Student’s murder highlights violence against women in Italy

By Alvise Armellini

ROME (Reuters) -The killing of a university student and the arrest of her ex-boyfriend have highlighted the issue of violence against women in Italy, with Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni vowing to step up protections and raise public awareness.

The body of Giulia Cecchettin, a 22-year-old from a small town near Venice, was found on Saturday dumped near a lake, with multiple stab wounds. She had been missing for a week after going out with her former partner Filippo Turetta.

Cecchettin’s sister said the couple had broken up but had gone shopping together to buy a dress for her Nov. 16 graduation ceremony before they disappeared. Turetta was arrested on a motorway in eastern Germany in a broken down car late on Saturday, and is awaiting extradition.

German police in the state of Sachsen-Anhalt said he is wanted in Italy and has been held in custody.

Venice chief prosecutor Bruno Cerchi said in a statement quoted by Italian media that Turetta would initially be accused of voluntary manslaughter and kidnapping, but charges could be modified once his car has been searched and he has been questioned.

The suspect’s defence lawyer has told Italian media that Turetta will not oppose his extradition.

The case has dominated the media and politics.

“We all hoped in recent days that Giulia was alive. Unfortunately, our greatest fears have come true,” Meloni wrote on social platform X, formerly Twitter.

“Every single woman killed because she is ‘guilty’ of being free is an aberration that cannot be tolerated and that pushes me to continue on the path taken to stop this barbarism,” added Meloni, Italy’s first woman prime minister.

She said Italy’s upper house was due to start voting on Wednesday on a bill that expands protection measures for women at risk, and announced a public awareness campaign against femicides.

Demonstrations are expected in Rome and other Italian cities on Saturday to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

As of Nov. 12, 102 women have been killed this year in Italy, including 53 by their partner or former partner, according to interior ministry figures. This compares with 51 killed by their partner or ex in the same period of 2022, and around 70 in both 2021 and 2020.

Italy’s main opposition Democratic Party also has a woman leader, Elly Schlein, who has called for bipartisan efforts against violence against women.

In particular, Schlein has proposed a law introducing lessons on respect and person relations in all schools, in order “to eradicate the toxic patriarchal culture of possession and control over women’s bodies and lives”.

(Additional reporting by Keith Weir, editing by Andrew Heavens and Ed Osmond)