PARIS - The stories are haunting: A young woman beaten by her partner before being set on fire in front of her 7-year-old daughter. A photo of a smiling scientist whose body is stuffed into a suitcase that is dumped into a river.
These are just two examples in France of so-called femicides — women killed by their partners or family members. The country's 101st case this year happened Sunday, when a 92-year-old woman was beaten to death by her husband.
Now, the government is declaring war on domestic violence, announcing measures this week ranging from planned legislation to allow electronic tagging of suspected perpetrators to designation of millions of dollars to build more emergency shelters for victims.
"For centuries, women have been buried under our indifference, our denial, our incapacity to face this horror," Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said at a summit in Paris kicking off weeks of national consultations on the subject.
With an average of one woman killed every three days, France has a femicide rate that is among Europe's highest, according to available data from the Eurostat statistical agency. But domestic violence remains widespread across the region, activists say, and other governments have yet to sound the alarm.
A European issue
"One in three women over [age] 15 experiences physical or sexual violence in her life," said Irene Rosales, policy and campaigns officer for the Brussels-based European Women's Lobby, which represents more than 2,000 NGOs across the European Union. "This is a European issue, and it has to be addressed at a European level."
In a number of countries, data on femicides are spotty or nonexistent, she said, suggesting governments are not treating the phenomenon with the seriousness it deserves. The region also lacks comparable benchmarks to track progress, Rosales added.
Moreover, roughly half a dozen EU countries have yet to ratify the Istanbul Convention, a key international treaty to combat violence against women.
"They're stuck in negotiations on ratifying it," said Rosales, "which shows there's no political will to implement and be serious about it."
European Commission spokesman Christian Wigand said some EU countries have been slow to ratify the treaty because of "misunderstandings and misconceptions" that need to be worked on. But he said Europe's executive arm has prioritized raising awareness about domestic violence, earmarking millions of dollars for the cause in recent years.
"There has been progress," he said.
Activists also point to bright spots. Spain — which has recorded more than 1,000 femicides in two decades — is training hundreds of judges on gender violence. Other countries, including Belgium and Sweden, have embedded consent-based definitions of rape in their legal codes. Even so, Sweden and several other Nordic countries have legal loopholes making it difficult to report and punish sex crimes, according to an April Amnesty International report.
In France, the government's new campaign against domestic violence has drawn kudos from some quarters. Family members of victims praised Philippe this week for putting words to unspeakable crimes. But others are disappointed at the modest funding announced to date.
"We came, we saw and we were super disappointed," said feminist Caroline de Haas, who attended the government summit. "We expected unprecedented mobilization against women-based violence. Major overarching policies. And especially, we expected financing — and that's not the case."
Activists like Rosales also hope for more action from Brussels. Incoming European Commission chief Ursula von der Leyen, Germany's onetime family minister, has proposed adding violence against women to a list of EU crimes.
"That's something we are really going to follow and try to make a reality," Rosales said, "and hold her accountable."