Roughly two women are killed in Belgium each month purely by virtue of the fact that they are women, a recent study by the advocacy group Stop Feminicide has found.
The study found that at least 183 femicides have been committed in Belgium since 2017, including 24 murders last year and 3 earlier this year.
"Counting makes it possible to measure the phenomenon, and therefore to better prevent and combat it," explained Stop Feminicide coordinator Aline Dirkx. She added that the killings "are not just random facts, but fall on a continuum of a system of oppression that is legitimised and reproduced by society."
Although the study noted that the victims varied widely in age, socioeconomic background, and overall profile, it also discovered that in the overwhelming majority of cases the murderer was the victim's current or former lover, and that domestic violence is often a precursor to the eventual killing.
"A large majority of femicides are 'intimate' femicides," Dirkx explained. "Nine out of ten are femicides committed by a partner or ex-partner. Very frequently, domestic violence has already been reported before the facts. For example, for the second-most recently recorded femicide, there were seven police reports against the perpetrator for domestic violence."
"There is [often] great ferocity discernible upon the bodies of the victims, with a lot of blows inflicted," she explained. "For example, a woman was stabbed and strangled before having her heart ripped out. Candice was killed with a knife and an axe, along with her children. Sara and her children were set on fire. Heidi was killed with a sword in front of her little daughter's eyes."
Addressing the problem
In a separate interview with Le Soir, French historian Christelle Taraud suggested that, ultimately, the only way to address the problem of femicides is to inculcate children with fundamentally different attitudes concerning the role of women in contemporary society.
"The big project is to educate the children of tomorrow with radically different values," Taraud explained. "For us, it's almost too late ... We need a real big egalitarian project. There's nothing else we can do."
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She added: "We must understand that the society in which we have lived until today is an appalling society from the point of view of relations between men and women... If we want to go down in history as a civilised society, we must have as a political project the end of the patriarchy and [aim for] our societies turn to their backs on hegemonic masculinity. It is much more difficult than passing a law, but it is our only possible future."