I’ve written how mothers are venerated here in Mexico. I’ve written about how the Virgen Maria de Guadalupe, the ultimate mother, has played a key part in the independence of Mexico. However I’ve also written about the hissing and booing of Malinche in Mexican history, and here is where the juxtaposition of femicide in Mexico begins. Femicide is defined as the killing of women by males because they are female. As opposed to homicide, femicide is linked closely with sexual violence enacted to punish, blame and control the actions, emotions and behavior of women. It is the most common crime in the world and has the highest level of impunity for perpetrators. It’s hard to even find reliable statistics for Mexico since murders are covered up, bodies are never identified, disappearances remain unreported, and justice is sorely lacking. It is estimated that an average of 6-7 women per day is murdered in Mexico. Perhaps that doesn’t sound like very many, but 6 per day is 42 per week, 180 per month, 2190 per year. That’s two thousand one hundred and ninety daughters, mothers, and sisters every year. In some Mexican states, femicide rates are 15 times higher than the global average. With the death rate so high, it comes as no surprise that 63 percent of Mexican women over the age of 15 have experienced some form of gender violence, although 95 percent of the aggressors have never been held accountable in the court of law.
To understand these staggering figures, it’s necessary to look at the nature of femicide itself and the underlying cultural of machismo in Mexico. I’m not going to write a dissertation about it, but suffice it to say that femicide is considered acceptable in many segments of Mexican society. Women are considered expendable as demonstrated by the low number of murders actually brought to justice. During 2012-2013, 3,892 women were classified as victims of femicide. Of that number, only 24 percent of the crimes were investigated and only 1.6 percent led to sentencing.
This idea of expendability was further reinforced culturally with the implementation of NAFTA. The factories that have sprung up at the border (maquiladoras) hire mostly lower wage earning young women. These working women have left the relative safety of their hometowns and family circles in order to work at the border town sweat shops and have become easy prey for unprovoked violence by strangers. Men who have been denied work because of their higher-wage earning gender seek out to harm these women to prove their macho-ness.
Not only strangers but husbands and boyfriends have also been unmanned with the economic shift. This shift directly challenges the cultural idea of Marianismo (relating to the Virgin Maria) found in Mexico. It comes as no surprise that domestic violence is on the rise when these traditional gender roles are challenged.
In one such border town, Ciudad Juarez, over it is estimated that 700 women have disappeared and more than 360 more killed. The majority of these victims are young women, many workers in the maquiladoras, and have been sexually assaulted before their death. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights found the state complicity guilty of these deaths in 2009 because so few were ever even investigated much less documented adequately. Ciudad Juarez was previously sanctioned by the National Human Rights Commission for gross irregularities and general negligence including the misidentification of corpses, lack of expert forensic evidence, failure to conduct autopsies or obtain semen samples, failure to file reports and incompetent record keeping when it came to female victims.
One important differentiation between femicide and homicide is that the murder is committed by someone who takes advantage of his elevated social of physical power over a woman. There are countless known examples of the authorities in Mexico abusing their social position and power. Some femicides are believed to be related to the powerful drug cartels, found in Ciudad Juarez and other areas of Mexico. Prostitution rings and human trafficking are real dangers for women in Mexico.
In the State of Mexico, while now President Peña Nieto was governor of the state, at least 1,997 women were murdered. One particularly horrifying incident of abuses done to women by those in power occurred in 2006 when Mexican troops were called in, by Governor Peña Nieto, to end the protestations of local flower sellers in a community near the capital. In San Salvador Atenco, at least 11 women were detained by police and transported to a holding facility. They were raped and beaten and denied medical treatment for days. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) investigation of the matter found that the state government (under Peña Nieto) attempted to minimize the crimes. Instead of prosecuting the officers involved, the state arrested 5 of the women, having them serve more than a year in prison for blocking traffic during the initial flower seller protest. Within a culture where those in power can do as they wish to women with consequence, it is no wonder femicide is rampant in Mexico.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) investigation of the matter found that the state government (under Peña Nieto) attempted to minimize the crimes. Instead of prosecuting the officers involved, the state arrested 5 of the women, having them serve more than a year in prison for blocking traffic during the initial flower seller protest. Within a culture where those in power can do as they wish to women with consequence, it is no wonder femicide is rampant in Mexico.
Quintana Roo has one of the highest human trafficking rates in Mexico. In 2005, reporter Lydia Cacho pointed fingers and named names of high-profile businessmen in Cancun and their involvement in child pornography and prostitution rings. In yet another power play by authorities, she was subsequently arrested for defamation of character, tortured and threatened with rape in an attempt to silence her.
The Ni Una Mas (not one more) social movement in Mexico was originally organized to raise awareness for the violence against women in Ciudad Juarez. Since its initial formation, it has grown to include a variety of domestic and international organizations, all with the idea that not one more woman will disappear, not one more woman will be abused, not one more woman will be murdered.
On September 3, 2016, a representative group passed through Moroleon on their way to the state capital in order to ask the governor to better address the local situation. While violence against women is not as staggering in the state of Guanajuato in comparison to those areas previously mentioned, in 2015 there were 45 murders classified as femicide in the state with 13 of these occurring in the city of Leon. Only 13 arrests have been made in the 45 wrongful deaths and to date, not one conviction.
A study conducted in 2011 by ENDIREH reported that over 38% of women 15 years old or more have been victims of some sort of emotional, economic, physical or sexual violence in the state. In 2012, and 2013, there were 1034 reported rapes in Guanajuato. In 2012, there were 65-68 murders classified as femicide. Thus, this international issue is also a local issue. (See also En cuatro años, aumenta 974% desaparición de mujeres adolescentes: Redim)
Mothers, sisters, brothers, husbands, fathers, sons and daughters have taken up the pink cross in their march for justice in Moroleon, in Guanajuato, in Mexico, and in Latin America.
Ni Una Mas!