Although their forms and frequency vary from one country to another, violences against women, feminicides, are among the most common violations of rights linked to the patriarchal system. Violence within the family is the kind to which women are subjected most often, yet the one least talked about, like a tabu.
According to studies conducted across the world, one woman in three is subjected to physical, sexual or psychological violence by her companion. Not only is this violence, based in social inequality, on the rise, but access to the “legal support” system women need for their protection remains difficult, in developing countries and also in others public opinion considers to be developed democracies where rights are guaranteed.
The assassination of a young woman, Mélanie, by her companion in the Jura canton in Switzerland on October 21 2019 provides one instance demonstrating the insufficiencies in women’s rights.
One week before she was killed by her husband, Mélanie was taken into a forest with her hands bound and raped, by this same husband. Mélanie had sought help and filed a complaint with the police commissariat in Délemont, but despite this request, she was then a victim of feminicide.
Mélanie’s family, along with the women’s organizations in the Jura, believe there was negligence and demand that those responsible for it be charged.
We spoke to Danielle Siegfried, Co-President and spokesperson from the Interjurassian association “Grève des femmes” (Women’s Strike) who closely follows this affair and the family’s demands.
On October 21 2019 a woman by the name of Mélanie was assassinated by her husband because of her request for a divorce. But public opinion is also aware of the fact the victim was taken by her husband into a forest zone on October 15 where he raped her twice while her hands were bound. She had filed a complaint at the Délemont security center. Would you comment these grave events for our readers?
The facts are harsh. Mélanie was afraid to tell her husband she wished to leave him. After she did, her ex-husband threatened Mélanie with a firearm and raped her twice. The next day, Mélanie found the courage to file a complaint. Justice confiscated the firearms and imposed a restraining order. But despite the seriousness of what had just occurred, the guilty party was not incarcerated.
Mélanie died a few days later, killed by her ex-spouse, further extending the list of feminicides. This happened on October 21 2019. The family submitted the matter to the Court because the judicial system did not sufficiently protect Mélanie.
The charge of homicide by negligence and of omission to provide aid and assistance was dismissed at the beginning of March 2021.
Can one consider there was negligence on the part of security forces? What do you think about this?
The entire system is dystunctional. Victims should be protected efficiently. Confiscating the weapons and asking the guilty party to, please, not approach the person, this is simply not enough.
In this case, serious charges of multiple rapes should have called for stricter measures. Mélanie had the courage to ask for aid and assistance from the police and the judicial system by filing a complaint against her ex-husband and father of her children. The police and the judiciary underestimated the seriousness of the actions and of the threats weighing against her life.
This was underestimated, not because of contempt, lack of empathy or of consideration for the victim but because these professionals, like all of us, are prisoners of a system of domination that minimizes the systemic violences to which women are permanently exposed in every area, and within the couple.
Where do matters stand at this point?
The family has appealed against the dismissal of the case. The struggle continues.
What are the demands made by the family and by your association?
Resources are needed in order to fight the violences agains women: funds to allow setting up prevention and education policies, a reinforcement of associative structures active in the struggles, and the establishing of dependable statistics at a cantonal level.
Mélanie had a right, the one to be protected.
In this same contexte, as regards the considerable rise in violences against women across the world, where do statistics stand currently in Switzerland?
We have a real problem: the absence of dependable statistics. Violences against women, feminicides, are poorly recorded.
The data has aged. Between 2009 and 2018, one person died every two weeks from the consequences of domestic violence, some 25 people on average per year, including 4 children, women in majority.
But 2020 has been a notable year, according to the figures of the Federal Office of Statistics (OFS), showing a significant rise in domestic violence in the Jura canton, or again that of Berne.
In the Jura, domestic violences have increased by 46%, rising from 98 offences in 2019 to 143 in 2020. No serious physical lesions were noted but simple physical lesions rose from 6 to 24.
Recently, the Swiss Migration Bureau, awarded political asylum to Yasemin Çakal who was charged and brought to trial in Turkey for the killing of her husband in a case of self-defense, and who had requested asylum in Switzerland.
Could we say that Switzerland has taken a first step in the application of the Istanbul Convention?
At last. This acceptance is important. The application of the Istanbul Convention has been terribly slow since its ratification in 2017. In order to implement this convention, the Confederation, the cantons and civil society must work together. In granting political asylum to Yasemin Çakal, Switzerland is finally beginning to apply the Convention. The message is that much stronger since Turkey is withdrawing from this convention.
Women’s platforms consider that masculine judiciary powers around the world, too often exonerate the authors of violences against women, such as feminicides, harassment, rape, tending at times to protect their authors rather than the victims, thus laying a favorable groundwork for further crimes against women. This was deciphered for the umpteenth time in Mélanie’s trial.
On April 12, women assembled before the Court of Justice in Porrentury, at the call of the inter-Jurassian association “Grève des femmes”, in order to say “we are here to denounce an unacceptable decision of justice”. They reiterated that the duty of justice is to protect the victims and demanded the application of the existing protection laws, as well as their improvement.
They added the application of the Istanbul Convention to their demands, as was correct to do, and underlined the necessity to train judges and police officers in the area of gender-based violences, as well as raising social awareness from the earliest age onward. In Mélanie’s case, they also requested that the police and the judiciary admit they made a mistake.
“The struggle continues for Mélanie and all the other victims.”
Translation by Renée Lucie Bourges
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