Giulia Cecchettin’s killing sparks Italian reckoning over femicide

Giulia Cecchettin
Image caption,Giulia Cecchettin’s body was found in November

The killing of a young woman in Italy, allegedly at the hands of her possessive ex-boyfriend, has shocked the country and prompted a reckoning about violence against women.

On 11 November – days before 22-year-old Giulia Cecchettin was due to get her biomedical engineering degree – she went to buy her graduation outfit with her ex-boyfriend Filippo Turetta.

Then, the couple disappeared.

A few days later, CCTV footage emerged showing the final moments of her life.

Mr Turetta, 22, can be seen beating his former partner in a car park close to her house in Vigonovo, near Venice – according to the investigating judge.

She tried to escape, but prosecutors say he put duct tape on her mouth, forced her into his car and drove to an industrial area, where he attacked her again.

After a week-long search, her body was found at the bottom of a ditch, wrapped in black plastic bags.

Her remains bore signs of a brutal murder – her head and neck covered with at least 20 deep stab wounds. She is believed to have died on the night of 11 November.

Police issued an international arrest warrant and launched a massive manhunt for Filippo Turetta. His car was traced going through northern Italy, into Austria and then Germany.

A week later, he was arrested near Leipzig, in Germany, when a driver called the police after noticing that he was parked on the motorway with his lights off. The caller had no idea the 22-year-old was wanted for murder.

Filippo Turetta has so far not been formally charged, and will be extradited to Italy on Saturday.

Data from the Italian interior ministry shows that 106 women have so far been killed in Italy this year, 55 of them allegedly by a partner or ex-partner.

Giulia Cecchettin’s killing has sparked an unprecedented outpouring of grief and anger in Italy, where many women say patriarchal attitudes are entrenched.

Protests and vigils have been taking place across the country, and Italian newspapers have been consumed by the case.

More demonstrations are expected in several Italian cities on Saturday, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

Italy’s anti-violence and stalking hotline said calls had more than doubled in the past two days.

Italian women protesting against gender violence
Image caption,Women across Italy have protested against gender violence since Giulia Cecchettin’s death

Elisa Ercoli, director of Differenza Donna, a non-government organisation fighting gender-based violence, told the BBC that the killing was “the last straw, after a string of high-profile cases of femicides.”

“In Italy, a woman is killed every three days.”

She added that the reason most women endured violence was that their partner resented their independence.

“In a toxic relationship, the most unbearable thing for violent men is when women are more successful than them.”

Mr Turetta studied the same subject as Ms Cecchettin, but she was going to graduate before him.

“That empty desk on the day she should have gotten her diploma is a harrowing image”, Ms Ercoli said.

Ms Cecchettin and Mr Turetta met at university. They were together for a year and half, before she broke up with him in August.

“He was a normal boy, practically perfect,” his father Nicola Turetta said in an interview with Italian newspaper La Repubblica.

“He did well in school, he never had any problems with teachers or classmates. He never got into arguments with anybody.”

Ms Cecchettin’s sister Elena said she had been concerned about his possessiveness, but never imagined he could hurt her.

She pointed to a patriarchal culture of violence and control over women that normalises men’s dangerous behaviour.

“Filippo is often described as a monster, but he’s not a monster,” Elena told Italian media. “A monster is an exception, a person who’s outside society, a person for whom society doesn’t need to take responsibility.

“Monsters are healthy sons of the patriarchy and rape culture,” she added.

Italian PM Georgia Meloni
Image caption,Georgia Meloni has spoken out against misogynistic violence

Giorgia Meloni, Italy’s first female prime minister, has expressed outrage at the country’s long history of violence against women by partners and ex-partners.

She has promised a new educational campaign in schools to combat what she says is Italy’s still-pervasive culture of misogynistic violence.

“Italy is a deeply patriarchal country,” says Ms Ercoli. “It’s a backward society where women are still subordinate.”

More than 40% of Italian women aged 30 to 69 do not work, according to the Italian National Institute of Statistics (ISTAT), mostly because they are unable to juggle a job and taking care of their family.

“And while women have made big steps forward and are much more aware of their rights, men are still firmly anchored to the idea of a patriarchal relationship,” Ms Ercoli says.

She hopes that the outpouring of anger caused by Giulia Cecchettin’s death will trigger a profound change in Italian society.

The Italian Senate on Wednesday unanimously approved new legislation to strengthen measures against gender violence. They include stricter restraining orders and heightened surveillance on men found guilty of gender-based violence.

But critics say the government has not been doing enough to fight the country’s entrenched problem of gender-based violence amid a spate of femicides.

“It is often said ‘not all men’. But they are always men,” said Ms Cecchettin’s sister.

“It is the responsibility of men in this patriarchal society to call out friends and colleagues. Say something to that friend who controls his girlfriend, say something to that colleague who catcalls passers-by. These behaviours are accepted by society, and can be the prelude to femicide.”

Her words have been shared and reposted by countless Italian women.

Earlier this week, schools were asked to hold a minute’s silence in Ms Cecchettin’s memory.

But students at the University of Padua, where she studied, spent the minute making noise instead – clapping, reading poetry and singing.

They refused to be silent.

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