8:10 p.m., April 2, 2022
Here is the forum of Antoine Vey, lawyer at the bars of Paris and Geneva: At first sight, the idea of recognizing a new offense which would basically only be the feminization of the word “homicide” seems absurd, and what is more is contrary to the principle according to which the human race being indivisible, the law does not operate no distinction according to whether the victim of a murder is a man or a woman. The sociological phenomenon is however undeniable. In 2020, 102 women died in the context of violence within the couple, which does not fail to fuel a political discourse which now brandishes this term as the banner of its supposed fight against violence against women. On the strict legal ground, however, French criminal law, like all European legislation, does not recognize the crime of “feminicide”.
A certain number of legal experiences have led me to gradually overcome my initial feelings. Henceforth, the legal recognition of this concept seems to me not only justified, but necessary.
Read also – Murder of Bouchra Bouali: how the Epinay-sur-Seine feminicide could have been avoided
First, contrary to what I have long believed, “feminicide” is not the female counterpart of homicide. It differs from “classic” murder by at least two criteria. The first, obvious, is that it is committed by a man on a woman. The second, more essential, is that it intervenes in a specific context: a relationship where the victim finds himself, due to particular circumstances, in a state of weakness in relation to the author of the crime. This is not the case with all murders, but it is often the case with murders committed in a marital context.
The question posed to the judges and jurors would be to know whether, at the time of the murder, the victim was vis-à-vis the author in a particular state of dependence
This specificity is often highlighted before the assize courts. It can be characterized for example by the existence of violence, physical or verbal, prior to the homicide, by the maternal bond with children residing under the same roof as the perpetrator of the crime, or by economic dependence… This state of weakness can be objectified, it weakens the victim and makes the crime both easier and more serious.
The legal recognition of “feminicide” could go through the addition of an additional criterion to murder, just as premeditation makes it possible to qualify assassination. The question put to judges and jurors would be whether, at the time of the murder, the victim was in a particular state of dependence on the perpetrator resulting from criteria which would be fixed by law and clarified by the case law. In the absence of this characterization, the situation would be repressed under the qualification of murder, even if the victim is a woman. But the existence of this independent incrimination would offer an additional legal option to allow judges to better qualify and, if necessary, better sanction the factual situation they have to deal with.
By recognizing this autonomous offence, the law would more effectively ensure its prophylactic function.
Thus defined, “feminicide” would render inoperative, in the majority of cases, the two aggravating circumstances currently provided for by the Penal Code, that of “murder of a spouse” and that of “murder committed on grounds of sex”, which would in fact be encompassed by the new offence. Basically, the author does not kill because his victim is a woman, and no more because she is his spouse, he kills because of a particular context and the pathological link which unites him to his victim, as would consider the new legal criterion.
By recognizing this autonomous offence, the law would more effectively perform its prophylactic function. She would simply say that the fact for a man to kill a woman, placed in relation to him in a position of weakness, is more serious than a murder committed outside this circumstance. And basically, the resistances in principle that can be opposed seem subsidiary to the impact that this innovation would have both on the symbolic ground and on the judicial level.