Belgrade, 17 May 2021 Between June 2017 and June 2020, 84 women were killed in Serbia, and one out of five killings of women (femicides) were committed with firearms, reveals the Analysis of Femicide Cases Committed with Firearms, conducted by Autonomous Women's Centre with support from the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP).

The analysis, published in anticipation of the national Day of Remembrance for Women Victims of Violence[1], relies on media reports, as the only publicly available information source that may, to an extent, provide an insight into the characteristics of femicide cases, as well as risk factors indicating the likelihood of fatal outcome of violence against women.

The Analysis of Femicide Cases Committed with Firearms confirms that firearms misuse for domestic violence increases the risk of tragic outcomes. Due to firearms’ lethal power, there is a high probability of a fatal outcome and injuries with long-lasting consequences, such as disabilities. Moreover, as violence against women usually occurs in private spaces, victims have fewer opportunities to avoid assaults. The very presence of a firearm at home and fear that it may be misused precludes women from reporting violence to institutions, and witnesses from providing assistance to victims.

The hazards of firearms misuse in domestic violence are also recognised by the Law on the Prevention of Domestic Violence, which requires the competent authorities – the police, prosecutors’ offices and centres for social work to assess the risk of repeated and escalating violence, and weapon ownership by the perpetrator is specified as one of the factors to consider.

Given that the number of femicides is not decreasing despite the fact that Serbia has improved its laws and strategies geared towards violence prevention and firearms misuse reduction and control, as well as institutional practices in fighting domestic violence, the key recommendation provided in the analysis is to establish a body for monitoring femicide cases.

This body should collect data on characteristics of femicides and circumstances leading up to those cases, as well as on whether and how efficiently and adequately institutions responded, whether the laws are effective, in order to develop measures and practices to contribute to timely recognition of danger, thus preventing tragic outcomes of violence against women. The establishment of such a body is also recommended by the UN Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women, and the need for its introduction is also stressed in the recently adopted Strategy for Preventing and Combating Gender-based Violence against Women and Domestic Violence 2021–2025.

In the observed period, the media reported on 52 domestic violence cases involving the misuse of or threat with firearms: 19 femicides with firearms, 19 attempted femicides and 14 cases of domestic violence against women involving threats with firearms.

Almost 95% of the analysed cases of femicide with firearms were committed in intimate partner relationships. The majority of the women killed were aged between 46 and 55, and most perpetrators were men aged 46 to 55, as well as those aged over 65.

As regards the firearms concerned, information from the media shows that most femicides were committed with a pistol, and in almost one third of the cases, the weapon was legally owned by the perpetrator. In four cases, perpetrators had access to firearms based on their security-related work, for instance a farmland warden, game warden or police officer, and misused their positions to commit violence.

The victim being stalked and followed by the abuser (26% of the cases), victim's fear of the abuser or of being killed (47% of the cases), abuser’s jealousy (63% of the cases) and victim leaving the abuser (68% of the cases) were identified as high-risk factors that could lead to femicide, especially if the perpetrator has access to firearms.

Almost two thirds of the femicides recorded were committed in private spaces, and one out of three cases took place in public, with several witnesses in the immediate vicinity. Twice as many femicides were committed in urban areas as in rural ones.

In the absence of publicly available institutional data on the number of femicides and circumstances leading up to them, it is difficult to conclude how many of the violence cases had been reported to institutions previously. According to media reports, in one out of four femicide cases, people associating with the perpetrator and victim could have known that the perpetrator had a firearm since his job entailed access to and carrying a firearm, or he possessed a firearm for hobby purposes.

The analysis was conducted under the project Reduce Risk, Increase Safety – Towards Ending SALW Misuse in Domestic Violence Context, implemented by the UNDP with financial support from the German Federal Foreign Office. 

[1] The Government of the Republic of Serbia proclaimed 18 May the Day of Remembrance for Women Victims of Violence in 2017, at the initiative of the Women Against Violence Network. The initiative was launched in reaction to crimes committed in 2015, when seven women were killed by their spouses and family members in Velika Plana, Kanjiža, Čačak and Belgrade between 16 and 18 May.

 

 

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