Translated by Helen Robertshaw
(lHumainte) The young woman, victim of a jilted suitor who attempted to burn her alive in 2005, hopes that her trial will draw attention to violence against women.

In front of Seine-Saint-Denis court, Shérazade Belayni – who was nearly burned alive in November 2005 by a young Pakistani man whom she refused to marry – said that above all she hoped this trial would be an opportunity “to listen to what her attacker has to say”, and “hear the reasons why he did what he did”.

The young woman also said she expected legal proceedings to result in “a harsh sentence (…) that would punish a murder attempt committed in dreadful conditions” and would stand as “a symbol in the fight to stop violence against women”. This demand was welcomed by Ernestine Ronai, head of the Observatory for Violence Against Women in Seine-Saint-Denis.

“Every trial dealing with this kind of tragedy helps us appreciate the danger that violent men present to society as a whole, regardless of the attacker’s methods. It’s important for everyone to understand that a woman who suffers violence at the hands of her partner is in danger. All police investigations today indicate an increase in the number of these homicides. This doesn’t mean there are more of them but that, finally, we’re starting to count and record them properly.”
Increasing numbers of complaints

Indeed, it is only in the last three years that accurate statistics – compiled by the National Crime Observatory (OND) – have been available for such crimes. The figures show that in France one woman dies every other day at the hands of a violent partner or ex-partner.

For Ronai, the new and interesting phenomenon is that women are more willing to report domestic violence. “The effect of this has been a 31% increase in complaints in France as a whole and an 87% increase in Seine-Saint-Denis, over a period of three years. The OND specified that violence is not more prevalent in our area but the levels of awareness, support and help from residents, professionals and the police are greater than elsewhere and so the figures are closer to reality.”
“The social cost of violence”

The specialist says this discrepancy shows there is still a great deal of progress to be made and work must continue. The speech on January 19 by Michèle Alliot-Marie – who, under the pretext of favouring prevention, appeared to invite the police to lower the figures for intrafamilial violence in order to have the satisfaction of announcing a future drop in violent crime – caused some concern to Ronai. Especially as the statistics only include homicides, whereas attempted murders and their tragic consequences remain unknown territory. How many women are left mutilated or disabled for life after being assaulted by their partner or former partner ?

Ronai commented : “This violence has a high social cost : women who are paralysed or lose the use of a part of their body(…)If we want society to do something about this situation and wake up to the danger, the statistics must reflect these facts. We must continue to encourage women to report incidents and provide better protection for them.”

Dany Stive