Femicide- a sex-based hate crime, broadly defined as “the intentional killing of females because they are females”, is, sadly a daily occurrence in Mexico. Just as one of thousands of cases. In February 9th, 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla was found brutally murdered, skinned and disemboweled by her 46-year-old domestic partner. To make matters worse, a newspaper published leaked photos of Ingrid’s mutilated body on the front page of the daily news; this called anger of thousands more people for media morality in the cases of femicide. Now the protesters including feminist activists, are not only protesting for women’s human rights, but also for media morality. 

Only a week after Ingrid’s death, 7 year old Fátima Aldrighett’s body was found inside a plastic bag in southern Mexico City, four days after she was abducted outside her Xochimilco primary school. She was last seen by a surveillance camera outside her school capturing her with an unknown woman.

These cases triggered an outpouring of anger and condemnation as well as questioning the media morality. An increased number of protests are now set off in the streets, in front of the governor’s office, and in front of the newspaper that published this story. These protesters demand reformation of the justice system regarding the investigations on femicide cases, for authorities to take stronger actions on sex hatred discrimination, and last but not least, for women’s very basic human rights. The protests also accused President López Obrador of minimizing the problem and said that Sonora Governor Claudia Pavlovich has refused to activate the gender violence alert – activating a series of measures to address violence against women, despite an increase in femicides in the state.

Fights against the anonymous murderers

Previously, feminist activist Isabel Cabanillas, working on gender-based violence was found shot to death on a sidewalk next to a bicycle.  She leaves behind a son, who just days before her death celebrated his 4th birthday. The state of Juáres is said to have one of the highest femicide rates in overall Mexico, hundreds of women have been brutally killed in this city, with some raped, tortured and trafficked. Many of their cases remain unsolved.

The crime against Isabel represents an attack on activism, which for months has been harassed and assaulted by those who try to silence the legitimate right of women to demonstrate, to demand a life free of violence.

Just like Juáres, from 1985 to 2014, there were 47,178 women killed in all over Mexico due to their sex, according to data compiled by RFK Human Rights and Center for Women’s Hollistic Development 2018 report. In recent years, there has been a continued increase in femicides. In 2015, the number was 411 in Mexico. It increased to 601 in 2016, 742 in 2017 and 880 in 2018. From January to July of 2019, there were 540 femicides. Moreover, out of 2,327 investigation cases carried out last year on serious intentional crimes against women, only 5.8 % of total resulted  in the imposition of prison sentences on the perpetrators, according to attorney general Alejandro Gertz Manero.

While most of the cases are announced as cause/ suspects unknown, several International media such as  CNN claim that a huge number of the femicide cases are linked to drug cartel violence – If this was the case why has so few be sentenced.  The entire Mexican government and its institutions seems to be on a deadlock between its corruption and demand for justice by its people. Moreover, it puts bereaved families, who often try to find the murder themselves, in great risk of danger.

It is not only protesters, but also some authorities such as lawmakers and social democratic party members that are declaring the importance of legal system reformation regarding femicide; Lorena Villavicencio Ayala, Morena party Deputy mentions the need to send a clear message that it is committed to combating the crime, stating “It’s a crime that demoralizes … and we’re falling short [in our response to it]. That’s why we have to standardize the penalty [-as federal system of Mexico is failing to unite all states to criminalize the femicide, passing laws against femicide, or even mention femicide in the criminal codes, this creates tress-path through legal system for murderers]”

Northern Triangle Issues

Latin America, the Caribbean and Spain (19 countries): Femicide or feminicide, most recent data available (In absolute numbers and rates per 100.000 women)/ UN Gender Equality observatory

But, femicides are not only common in Mexico—they are prevalent throughout the Latin America region. According to Femicide/ Feminicide data from the United Nations, El Salvador and Honduras have overwhelmingly high rates of femicide. Brazil also sees the most femicides annually, with Mexico following in second place. Although excluded from the chart, Colombia has seen an increase over the past two years in femicides, now experiencing an average of one femicide every two days. Argentina had the third-highest number of femicides in 2018, along with the well-known active mass protest “ni una menos”.

Moreover, the increasing women’s insecurity in Central America, especially in the northern triangle, is said to have been one of the severe causes of the forced migration. (According to a suit against the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions for unlawfully elevating the credible fear threshold for asylum requests and eliminating most claims on the basis of gender- and cartel-driven violence.)

After an irregular entry into Mexico near Ciudad Hidalgo, to move north through the country, to the US border, many Central and South American migrants begin their journey in Arriaga, Chiapas, Mexico, the railhead of the freight train known as ‘La Bestia’ (The Beast), climbing atop of the rail cars, exposed to the elements and extortion by criminal gangs lying in wait along the route. Vendors sell food, water and cardboard pallets to lie on for the journey.

Have feminism and human rights protection failed?

Is this regression of feminism? Is feminism in Mexico/ Latin America seeing its end? Has sex-base hatred and silencing power won over women’s cry for help? The more brutal the violence becomes, and the more lives of women that are taken in femicide, the stronger the anger of the feminist activists/ people of the country becomes.

In the case of Mexico, despite the great unity of activists, the violence and hatred seem to be gaining more power day by day. Along with the cry for the lost lives, the claims of protests often seem to appoint on the reformation of the legal system/ institutional actions towards the situation. Would we be able to see the development in the legal system/ institutional actions on brutal femicides in Mexico in the future?

Ayumi Hara