Rome (AFP) - Italian police on Friday launched a campaign to reduce the murder rate against women, which has remained stubbornly high despite a decline in the total number of homicides over recent years.
Entitled "This is not love", the campaign was launched on the eve of the UN-backed International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.
Italy recorded 149 female murder victims last year, barely changed from the 150 recorded in 2007.Femicides now account for 37 percent of the total compared to 24 percent a decade ago.
Not all killings of women are motivated by the victim's gender, but sexual assaults and domestic violence are key elements in the overall picture.
And official figures on these type of crimes represent only the tip of the iceberg.
Female victims often hesitate to file charges "for fear of being judged" or "because they are ashamed to reveal details of their intimate lives," according to a new booklet containing revised guidelines for forces dealing with crimes of violence against women.
The guidelines include new requirements for registering reports of domestic violence, designed to ensure incidents that don't necessarily lead to charges being pressed are kept on file.
"It is not enough to apply the law, we also have to assure women (making complaints) are welcomed, informed and supported in a way that enables them to escape the conditions of subservience and isolation they sometimes find themselves in," notes national police chief Franco Gabrielli.
The material to be delivered to forces around the country includes testimony from officers specialised in dealing with the victims of domestic violence.
"I'll never forget the faces of the women I've had in my office over the years, and above all their voices when they've told me they feel responsible for what has happened to them," recounts Rosaria Maida, a deputy police commissioner in Palermo, Sicily.
Instances of acid attacks by spurned lovers and other examples of violence against women are covered prominently by the Italian media and often cited as evidence of an unreconstructed macho culture in the country.
Official figures do not indicate that women are more at risk of attack in Italy than elsewhere but campaigners on the issue say this could partly reflect under-reporting of crimes linked to a culture of victim-shaming.