Day of the Dead: Remembering feminicide victims in Mexico
Feminicide or gender-based murdering of women is the ultimate manifestation of the continuum of violence against women, not a phenomenon that consists of isolated incidents. These violent acts are a serious violation of human rights linked to discrimination, patriarchal structures and high levels of impunity that are deeply rooted within societies and worsened by high levels of poverty.
Feminicide exists in all the countries and cultures of the world and it takes place in many forms and different contexts. In Latin America we can find five of the twelve countries with the highest rates of feminicide in the world. Mexico is among them.
In many societies, gender-related killing of women is the result of prolonged years of domestic abuse and torture by husbands or intimate partners. Women who are especially marginalized and who experience multiple forms of discrimination – whether it is based on race, ethnicity, sexual identity or other factors – are at higher risk of suffering violence against women, including feminicide. This is especially true, for instance, for many indigenous women around the world.
Discrimination is not only evident in the murders themselves, but also in the lack of reaction of the authorities to the disappearance of young women. The way in which the killings are investigated and the inadequate protection programs in place to prevent such murders are also examples of such discriminatory treatment. Furthermore, the vast majority of the women murdered or reported missing come from poor backgrounds, meaning that women suffer discrimination of two kinds: on the basis of both gender and social class.
In Mexico, the murders of women in Ciudad Juarez have received widespread attention. Ciudad Juarez, located in the state of Chihuahua in Mexico, is an industrialized border city with El Paso, Texas in United States. There, the reality of the violence that women and girls have been subjected to since 1993 is indeed harsh: there are various media reports that indicate that the numbers of female homicides range from hundreds to thousands. The cause of this difference in numbers is that the records of women homicide victims are not classified by authorities as “feminicide” or “gender-based murdering”, and the most accurate records are still kept by individuals, researchers and anti-feminicide activists, rather than by the police, the state or the federal institutions. As a consequence, it is currently impossible to know the true magnitude of this phenomenon.
It was in 1993 when family members of victims and activists first began to ring alarm bells of feminicide in Ciudad Juarez. Now, 20 years later, the crisis has spread virally throughout all the country. Today, feminicide is a latent problem in the states of Guerrero, Michoacán, Jalisco, Guanajuato, Oaxaca, Chiapas, Baja California, Veracruz, México City and most profoundly in México State, which now reports numbers of murders higher than those of the embattled state of Chihuahua.
Furthermore, the incompetence or altogether absent efforts of authorities to find people who are taken adds to the suffering of victim’s families, for whom not knowing what happened to their loved ones is a source of perpetual anguish. Nevertheless, the voices of the families of victims and their allies are not remaining silent. Instead, the demands for justice are multiplying and echoing louder. Very often, the mothers and other family members who have suffered the disappearance or feminicide of a loved one are treated and portrayed solely as victims by authorities and the media. However, many of these “victims” are now assuming the roles of anti-feminicide activists and human rights defenders, becoming leaders of social movements and campaigns for justice. This change is not always easy; sometimes the family members may lose access to basic social services such as healthcare and childcare, due to the death of the women who had these services registered under their names. The family members are confronted to costly and emotionally hard battles to regain the lost benefits. Making matters even worse for these family members who take a huge risk by documenting the grave abuses.
In early years, the authorities refused to act on a missing person’s report until several days had passed. They justified this delay on the grounds of saying that a woman might have gone off with her boyfriend without informing her family and that most probably she would turn up safe and sound. Such delays to start investigations and legal formalities constitute an integral part of the negligence of the state, which used to refuse recognizing and addressing the implications of the pattern of kidnapping and murdering young women.
Today, the authorities no longer display a lack of interest in their public discourse. As a result of national and international pressure, they know that a lack of response in the abductions and murders is in question and will have a political cost. However, the lack of results of the state and federal government authorities and agencies over the past years has justifiably caused the relatives and society to be skeptical.
In conclusion, the authorities of Mexico have shown incompetence and corruption in the investigation and prosecution of those responsible for crimes against women. Most importantly, the Mexican government has failed to provide information and support to the families of the victims over the last years, showing indifference and lack of sensibility. In addition, they have shown a discriminatory attitude towards the victims and their relatives, who lack the economic and political power to ensure that justice is effectively used on their behalf.
Therefore, from The Netherlands we raise a strong complaint to Mexican government and we urgently demand solution and justice to women murders and abductions accumulated over the years.