Italian police get new guidelines to help tackle violence against women

Italian police on Friday launched a campaign to reduce the murder rate against women, which has remained stubbornly high despite a decline in the total number of homicides over recent years.

Italian police get new guidelines to help tackle violence against women
An installation in Rome to mark the International Day against Violence Against Women on November 25th. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

Entitled “This is not love”, the campaign was launched on the eve of the UN-backed International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Italy recorded 149 female murder victims last year, barely changed from the 150 recorded in 2007. Femicides now account for 37 percent of the total compared to 24 percent a decade ago.

Not all killings of women are motivated by the victim's gender, but sexual assaults and domestic violence are key elements in the overall picture.

And official figures on these type of crimes represent only the tip of the iceberg.

Female victims often hesitate to file charges “for fear of being judged” or “because they are ashamed to reveal details of their intimate lives,” according to a new booklet containing revised guidelines for forces dealing with crimes of violence against women.

The guidelines include new requirements for registering reports of domestic violence, designed to ensure incidents that don't necessarily lead to charges being pressed are kept on file.

“It is not enough to apply the law, we also have to assure women [making complaints] are welcomed, informed and supported in a way that enables them to escape the conditions of subservience and isolation they sometimes find themselves in,” notes national police chief Franco Gabrielli.

The material to be delivered to forces around the country includes testimony from officers specialised in dealing with the victims of domestic violence.

“I'll never forget the faces of the women I've had in my office over the years, and above all their voices when they've told me they feel responsible for what has happened to them,” recounts Rosaria Maida, a deputy police commissioner in Palermo, Sicily.

Instances of acid attacks by spurned lovers and other examples of violence against women are covered prominently by the Italian media and often cited as evidence of an unreconstructed macho culture in the country.

Official figures do not indicate that women are more at risk of attack in Italy than elsewhere but campaigners on the issue say this could partly reflect under-reporting of crimes linked to a culture of victim-shaming.


Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

Italy commemorated the death of Italian judge Giovanni Falcone on Monday, thirty years after the brutal Capaci bombing.

Italy remembers murdered anti-mafia judge Falcone

The entire country paid tribute on Monday to anti-mafia judge Giovanni Falcone, killed by the Sicilian mafia 30 years ago in a car bomb murder that shocked the country.

Interior Minister Luciana Lamorgese laid a wreath at the memorial at the site of the blast at Capaci, near Palermo, that killed Falcone, his wife, and three members of his police escort on May 23rd 1992.

Another ceremony in Palermo was attended by Italian President Sergio Mattarella, whose brother Piersanti, then Sicily’s regional president, was also murdered by the mafia.

In a statement, Prime Minister Mario Draghi hailed the legacy of Falcone, saying that thanks to his “courage, professionalism and determination, Italy has become a freer and fairer country”.

He said Falcone and his colleagues – one of whom, Paolo Borsellino, was killed by Cosa Nostra two months later – “dealt decisive blows against the mafia”.

“Their heroism had rooted anti-mafia values in society, in new generations, in republican institutions,” he added, saying the “relentless fight against organised crime and […] the search for truth” must continue.

The mob used a skateboard to place a 500-kilogramme (1100-pound) charge of TNT and ammonium nitrate in a tunnel under the motorway which linked the airport to the centre of Palermo.

Falcone, driving a white Fiat Croma, was returning from Rome for the weekend. At a look-out point on the hill above, a mobster nicknamed “The Pig” pressed the remote control button as the judge’s three-car convoy passed.

The blast ripped through the asphalt, shredding bodies and metal, and flinging the lead car several hundred metres.

READ ALSO: How murdered judge Giovanni Falcone shaped Italy’s fight against the mafia

On July 19th, Borsellino was also killed in a car bomb attack, along with five members of his escort. Only his driver survived.

Falcone posed a real threat to Cosa Nostra, an organised crime group made famous by The Godfather trilogy, and which boasted access to the highest levels of Italian power.

He and Borsellino were later credited with revolutionising the understanding of the mafia, working closely with the first informants and compiling evidence for a groundbreaking ‘maxi-trial’ in which hundreds of mobsters were convicted in 1987.

“Thanks to Falcone and Borsellino, the Sicilian mafia became a notorious fact, not something that had to be proved to exist at every trial,” anti-mafia prosecutor Marzia Sabella told AFP.