(CNN)On January 1, three women were killed in France, each allegedly by a partner or ex-partner, in what feminist campaigners described as an "unbearable" start to another year's tally of violence.
Three women brutally killed in one day in France, in 'unbearable' start to new year
France is just one of many countries grappling with what the United Nations has called a global shadow pandemic of violence against women, exacerbated by Covid-19 lockdowns which saw women confined at home with their abusers, increased financial pressures for many and limited access to support.
It has seen people take to the streets over the past year in protest over the brutal deaths of women -- and in some cases, their children -- at the hands of their current or former partners.
The New Year's Day killings in France shocked many and prompted a renewed call for tougher action against those who commit violence against women and girls. Speaking to CNN, Marylie Breuil, spokesperson for Nous Toutes, a French feminist campaign group, said that although the killings were "shocking," campaigners in the country were sadly "not surprised" by the turn of events. "Violence doesn't stop with the New Year," she said.
According to police, a 56-year-old woman was found dead with a knife in her chest in Labry, in the country's northeast, after officers were called to reports of a domestic disturbance on January 1. A man has been placed under formal investigation for the crime of "murder of a partner."
In the second case, a 28-year-old female military recruit was found stabbed to death near Saumur in western France, according to the town's prosecutor. A 21-year-old man, a soldier, was detained in relation to her death; investigators suspect a possible killing by her partner.
Then, the body of a 45-year-old woman was found in the trunk of a car in Nice. She had been strangled, according to Maud Marty, deputy prosecutor in the southern city. Prosecutors have launched formal investigations for manslaughter and intentional homicide against her ex-husband, 60.
Across Europe, cases of violence against women are stoking growing outrage. In Greece, where 17 femicides were recorded in 2021 according to public broadcaster ERT, the government was criticized for rejecting an opposition amendment that would have established institutional recognition of the term femicide. In November, after a 48-year-old woman was stabbed 23 times by her husband in Thessaloniki, opposition leader Alexis Tsipras posted on Facebook: "There should be no political disputes when we dramatically experience the effects of gender based violence on a daily basis."
In the United Kingdom, following the March kidnap and murder of 33-year-old Sarah Everard by a serving male police officer, and a heavy-handed police crackdown on a vigil in her memory, activists criticized what they say is a culture of misogyny within policing.
Meanwhile, in comments broadcast in December, Pope Francis said that men who commit violence against women engage in something that is "almost satanic." Police figures released in Italy in November showed that there were about 90 episodes of violence against women in the country every day and that 62% were cases of domestic violence.
In France, after news of the first two deaths emerged on January 1, Nous Toutes called on French President Emmanuel Macron to act, tweeting that "to start this count again is unbearable."
The killings are "indicative of the current climate in France and the impunity of aggressors," Breuil said, highlighting the fact that one of the three women had complained to the police about her alleged aggressor. Statistics from a French Ministry of Justice report in 2019 showed that 65% of women killed made contact with the police before their murder.
"We realize that 65% of these women could have been saved if things had been handled correctly, if their complaints were taken up, if we had listened to these women," Breuil stressed.
The French government was quick to condemn the January 1 killings, with Equality Minister Elisabeth Moreno tweeting that she lamented the violent deaths and felt for the victims' children and other bereaved relatives. The police, magistrates, health services and other bodies are "constantly mobilized" to fight against "this scourge," she said. The campaigners, however, remain unimpressed with the government's response to the tragedies.
"Following the three femicides that took place within 24 hours in France the only thing that was done was the minister of equality went to discuss with the associations," Breuil said.
This is not the first time the French government has come under fire for its handling of domestic violence.