Domestic violence against women in France
Violence against women is rooted in women’s unequal status in society, and that status reflects the unbalanced distribution of social, political, and economic power among women and men in society. It is one of the most pervasive human rights violations of our time and a form of discrimination that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual, psychological or economic harm or suffering to women.
In the EU, estimates suggest that 1 in 3 women (or 61 million out of 185 million) have experienced physical or sexual violence, or both, since the age of 15. The full extent of violence against women is difficult to estimate, as it continues to be under-reported and stigmatized.
In France, in particular, every year an estimated 219,000 women aged 18 to 75 are the targets of physical or sexual violence by current or former partners, but only 20 percent file official complaints, government statistics show.
In 2015, it was estimated that 44 % of women have experienced violence, which is 11 % higher than in the EU overall. In 2019, the number of women killed by their partner or ex-partner in France rose by a fifth. 146 women lost their lives in 2019, up from 121 the previous year. Also there were more than 200,000 reports of women being abused at home.
Till August 2020, 61 women have lost their lives at the hand of their partners or former partners. Since the beginning of lockdown in the country on 17 March, and just in the first week, the number of reports of domestic violence to the police has risen more than 30 percent. In Paris alone, cases were up by 36%.
The United Nations warned of a "shadow pandemic" alongside COVID-19: a global rise in domestic violence. The lockdown restrictions force people to stay indoors and put rising pressures on women living with an abusive partner or relative. The World Health Organisation (WHO) also was “deeply troubled by the reports from many countries, including Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Ireland, Russian Federation, Spain, UK, and others of increases in interpersonal violence – including violence against women and men, by an intimate partner and against children - because of the COVID-19 response.”
In 2019, the issue was widely reported in France when NGOs raised the alarm about the rise in femicides, urging the government to take action to derail the trend. Again, due to the sharp rise of violence, an extraordinary governmental summit on domestic violence was convened which led to a new law to strengthen protection for victims, in July 2020.
The legislation increases the penalty for harassment within the couple in the event that it leads one of the partners to commit or attempt to commit suicide to up to 10 years. It also allows judges to bar suspected abusers from seeing their children and doctors from breaking patient confidentiality to signal suspected cases of domestic violence to the authorities.
French national legislation on violence against women covers many forms of violence, however, it seems these laws are not enough. According to France24, the government has put a number of measures in place to make it easier for victims to report such abuses but few seem to have taken advantage of them. Reporting an abuser during lockdown can be complicated. “Those who do call us, tell us it’s not easy to find the right time. Because they’re not always alone and sometimes their partner is at home.” Said Audrey, a social worker who works with domestic abuse victims. More actions needed to be done within the justice system and at schools.