EU Agency for Fundamental Rights (FRA 2014) attests that of 42,000 women in Europe, one in three claims to have been the victim of physical and/or sexual violence, especially by husbands and partners. A similar overview is described in the EIGE Report (2017), which highlights that the most common form of violence is Intimate Partner Violence. On a scale of 1–100 (where 1 means the absence of gender-based violence), Europe averages 27.5 and Italy 26.8.

  10. Casa delle donne per non subire violenza (The House of Women to not suffer violence) publishes all the research reports on the topic online on its site "Femicide": https://femicidiocasadonne.wordpress.com/ricerche-pubblicazioni/.

  11. For example, the controversy raised by the television program "Amore criminale" (Rai3, airing since 2007, which reconstructs femicide cases) is noteworthy, especially among those who fear it may encourage the male audience to emulate what it portrays.

  12. It should be noted that, from a feminist perspective, emancipated women are considered to be even more at risk than those who are not in employment (it is no coincidence that victims in Northern Italy, where there is a higher female employment rate, tend to prevail). As Sabbadini also hypothesized, this is because, faced with the manifestation of female autonomy, some men have an even greater fear of losing control over their partner.

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Capecchi, S. The numbers of Intimate Partner Violence and femicide in Italy: methodological issues in Italian research. Qual Quant 53, 2635–2645 (2019). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11135-019-00876-8

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Keywords

  • Intimate Partner Violence
  • Femicide
  • Feminicide
  • Gender-based violence
  • Feminism