Greek women, confronted with the macho culture that fuels feminicides

In June, a videoconference meeting of a group of Greek coastguards began with jokes about femicide, with one participant jokingly referring to a recent crime.

“I said to my wife, ‘You better behave yourself or I’m going to get a pilot’s license.’ And she froze!” said one of the officers, referring to a helicopter pilot who killed his wife last May.

In the video, which was leaked this month by a news portal, another participant replies, “That’s how they’re taught, my friend.”

Another of the officers at the meeting scoffs, “Don’t all the girls want to marry pilots?”

The men laughed at the crime of British citizen Caroline Crouch being murdered by her husband, Babis Anagnostopoulos, in his sleep.

For a month he tried to claim they were victims of a robbery before confessing to a crime that sparked outrage in Greece.

Crouch’s death was one of dozens of repeated cases in Greece in recent years, including the gruesome rape and subsequent murder of American scientist Suzanne Eaton on the island of Crete in 2019.

On average, Greece registers 11 femicides a year, Undersecretary for Gender Equality Maria Syrengela told parliament in January.

The official added that a women’s helpline received 7,000 calls last year.

The belated awakening of the #MeToo movement in Greece has revealed the abuse suffered by many women in the country.

But Greek activists say the conservative country has yet to dismantle patriarchal attitudes that drive violence against women, with many calling for the criminalization of femicide.

Macho culture has deep roots in Greece, say Eleftheria Koumandou and Eleonora Orfanidou, co-hosts of an award-winning radio show that tackles issues such as misogyny and homophobia.

“A young woman in Greece has to deal with centuries of tradition,” Orfanidou told AFP.

“Greek education, the Church and justice are conservative institutions built on the patriarchal model,” he added.

Koumandou said his mother had given up her studies in dentistry so as not to “offend” her husband, who was a specialized marble worker and told him that women “shouldn’t talk a lot”.

“We are taught not to show too much intelligence,” Orfanidou said.

Greece granted women the right to vote in 1952 and in 2020 elected the first female head of state.

But the current conservative government of Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis has just two female ministers in a 21-seat cabinet.

Until a few decades ago, it was not uncommon to see battered women in Greek cinema, sometimes in a comical tone, and the so-called “honour killings” due to jealousy or adultery are present in popular songs.

“In my school dance group, a traditional song about a man dismembering his wife and then mourning her departure was one of our favorites,” Orfanidou recalls.

Many films from the 1950s and 1970s that are still shown on television promote the bourgeois family model with a male head of household, explains Fotini Tsibiridou, a socio-anthropologist at the University of Macedonia.

The lyrics of a song from the 1960s say: “I want to be stroked and beaten by the man I love.

Contemporary soap operas and advertisements are full of “gender references and stereotypes”, Tsibiridou said.

“For example, you’re not going to see a man buying or using household cleaning products,” he explained.

Various critical sectors have denounced that the law penalizes victims of domestic violence, providing for less severe sentences for those responsible if they prove that they were in a state of “agitation” when they committed the crime.

Being able to prove what the penal code establishes as “a fit of rage” can mean the difference between a life sentence and a reduced sentence.

It was the defense strategy used by the lawyer for Crouch’s husband, who told reporters that his client “was in a psychological state of turmoil” and that he had committed the crime “in the heat of passion. “.

Days after a Coastguard video mocking Crouch’s death was leaked, an unnamed source from the ministry that regulates shipping condemned the comments. There was no official statement.

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