Femicide: Outrage in Italy as TV host asks if women at fault

Italian presenter claims her shock remarks were "extrapolated".

A television journalist has sparked outrage in Italy after suggesting that a recent spate of killings of women could have been provoked by the "exasperating" victims.

"In the last seven days there have been seven women killed allegedly by seven men," Barbara Palombelli, host of the Forum programme on Rete 4, said on Thursday's edition of the show.

"Sometimes it's also legitimate to ask: were these men completely out of their minds, completely confused, or was there also exasperating and aggressive behaviour on the other side as well?" she asked.

Her comments have sparked outrage on social media and have been condemned strongly by politicians and women's rights groups.

"When the media claim that a femicide can be the effect of the victim's behaviour, we are victim blaming, which is precisely one of the causes of femicides and the lack of adequate sanctions and laws," wrote Amnesty Italia on Twitter, alongside the hashtag #palombelli.

"How can you say that if a woman is murdered by her partner, perhaps it is also because of her?" - said Antonella Veltri, president of DiRe, the national network of anti-violence centres - "Palombelli's remarks are a disgrace to women who seek the strength to report [violence] and an offence to those working every day against gender-based violence.”

Political reaction

"Violence against women is never justified," said equalities minister Elena Bonetti, describing it as an "abhorrent and unacceptable scourge that is still all too present in our country."

Palombelli's remarks are "very serious" - said youth policies minister Fabiana Dadone - "they are offensive to all women."

Patrizia Cadau, a Movimento 5 Stelle councillor in Oristano and a survivor of domestic violence, republished a picture of her beaten, bloodied face with the message:

"Dear Barbara Palombelli, this is me in the photo, and I would like to point out immediately that no, I did not go looking for it, I have never, never, ever been aggressive, [and] that I have never been an exasperating woman."

Cadau accused Palombelli of being "part of the problem", posing the rhetorical question to the journalist: “Have you ever felt the barrel of a gun pressed to your head or mouth?"

Barbara Palombelli

Responding to the growing controversy last night, Palombelli distanced herself from the remarks on Italian television show Quarto grado, saying that her words were "extrapolated" and used for an "avalanche of attacks" against her.

"I have always been on the front line against violence against women" - she said - "There is no justification for a femicide."

Femicide, or feminicide, commonly refers to the killing of a girl or woman by a partner or family member.

There have been 83 women killed in Italy so far this year, according to the interior ministry, with more than half killed by their current or former husbands or boyfriends.

91 women were killed in Italy in the first 10 months of 2020, according to the EU research agency Eures which equated the figure to one woman killed every three days.