Croatia is set to introduce tougher measures to fight violence against women, including recognising the crime of femicide in its criminal code - a measure that’s still rare across Europe.
Croatia announced this week a new bill which will introduce femicide into the country’s criminal code and impose longer prison terms for rape.
Croatia’s Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic called it “the most extensive and perhaps the most significant changes so far” aimed at tackling violence against women and children in the country.
“The proposed measures are a confirmation of what we keep repeating – the political will to fight violence against women exists. It is unquestionable, constant, ethical, and it is our value system,” Plenkovic said during a meeting with representatives of institutions and citizens’ associations in Zagreb on Wednesday.
The amendments to the existing laws suggested by the government will be released to the public for consultation by the end of next week. Ideally, they should come into force by January 2024.
As part of the new measure, Croatia will introduce the crime of femicide into its criminal code making it a standalone offence punishable with a prison sentence that will start from 10 years and could possibly be longer.
At the same time, the country will be exacerbating punishment for rapists, with prison sentences being increased from a range of 1 to 5 years to a range of 3 to 8 years.
The most serious cases will be punished with prison sentences from 5 to 12 years, up from the previous sentences of 3 to 10 years.
The new Criminal Procedure Act will also give victims of rape, domestic and sexual abuse, intimidation, or any type of gender-based violence more power in legal procedures against their abusers. The courts will be forced to take into consideration a woman’s statement on the danger to her safety when deciding on restraining orders.
Victims will also be informed about the release of their abusers.
Femicide is defined by the United Nations as the intentional killing of women and girls because of their gender. According to the agency, most femicides are committed by men, and particularly men who are close to the victims - like family members, partners, or ex-partners.
In 2021, 14 women were killed in Croatia, 11 of whom murdered by their partners. The total population in Croatia is about 3.8 million, as of 2021 data.
After 3 gruesome femicides in January 2022, the leaders of the Croatian opposition called in February for the crime of femicide to be enshrined into the country’s law.
Only two European countries currently recognise it as a crime in its own right - Cyprus and Malta.
Activists and experts agree that the recognition of femicide into law would help governments collect accurate data on the crime, which could in turn help authorities tackle the rampant problem.