In this delicate moment where many of our energies are channeled into containing a threatening and unexpected phenomenon, let’s not forget to continue to inform ourselves and to focus our attention also on other major emergencies. More protracted over time, more rooted in our culture. If we try, today more than ever, to open our eyes we can discover that just as a virus has the ability to spread quickly, even virtuous actions, of care, attention, listening and conscious information can do it. Two days from March 8, I interviewed Angela Romanin, President of the Coordination of the Anti-violence Centers of Emilia Romagna and Trainer of the Women’s House, Bologna, to find out together how far we have gone and how much more we need to do on the topic of gender-based violence.
(on the cover the Communication Campaign of Casa delle Donne, Bologna)
On Sunday we celebrated Woman International Day with still alarming figures on femicides. What historical moment are we experiencing?
The numbers are high and do not drop over time. Looking at last year’s ISTAT report, we see that in the last ten years total murders have collapsed. The murders of women for gender reasons remain around 130 per year, do not go down. This high number is one of the reasons why GREVIO, the Group of Experts of the Council of Europe on the fight against violence against women, has prepared a report describing the state of application of the Istanbul Convention in Italy. And Italy does not come out well at all. Among the various points identified is the lack of protection of women in the courts.
Where is the mistake in our legal system?
It is always a matter of professionalism. The more awareness and professionalism on the issue of violence against women increases, the more they will be believed and respected in the right to be protected. Women are sometimes caught between two fires, and they are wrong in any case: if they do not leave a situation of violence they are accused of not being protective of their children, if instead they are accused of being vindictive. A woman victim of violence is never seen in the right. Whatever he does, he is always wrong. There is no full awareness of the mechanisms of violence, of knowledge of the phenomenon. Of the simple and clear stance alongside the victim that should be made: to be on the side of the victims and not the executioners. If an equidistant, neutral stance is taken, it is like taking sides in favor of the abuser. It should be said to everyone “violence is inadmissible, violence is a crime, it is not acceptable”; to women: “I will try to support you in your need to protect you”; to the men who act it: “stop this behavior immediately!”.
The GREVIO report also stresses that “the cause of gender equality still encounters resistance in the country and that a trend is emerging to reinterpret and redirect the notion of gender equality in terms of family and maternity policies”. Why are these arbitrary interpretations born?
Instead of helping women who are the unsuccessful part of the dynamic of violence, they try to help the family. The phenomenon is interpreted as a social unease thus diluting the responsibilities. It is a way to obscure the problem. I’ll give you a classic example. A couple made up of a man and a woman ask for help from social services. At the time the request occurs, perhaps they do not investigate whether there is violence within the couple. This happens for various reasons: either because they are not used to doing it, or because they are not trained in it, or because they do not consider violence a frequent event in the life of women and children. So without detailed investigation the social services give this requested financial aid. Usually he is the one who pays the money for purposes that are outside the support of the family. This fact increases the disparity within the couple. If you investigate violence, however, you can give targeted help. In other countries, such as England and Spain, the investigation takes place by default.
What is the reason for our slowdown compared to other countries?
Laws for women are a recent acquisition. Compared to other countries, we discount a twenty-year gap on the treatment of gender-based violence. But a lot has been done in recent years. We were among the first countries to ratify the Istanbul Convention and we did it the year before it entered into force. We like to make laws but then we get lost on how to apply them. Another important law is that of the protection order, Law 154 of 2001 which established the removal and prohibition of approaching in the event of violence. Another good sign is the fact that Istat have started to investigate. Violence is also entering the formation of various professions. Doctors, lawyers, psychologists, law enforcement officers. It is not yet sufficient, it is not established by law, it is not yet included in curricular courses, but many courses have already been taken. So today there are more trained staff. The territories have also moved. The Emilia Romagna Region – on the impetus of the Coordination of the anti-violence centers of Emilia-Romagna – has prepared a three-year regional anti-violence plan, started in 2017 and which will be renewed this year, in which specific commitments have been defined, also with regard to training of health and medical personnel and first aid. This plan is made mandatory by the Framework Law of Equality of 2014: it is a law in my opinion done very well, because it frames the problem of violence within gender inequality and inside there are chapters on many topics: gender medicine or how medicine is imprinted entirely on the male body thus creating considerable discomfort for women. Another chapter is on political representation, one on media representation and other.
However, you said that the laws are not enough to contrast the culture of violence. What can every citizen and citizen actually do to implement a change?
Look at the sites of the anti-violence centers and, depending on the professionalism, follow the training courses. Read books on the subject. One of the most interesting recent releases is “Sexual Harassment. Recognize them, fight them, prevent them” from Patrizia Romito and Mariachiara Feresin. Having a minimum of objective and scientific information is what it would take. The theme is too submerged by prejudices. Just as it happens with the fear of migrants. We are more Italians who historically invade other countries than foreigners who now come here. It is also important to read Istat data which has made many more investigations in recent years. One published in 2007, epidemiological, the next one after 8 years. In the past 5 years he has carried out investigations on femicides, one on anti-violence centers, one on harassment and a recent outing on the perception of violence.
What is the campaign “Violence against women. What country are we in? ” organized by D.i.Re – Women on the net against violence, of which the Coordination centers are part?https://www.direcontrolaviolenza.it/violenza-sulle-donne-in-che-stato-siamo/
In disseminating information on what happened. It wants to mobilize the attention of public opinion, the media and institutions on the recommendations that the Council of Europe has made to Italy to ensure adequate prevention, protection and contrast of male violence against women. The Istanbul Convention is often cited but then during the year it is as if it were forgotten. The fact that there is an organization that monitors its application is important. It is a supranational law. This is forgotten in the courts as when accepting the Pas, alleged Parental Alienation Syndrome which has no scientific basis but is used in Italy to have children entrusted to abusive fathers. When the children declare they do not want to see their fathers because they are afraid of them, the woman is accused of manipulating the children to take them away from their father. Everything is reversed, a manipulation that is one of the mechanisms that perpetuates gender-based violence. Nobody confronts these men with the violence they do. There is a sort of legitimation.
Last January you also joined the #Pensaci prima campaign https://www.pensaciprima.info. What is your goal?
We have proposed these three themes: doubling and making the resources at the anti-violence centers structural, therefore we ask for a regional structural fund, instead of the annual calls, which each year guarantees certain economic contributions proportional to the needs of each anti-violence center. Economic support for women active in ways of escape from violence or a monthly income of up to a maximum of two years accompanied by a process of reintegration into the world of work. A regional fund to cover the costs of legal assistance in both criminal and civil matters. Now we are waiting to have the right interlocutor in the region. Then we will ask for a meeting.