Women march for equality in New York on Jan 19. [WANG YING/XINHUA]

France unveiled Monday new measures to combat violence against women by their partners or ex-partners, seeking to toughen up the law as concerns mount over the number of women killed in the country.


Prime Minister Edouard Philippe made the announcements on the UN-backed International Day for Eliminating Violence against Women, two days after tens of thousands of people took to the streets across France in a show of solidarity.


Growing anger over the failures in Europe and globally to make progress ending the horrendous annual toll has pressured governments to begin to take action, though activists warned that far more needs to be done.


Expressing hope that the plan would prove an "electric shock", Philippe said the measures would seek to broaden the definition of violence, including how harassment can lead to suicide.


Since the start of 2019, at least 117 women have been killed by their partner or former partner in France, according to a case-by-case study by AFP based on media reports.


The figure shows no improving trend -- last year, 121 women died in what are increasingly termed femicides, to underscore the fact the victims were killed because they were female.


An additional 213,000 women in France are victims of physical or sexual violence on the part of their partner or ex-partner, according to the latest official figures.


The announcements by Philippe focused on ending what he described as "absurdities" and "dysfunctional aspects" in the law to ensure that women would be better protected.




Women hold placards as they march against domestic violence in Paris on Saturday. The placard in the center reads "sick of rape". Thibault Camus / Associated Press

The notion of psychological "entrapment" would now be written into the law as this can also lead to violence, he told reporters in Paris.


And in a measure that has been widely called for, Philippe said that the rules covering medical confidentiality would be changed to make it easier for doctors to signal to the authorities when a person is at risk of violence.


Philippe also pledged to seize firearms from abusive spouses and better train police as part of a package of measures, worth millions of euros, to reduce the number of women killed by their partners.


Other measures include the creation of 1,000 new places in shelters for victims of domestic violence and expanding the use of electronic bracelets to prevent offenders approaching their victims.


He said that the new measures would be inscribed in a bill to be presented to the French parliament in January, and that the plans would benefit from 360 million euros of annual funding.


Tens of thousands of people demonstrated in France on Saturday in actions organised by the feminist group #NousToutes (All of Us) to demand an end to violence against women.


But while welcoming the proposed tightening of laws, feminist advocates regretted the lack of more concrete help.


"The government has missed the target," said Caroline De Haas of #NousToutes.


The head of the Foundation of Women, Anne-Cecile Mailfert, said the government was not offering more help to the associations which are increasingly being approached by victims of domestic violence.


Equality Minister Marlene Schiappa vowed in an interview with the Figaro newspaper that funds would be available for all the new measures, while emphasising that the "fight against marital violence is not just a question of money".


Indicating the scale of the problem across Europe, the German government said Monday that 122 women were killed in femicide crimes in 2018, down from 147 the previous year.


But the number of women who reported being victims of violence in Germany increased to 114,393 last year from 113,965.


And in a rare move, global police cooperation organisation Interpol launched an international appeal on Monday to find eight men suspected of murdering or committing violence against women.


In 2017, some 87,000 women and girls were murdered worldwide, according to a 2018 report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC).





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