ROME, Dec 18 (IPS) – Giulia Cecchettin had a bright future ahead of her. A smart 22-year-old, she was days away from graduating in biomedical engineering at Padua University. She was a loving sister to her two siblings, helping her father cope after the premature passing of her mother due to cancer in October 2022. Her sweetness and generosity of spirit made her popular with her peers. She only had one problem. Her ex-boyfriend and course mate Filippo Turetta could not accept the end of their relationship.
She admitted to friends in Whatsapp messages that she wished she could get Turetta out of her life, as he continued to pester her following the breakup, but she was too afraid that he would hurt himself to break off contact.
She didn’t realise it was her safety that was in danger.
After meeting Cecchettin for dinner on November 11, Turetta stabbed her to death, hid her body in countryside and fled to Germany.
Her family were quick to raise the alarm that she, and Turetta, had gone missing.
Days of intense anxiety followed.
Hoping Cecchettin was still alive, her uncle made a public appeal to Turetta, telling him the family would forgive him, even if he had hurt her, if he returned her to them.
The terrible truth emerged when Cecchettin’s body was found a week after she had gone missing covered by two black bin bags under a rock near a lake in the Friuli region.
Turetta, 21, was arrested on a road near Leipzig the day after, having run out of money for petrol. He confessed at once to German police and has been extradited.
The case shocked Italy.
Although it is only one in a long series of high-profile femicide cases, the brutality of the murder and the ages of the victim and killer sparked public anger and dismay and prompted much soul-searching about how to tackle the problem of patriarchy and gender-based violence (GBV).
Amid the outcry, Premier Giorgia Meloni’s government and opposition parties agreed on motions to accelerate the passage of a bill that was already in parliament on combatting violence against women.
The package, which was swiftly passed into law, includes new restraining orders and heightened surveillance on men guilty of domestic violence and it also boosts the emergency gender-violence hotline.
Days after it was confirmed Cecchettin had been killed, big marches took place all over the country for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women on November 25, with the Rome demo attracting around half a million people.
The scale of the problem is alarming.
A recent police report said 109 women had been murdered in Italy in 2023 up to early December, including 90 within the family or relationship sphere and 58 by their partner or exes.
The Italian National Research Council (CNR) has said that more than 12 million women in Italy, equal to almost 51%, between the ages of 18 and 84, have experienced physical or psychological violence at least once in their lifetime, but that only 5% have reported the incident.
In a study carried out by the CNR’s Institute of Clinical Physiology in 2022, over 2.5 million women (10.1%) reported currently experiencing situations of psychological violence and 80,000 (0.3%) said they were currently undergoing physical violence.
The CNR said the data on gender-based violence in Italy provide “evidence of a particularly extensive and only partly visible phenomenon”.
Rome Chief Prosecutor Francesco Lo Voi has said 10 new cases of violence against women are reported each day in the Italian capital.
Cecchettin’s father Gino and sister Elena have both shown remarkable courage and composure in calling for Giulia’s death to mark a turning point in the fight against gender-based violence.
“May Giulia’s memory inspire us to work together against violence, may her death be the impetus for change,” Gino Cecchettin told over 8,000 mourners at his daughter’s funeral at Padua’s Basilica of Santa Giustina on December 5.
“My daughter Giulia was exactly as you have got to know her: an extraordinary young woman, cheerful and lively, never satiated with learning.
“Femicide is often the result of a culture that devalues the lives of women (who then become) victims of those who should have loved them; instead they are harassed, forced into long periods of abuse, until they have lost their freedom, before they also lose their lives,” said Cecchettin.
“How can this happen? How could this have happened to Giulia?”.
Education Minister Giuseppe Valditara sent a circular letter to schools inviting them to get pupils to reflect on what Gino Cecchettin said at the funeral.
Another sign that Giulia Cecchettin’s death has had an impact on the public conscience is the success of There’s Still Tomorrow (C’è Ancora Domani), a film about domestic abuse that is the directorial debut of Paola Cortellesi, an actress best-known for her comedy work.
In addition to gaining widespread critical acclaim and winning three prizes at the Rome Film Fest, it is the most successful Italian film at the box office in 2023 and it even beat Barbie in terms of the number of people it has pulled to Italy’s cinemas this year.
The initial united front on addressing GBV, however, has started to fray.
The government criticised the presence of Palestinian flags at the November 25 march, with Family and Equal Opportunities Minister Eugenia Roccella saying it had been a “wasted opportunity”.
“Women’s mobilization must not be polluted by ideology and too much political partisanship,” Roccella said.
Furthermore, Valditara’s plan to introduce relationship education at schools to prevent GBV also created division when he nominated a gay-rights activist, Anna Paola Concia, among the project’s coordinators.
The minister made a U-turn and pulled all three coordinators following fierce objections on the right of the political spectrum to Concia’s involvement.
Sadder still, the Cecchettin family have had to file complaints with prosecutors after coming under a barrage of insults and threats over their calls for action on GBV.
And, despite the outcry, Cecchettin’s death did not stop new cases of femicide and domestic abuse from hitting the news.
But Meloni, Italy’s first woman premier and the leader of the rightwing Brothers of Italy (FdI) party, has promised more initiatives on this front are in the pipeline.
“We will not stop until violence against women stops,” she said. “It is something that is incompatible with our present”.
© Inter Press Service (2023) — All Rights ReservedOriginal source: Inter Press Service