Obstacles to International Conventions Protecting Women in Mexico

08/04/20 (written by MMacGregor)- Although Mexico has engaged in various agreements in order to prevent domestic violence and promote women’s rights, the situation for women in the country continues to be extremely dangerous. According to a survey by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía), 7 out of 10 women have experienced violence at some point in their lives. Despite the creation of laws that explicitly define the different forms that domestic violence can take, Mexico has faced challenges with the implementation of these laws at the state and local levels, resulting in insufficient justice for victims and their families. 

At the international level, Mexico is a signatory of agreements whose primary purpose is to promote gender equality and women’s rights. These agreements include the Convention on the Elimination of All forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in 1979, a document that defines what constitutes discrimination against women and sets up a national agenda to end this discrimination. According to the United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commissioner, the Convention defines discrimination against women as “any distinction, exclusion, or restriction made on the basis of sex which has the effect or purpose of impairing or nullifying the recognition, enjoyment, or exercise by women, irrespective of their marital status, on a basis of equality of men and women, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural, civil, or any other field”.

International Frameworks

Additionally, Mexico is a part of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention Belem do Para of 1994), which explicitly defines violence against women and establishes that women have the right to live free of violence. According to the Organization of American States, the convention “calls for the establishment of mechanisms for protecting and defending women’s rights as essential to combating the phenomenon of violence against women’s physical, sexual, and psychological identity, whether in the private or public sphere, and for asserting those rights within society”. Finally, Mexico is also a part of the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995), which is the most progressive blueprint for advancing women’s rights and “imagines a world where each and every women and girl can exercise her freedoms and choices and realize all of her rights, such as living free from violence, going to school, participating in decisions, and earning equal pay for equal work”.

National Mechanism and Institutions

Since Mexico is a signatory on these powerful international agreements committed to the advancement, empowerment, and protection of women and their rights, it is essential to analyze the reasons why the country has not been able to implement these commitments on a national level. In order to do so, it is important to understand the federal binding laws in Mexico and key national institutions to address women’s rights, as well as the legal mechanism to prevent femicides from occurring. 

From a legal perspective with regard to violence against women, the federal binding law in Mexico is the General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence, or la Ley General de Aceso de las Mujeres a Una Vida Libre de Violencia. Published on February 1st, 2007, the law “contains the guiding principles for the access of all women to a life free of violence and discrimination, legal equality between women and men, and respect for women’s dignity”. This law was a significant step in Mexican history because, for the first time, it distinguished between the different types of violence inflicted against women: psychological, physical, economic, patrimonial, and sexual. It made it clear that violence does not always produce visible physical injuries. It has established the areas of life women are being violated. Additionally, the law attempts to specify the modality of violence, distinguishing between violence inflicted at home, school, work, or through another institution.

Furthermore, the legal mechanism to prevent femicide is the Gender Violence Against Women Alert (Alerta de Violencia de Genero contra las Mujeres), which consists of a set of emergency government actions to stop violence against women in a particular territory and can be exercised by invididuals or by the community itself. Representatives from various national institutions analyze and research the situation in the territory in order to determine possible human rights violations. This research can take the form of on-site visits, interviews, and information from state authorities. These institutions include the National Institute of Women (Instituto Nacional de Mujeres- INMUJERES), the National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women (Comisión Nacional para Prevenir y Eradicar la Violencia Contra las Mujeres- CONAVIM), and the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes of Violence against Women and Trafficking in Persons (Fiscalía Especial para los Delitos de Violencia Contra las Mujeres y Trata de Personas). All three of these organizations work together with academic and local authorities to prevent feminicidal violence against women. 

Challenges to Preventing Violence Against Women

With all of these international and national conventions in place to protect women, it is important to consider the reasons why the number of domestic violence cases and femicides continue to pose a significant problem in Mexico. According to Amnesty International, the problem lies in the implementation of these laws at the state and local level. Although the General Law was a step in the right direction, the law has not focused on removing the real obstacles preventing women from registering complaints or improving persecutions of those who commit violence against women. Specifically, Article 27 in the General Law states that “when they are made aware of acts that may constitute offenses or crimes involving violence against women” protection orders must be issued by authorities. The reality of this is that protection or restraining orders are rarely used or enforced. As a result, women who need urgent help because a restraining order has been violated have no option other than to contact the general police emergency number or bring the complaint to a court. Neither of these guarantee that they will get the immediate help they need. Additionally, social services and prosecutor’s offices often encourage victims to reconcile with those responsible for the violence in their homes rather than pursuing criminal prosecutions. Because many victims do not want to confront their attacker to tell them about the mediation meetings and procedures for fear of retaliation, many of the cases end up unresolved.

In conclusion, there remains an urgent need to bridge the gap between the international and national frameworks regarding the protection of women and their implementation in the country. In order to adequately protect women and prevent violence against them, it is vital that the Mexican government put its numerous policies into action with political commitment, resources, training, and accountability.

Sources:

Alerta De Violencia De Género Contra Las Mujeres. Institutional Nacional De Las Mujeres. 22 Feb 2020. 

Comisión Nacional para Prevenir y Erradicar la Violencia Contra las Mujeres. “Ley General De Acceso De Las Mujeres a Una Vida Libre De Violencia (PDF).” Gobierno De México.

“Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women.” OHCHR. 

“Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women.” OHCHR.

“Fiscalía Especial Para Los Delitos De Violencia Contra Las Mujeres y Trata De Personas.” Gobierno De México.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI). “Encuesta Nacional sobre la Dinámica de las Relaciones en los Hogares (ENDIREH 2016).” INEGI. 18 Agosto 2017.

Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém Do Pará). Organization of American States, 1994.

“Organization of American States: Democracy for Peace, Security, and Development.” Organization of American States, Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém Do Pará Convention (MESECVI), 1 Aug. 2009.

“Protection for Women: Violence in the Family in Mexico.” Stop Violence Against Women: Amnesty International, Amnesty International.

“Sitio De Comisión Nacional Para Prevenir y Erradicar La Violencia Contra Las Mujeres.” Gobierno De México.

“Sitio De Instituto Nacional De Las Mujeres.” Gobierno De México

“The Beijing Platform for Action: Inspiration Then and Now.” UN Women | The Beijing Platform for Action Turns 20.

Justice in Mexico releases 2020 Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico Report

07/30/20- (written by jhale)- Justice in Mexico has released the second edition of Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico, coordinated by Laura Y. Calderón, Kimberly Heinle, Rita E. Kuckertz, Octavio Rodríguez Ferreira, and David A. Shirk. Initially titled Drug Violence in Mexico, the report was reissued under a new name beginning last year with the tenth edition. The switch reflects recent shifts in the nature of organized crime, including the diversification of criminal activities. In an ever-changing world, Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico works to compile important statistics regarding key trends while providing insight to help understand an uncertain future.

Diversification of criminal enterprise

The report cites two factors that have contributed to recent patterns in crime: infighting amongst splinter groups and diversification of revenue sources. As larger criminal organizations disband, smaller groups are left in their wake. These small enterprises often lack the logistical capacity to form trans-national criminal partnerships, and instead turn to predatory crimes to maintain revenue. Robberies, kidnappings, and territorial violence can all be linked to the actions of low-level criminal organizations as they fight to increase their market share.

Meanwhile, crime syndicates have sought to diversify their streams of income as competition increases for a stake in the drug trade. Groups such as the Zetas cartel (los Zetas) have paved the way for the transformation of drug trafficking organizations into trans-national criminal organizations. These reiterations of existing groups pose a novel threat to Mexican internal security. In addition to trafficking drugs, criminal organizations have expanded into sex trafficking, fuel theft, and illegal trade of exotic animals. The constantly shifting strategies of organized criminal groups have made law enforcement increasingly difficult for Mexican authorities.

Homicide rates and organized crime

A key topic addressed in the report is Mexico’s homicide rate, which rose to record levels in 2019. The Mexican National Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP) reports that 29,406 cases of murder occurred in 2019, affecting 34,588 victims. While Mexico’s homicide rate has climbed since late-2014, the rate of increase has seemingly subsided. There was a 2.5% increase in homicides from 2018 to 2019, compared with a 20% jump from 2017 to 2018. Regardless, homicide remains a pressing issue in Mexican society. At present, homicide is the leading cause of death among individuals from the ages of 15-39. Mexico’s homicide crisis has caused incalculable suffering in families and communities throughout the country, stifling progress and cutting short the lives of thousands of young people.

Two Mexican media organizations, Milenio and Reforma, have attempted to quantify homicide as relating to organized crime. Figures reported by Milenio suggest that there were 23,393 homicides linked to organized crime groups in 2019, while Reforma has published a more conservative estimate of 15,108 such incidents. The numbers imply that 44% to 80% of homicides can be attributed to organized crime groups.

Although there are some methodological challenges to proving connections between homicide rates and organized crime, the report notes that many of the same regions frequented by organized criminal groups experience higher levels of violence. The report identifies five urban regions with over 450 homicides and a homicide rate exceeding 100 per 100,000 inhabitants: Tijuana, Ciudad Juárez, Culiacán, Acapulco de Juárez, and León. The report also highlights the three most violent regions in Mexico: the North-East border region; the mid-Pacific coast; and the so-called Golden Triangle of Chihuahua, Jalisco, and Durango, a hotbed for opium production. In addition to having high homicide rates, these areas have also served as de facto centers for drug trafficking and criminal activity. According to the report, the geographic correlation of crime and homicide allows researchers to better understand how organized crime can affect violence throughout Mexico.

A map indicating the geographic frequency of homicides in 2019.

In addition to homicide, the report provides insight regarding trends in crimes such as kidnapping, extortion, and robbery. The report found that the number of cases of intentional injury in Mexico increased in 2019 for a fourth year in a row. According to SNSP data, 1,856 of Mexico’s 2,326 municipalities reported at least one intentional injury. Reported kidnappings steadily rose over the years but leveled off in 2018 and 2019 with an increase of roughly 15% with 1,329 reported kidnappings in 2018 and 1,323 reported kidnappings in 2019. Extortion has also been on the rise with an increase from 5,072 cases in 205 to 8,500 cases in 2019. While official statistics provide valuable insight into crime rates, the report’s authors point out that crimes of lesser import are significantly underreported and may not be a reliable indicator of predatory crime trends observed from year to year. For example, an estimated 91.2% of kidnappings are uninvestigated and remain off the official record.

Gender violence and sex crimes

In light of recent social movements highlighting gender violence, the report has included a section dedicated to the topic. Almost half (45%) of women in Mexico report having been the victim of relationship violence. Femicide, or the murder of a woman because of her gender, has seen a 130% uptick since 2015. The authors note that statistics pertaining to violence against women are skewed by the impunity of abusers and a lack of funding for local attorneys general. President López Obrador himself has come under fire for his apparent dismissal of violence against women and his use of rhetoric which pundits have described as “tepid at best”. 

The report points out that women may be more empowered to report incidents of violence and sex crimes in the wake of recent protests seeking to hold abusers accountable. Furthermore, the report notes that increased scrutiny of gender violence by authorities may reflect a shift in law enforcement objectives to reflect current issues. This may help explain recent increases in sex crimes, including sexual harassment, abuse, and rape. Despite advances in prosecuting violence against women, the report’s authors note that 77% of women in Mexico feel unsafe as the overwhelming majority of crimes continue to go unreported or uninvestigated.

A map indicating the prevalence of sex crimes cases in Mexico. Sex crimes include sexual harassment, sexual abuse, and rape.

Politically motivated violence and high-profile targets

The killings of high profile targets such as mayors, police, military officers, and journalists has also increased. In what the report describes as a threat to the rule of law, 25 current, former, or aspiring mayors were assassinated in 2019. Statistics drawn from Justice in Mexico’s Memoria database suggest that mayors are 13 times more likely to be murdered than the average individual. Police and military leaders were also frequently targeted for their role in law enforcement, sometimes at the behest of criminal groups. Lastly, although the number of journalists murdered decreased slightly in 2019, Mexico still ranks among the most dangerous places for journalists to go about their line of work. In Justice in Mexico’s estimation, 13 journalists and media workers were killed in 2019.

This chart, from Justice in Mexico’s Memoria dataset, illustrates the gradual increase in killings of journalists.

Diversification of violent crime

This report sets itself apart from previous editions by analyzing other predatory crimes perpetrated by small organized crime groups, such as intentional injury, kidnapping, and extortion. The report found that the number of cases of intentional injury in Mexico increased in 2019 for a fourth year in a row. According to SNSP data, 1,856 of Mexico’s 2,326 municipalities reported at least one intentional injury. Reported kidnappings steadily rose over the years but leveled off in 2018 and 2019 with an increase of roughly 15% with 1,329 reported kidnappings in 2018 and 1,323 reported kidnappings in 2019. Extortion has also been on the rise with an increase from 5,072 cases in 205 to 8,500 cases in 2019. The authors note that crimes such as kidnapping and extortion are chronically underreported, suggesting that official data may not be a reliable indicator of predatory crime trends observed from year to year. However, these data are useful in illustrating the aforementioned diversification of criminal enterprise.

Looking to the future

A multitude of causes and contextual factors have contributed to rising crime rates in Mexico. It is difficult to understand and easy to place blame for a problem tugging at the seams of Mexican society. Through an exhaustive overview of the data, statistics, and trends pertaining to crime in Mexico, Justice in Mexico’s Organized Crime and Violence aims to demystify a difficult subject. The authors of this report seek not only to assist in our understanding of the topic, but to paint a picture of crime in Mexico extending beyond the numbers.

International Women’s Day and #ADayWithoutUs

07/02/20 (written M MacGregor)- A day without any women in Mexico was the idea of feminist leaders on #UnDíaSinNosotras (#ADayWithoutUs), in which they showed their power through their absence in society. This strike took place after International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2020. During International Women’s Day, over 80,000 women took to the streets of Mexico City to call for the end of gender-based violence. They marched from the Revolution Monument to Constitution Plaza, carrying signs that said “We aren’t numbers, we’re lives”, and “living with fear is not living”. According to Remezcla, dozens of feminist organizations such as the Autonomous and Independent Feminist Assembly organized and informed women and allies of the march, which took months to plan.

The very next day, women stayed at home in a 24-hour strike carried out in the 20 largest cities in Mexico, with the capital being the epicenter of the movement. These strikes were in response to the staggering number of femicides that occur each year. According to Telemundo, this strike was estimated by the Mexican Confederation of Employers (Confederación Patronal de la República Mexicana) to have had an economic impact of more than 6,000 million pesos ($290 million USD) on the country, given that in Mexico City alone women represent 44% of the working class population. Mexican women from all walks of life were visibly absent from workplaces and cities, and many businesses gave them their blessing to do so. According to the New York Times, Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City, specifically instructed all department leaders in the city government not to penalize any employee who missed work on the day of the strike. The march and strike made an economic impact on the country, but violence against women continued to happen despite these important events. According to El Sol de Mexico, 11 women were victims of femicide during the events on March 8th and 9th.

In an interview with AA Noticias, prominent activist Sofia Sánchez Calderón described the movement as both a “political and economic strike” and a “call to action to the Mexican people to denounce the misogynist violence in the country that is in all spaces: private, intimate, and public”. As mentioned by Teagan McGinnis in her recent article on the Justice in Mexico News Monitor, Exploring the Legal Context of Femicide in Mexico, this protest was in response to the failure of the Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) to address the problem of domestic violence and adequately protect women’s lives. It is also a part of the larger transnational #NiUnaMenos movement. According to The Globe Post, the current president has angered many women and activists by claiming that their protests and strikes are an attack on his regime. He blames past neo-liberal administrations for the femicide crisis although they have been steadily increasing during his regime, with Milenio reporting that 320 women were murdered in January 2020 alone.

The #NiUnaMenos Movement

Comprehending the origins of the #NiUnaMenos feminist movement is essential to understand the current climate regarding women’s rights in Mexico. According to The Globe Post, the movement’s slogan #NiUnaMenos, which means “Not One Less” in English, was adapted from the words of activist and poet Susana Chávez. After an outbreak of violent femicides in Ciudad Juarez in 1995, Chávez called for “ni una muerte más!” (not one more death), before she herself was murdered in 2011. After a string of violent femicides in Argentina in 2015 in which women were burned alive, hacked to pieces with machetes, even a pregnant woman was killed by her boyfriend, public protests erupted in the country under the new slogan of #NiUnaMenos. According to the #NiUnaMenos website, in particular, the whole country was shocked by the death of a 16 year-old student. In response, tens of thousands of protesters converged in Plaza de Mayo under the rain, waving portraits of women murdered echoing the slogan “we want to stay alive”. Since then, according to The Guardian, the #NiUnaMenos hashtag went viral and mobilized the masses against gender-based violence. It has grown rapidly into a transnational movement, in which millions of women and their allies have participated in more than 50 countries around the world.

According to the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), #NiUnaMenos has not been without controversy and contestation in the region. The protests have received backlash on social media, where there have been “ferocious debates between those who want to protect male privilege and those who want to protest it”. Additionally, the backlash has affected women with more than just words. According to NACLA, In March 2018, Afro-Brazilian city counselor and lesbian activist Marielle Franco was shot on her way home from consulting with women’s organizations. Her death, along with those of women human rights activists in the Amazon and Mexico, demonstrate a violent cultural reaction to women’s attempt to participate in public life and challenge the status quo.

However, Marta Dillon, a founder of the #NiUnaMenos movement, told The Guardian that she has seen important progress in these past five years, stating that “blaming the victim in these cases is no longer possible”. Dillon explains that although AMLO has been criticized for his inaction towards gender-based violence, he appointed the first cabinet with gender parity in Latin America. Mexico in particular has seen a wave of assertive protests by women’s groups, who credit #NiUnaMenos with the amplification of their voices. However, many Mexican activists still feel like they are not being heard. “As a first step, we want authorities to recognise there is a problem and that violence against women is increasing,” says Arussi Unda, who belongs to a Veracruz-based organization called Brujas del Mar. Dillion agrees there is still a lot of work to do. She told The Guardian, “Femicides are still happening because it’s a form of disciplining,” she says, “in general, the killer acts when a woman says: ‘enough is enough’.”

Sources:

“AMLO Announced His Cabinet in December; This Is Who They Are.” Mexico News Daily, 3 July 2018.

Boesten, Jelke. “Ni Una Menos Stares Down Conservative Reaction/ Ni Una Menos Enfrenta Una Reacción Conservadora.” NACLA, 8 May 2018.

“Brujas Del Mar.” Twitter , twitter.com/brujasdelmar?lang=en.

Caraballo, Ecleen Luzmila. “Why 80,000 Mexican Women & Allies Protested on International Women’s Day.” Remezcla, 9 Mar. 2020.

“Feminicidios y Violencia Contra Las Mujeres Provoca El Grito De #NiUnaMenos.” El Sol De México, 10 Mar. 2020.

Giugni, Lilia, et al. “Mexican Women Aren’t Just Fighting for Equality – But Survival.” The Globe Post, 25 Mar. 2020.

McGinnis, Teagan. “Exploring the Legal Context of Femicide in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico, 15 June 2020.

McGowan, Charis. “#NiUnaMenos Five Years on: Latin America as Deadly as Ever for Women, Say Activists.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 June 2020.

Melgoza, Alejandro. “’Un Día Sin Nosotras’: Mexicanas Realizan Paro De Labores Este 9 De Marzo.” Anadolu Ajansı, 9 Mar. 2020.

“#NiUnaMenos Mexico.” Twitter, twitter.com/niunamenosmx?lang=en.

Reza, Abraham. Feminicidios: Cómo 10 Mujeres Al Día Mueren En México (Enero 2020), Grupo Milenio, 26 Feb. 2020.

Semple, Paulina Villegas and Kirk. “Un Día Sin Mujeres En México Como Señal De Protesta.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Feb. 2020.

Tegel, Simeon. “While the U.S. Has #MeToo, Latin America’s ‘Ni Una Menos’ Spotlights Femicides, Violence against Women.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 17 May 2018.

Telemundo. “‘De Verdad No Están Aquí’: Así Es Un Día Sin Mujeres En Ciudad De México.” TELEMUNDO.com, 10 Mar. 2020.

“The Movement.” Ni Una Menos.

Univision. “’Un Día Sin Nosotras’: La Inédita Protesta Que Dejó Sin Mujeres Las Calles De Ciudad De México (Fotos).” Univision, 10 Mar. 2020.

Exploring the Legal Context of Femicide in Mexico

Photo: ROCIO VAZQUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

06/12/20 (T McGinnis) – 2019 represented the most dangerous year on record for women in Mexico, according to Mexico’s Secretary General of National Public Security (SESNSP). Femicide, a crime that deprives a woman of life as a result of her being female, remains a long-standing and protracted issue with which the Mexican public, policymakers, and legal actors have struggled. With the López Obrador administration declaring an “end to the war” against drug cartels and trafficking, the question remains whether this proclamation will lead to more adequate responses regarding gender violence, responses in which answers and accountability stand at the forefront of the government’s plan of action.

General Overview

What the Available Data Suggests

The Secretary General of National Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP) reports that between 2015 and 2019, cases of femicide rose from 411 to 983, representing an increase of approximately 139%, as shown by the graphic on the right. This parallels, if not surpasses, Mexico’s broader trend of recorded record-high numbers of murders in 2019. According to Milenio, in January alone of this year, 320 women were murdered (247 victims of intentional homicide and 73 victims of femicide), making an average of 10 cases per day.

Figure 2: Center for Studies on Impunity and Justice & the University of the Americas Puebla

However, the aforementioned figures may be much higher when one accounts for shortcomings and biases in the collection and conceptualization of femicide data. For example, Mexico’s elevated levels of impunity compound this issue further. According to the Center of Strategic & International Studies and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía), “93 percent of crimes were either not reported or not investigated in 2018.” Furthermore, the Congressional Research Service details that the prosecutor general’s office remains underfunded. As specified by the GII-2017 Global Impunity Index (Índice Global de Impunidad), this means that preventive actions with respect to intelligence and the preparation and integration of information into investigative files (carpetas de investigación) remain stifled and ineffective. Thus, the perpetrators of violence are further motivated by the unlikelihood of conviction. With stark gender inequalities and pervasiveness of machismo culture in Mexico, one observes reduced levels of priority for investigations of gender-based murders. When observing the legal context of femicide, penal codes on femicide can vary by state, resulting in “a lack of comparable data and agreed definitions” that make prosecuting cases more difficult. Frequently, for both genders, victims of violence are battered and further discriminated against when trying to access the justice system. For women, the motivation to seek legal recourse or help diminishes significantly, seeing that “77 percent of Mexican women report not feeling safe.” These shortcomings and biases reflected in the available data will become more evident when the legal aspects of femicide are explained in greater detail.

High-Profile Cases in 2020

Mexico has grappled with the issue of gender-based violence and more specifically, femicide for many years, which became a major concern in the early 2000s with the high-profile serial murders of women in Ciudad Juárez. However, recent statistics indicating a nation-wide increase in femicides, as well as three high-profile cases in the first few months of 2020, led to protests and major demonstrations condemning violence against women. The first of the three cases involved Isabel Cabanillas, a 26-year-old artist and feminist who was murdered in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua on January 18, 2020 while riding her bike. According to NBC, although the dimension of the Mexican federal government tasked with combating violence against women, INMUJERES, classified her death as a femicide, law enforcement authorities described the motive as unclear. This elucidates one of the most apparent issues with the legal category of femicide. In order to classify a crime as femicide, there have to be qualifying characteristics and motives working in tandem with the act of homicide. Some of these characteristics and motives may be clear upon the start of an investigation, while others may not become evident until the case is adjudged. Weeks later, 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla was murdered by her male partner in northern Mexico City. According to Al Jazeera, her remains were discovered on Sunday, February 9, 2020 with certain organs removed and portions of her body skinned. The next day, the national newspaper Pasala published images of her body, sparking further outrage in the public and an overall repudiation of the way in which the government handles the dissemination of information on femicides. In an El Universal column entitled “Who killed Ingrid Escamilla?”, Alejandro Hope, a political science professor, presents his answer. “A violent and machismo culture killed Ingrid, our indifference killed her, our failure to demand that things change killed her.” The third case involved the murder of 7-year-old Fatima Cecelia Aldrighett Anton, who went missing on February 11, 2020 in Santiago Tulyehualco, Xochimilco. According to El Universal, she was believed to have been abducted at school, where she was left outside and unsupervised as she waited for her mother. Her naked body was discovered on February 15, 2020 in a plastic bag near Los Reyes, Tlahuac.

2020 Protests (International Women’s Day and “A Day Without Us”)

Each of the aforementioned cases resulted in protesters urging president Lopez Obrador to publicly acknowledge his administration’s lack of strategy in protecting the female population, and calls to stop criminalizing women who are victims of femicide. Following International Women’s Day (Mar. 8th), in which 80,000 individuals marched through Mexico City, displaying banners that stated “I’m marching today so that I don’t die tomorrow,” tens of thousands of women furthered the sentiment by participating in a national strike. What was soon deemed “A Day Without Us” strove to demonstrate what life would be like without women as more and more fall victim to femicide every day.

Government Response

In November 2019, Mexican officials had vowed a “zero tolerance” approach to the problem, as they observed the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in partnership with the United Nations. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the government has also made a point of emphasizing the existing measures in place, such as gender sensitivity training for armed forces. Additionally, after Escamilla’s murder, president Lopez Obrador joined protesters in denouncing the behavior of the media in leaking the explicit photos and soon praised their efforts in passing a bill that would increase prison sentences for those who commit femicide.

However, although lauded as a socially-progressive leader for perhaps, some of the reasons explained above, The Center for Strategic and International Studies regards president Lopez Obrador’s response to the issue of femicide and more generally gender-violence as “tepid at best.” Critics and activists note that AMLO appears indifferent to the reality of the situation and gendered context, calling himself a “humanist” and not a feminist. In reaction to the March 9th strike, he accused political opponents for the situation of unrest. Furthermore, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, his administration faced backlash when the Attorney General suggested removing femicide from Mexico’s criminal code, even though AMLO later said that he did not support the change. Claiming that the media manipulates the issues surrounding gender-based violence, the CFR reports that president Lopez Obrador also claims that the current crisis remains “tied to his predecessors neoliberal economic policies” and believes that what the country needs is a “moral regeneration.” Moving forward, it remains to be seen whether his public pledges translate into concrete action.

A Deeper Look into the Legal Context of Femicide in Mexico

As the surfacing of the aforementioned data and high-profile cases sheds a greater light on this national epidemic and mobilizes the public to place considerable pressure on Mexican officials, it remains critically important to understand the legal context of femicide in Mexico and how its process of prosecution could affect the data, media, rate of occurrence, etc. Prior to 1992, the term “femicide” had been used by the media and greater society in a colloquial manner to indicate the death of a woman. According to the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission of Women, that same year, Diana Russell and her colleague Jill Radford redefined femicide as “the murder of women, committed by men, for the simple reason of their being women.” In elucidating the gendered motives of men in killing women, which include “attempts to control their lives, their bodies and/or their sexuality, to the point of punishing through death those women that do not accept that submission,” Russell and Radford provided both legal and social contexts to the concept of femicide.

According to El Universal, the concept garnered significant notoriety in Mexico when Marcela Lagarde took the aforementioned notion of femicide advanced by Russell and Radford and further developed it as “feminicidio,” rather than femicidio (which constitutes the literal translation). The OAS Declaration on Femicide reports that “Lagarde’s position was that femicide could be understood as the death of women without specifying the cause, whereas feminicide better encapsulated the gender-based reasons and the social construction behind these deaths, as well as the impunity that surrounds them.” She subsequently used the term feminicide (feminicidio) to analyze a wave of gender-motivated murders in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, which started around 1993, and continued to substantiate its importance in her professional research.

Before the classification of femicide as a social construct and category of crime, many of these murders were wrongly labeled as “crimes of passion.” According to El Universal, crimes of passion are defined as “a crime committed because of very strong emotional feelings, especially in connection with a sexual relationship.” The same term has also frequently been used to describe violent crimes against LGBT persons. However, once the term “femicide” was coined and the phenomenon was further explained and adopted by the media and public, different facets of the Mexican state began to grasp the gender-based implications of this type of violence against women. Nevertheless, bias and sexism still permeate media reporting of violent crimes against women. For example, “after Ingrid Escamilla was murdered by her partner in early 2020, a newspaper titled the article ‘It was cupid’s fault’ and printed a photograph of her skinned and dismembered body on its cover.” While femicides often occur between romantic partners, it should not constitute the defining aspect of this phenomenon. As previously elucidated by anthropologist Marcela Lagarde, “the explanation of femicide lies in gender dominance: characterized by both the male supremacy and the oppression, discrimination, exploitation and, above all, social exclusion of girls and women.”

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mexico began counting and including femicide data in 2012. The General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence (Ley General de Acceso de las Mujeres a Una Vida Libre de Violencia) proposed by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in 2007 was one of the legislative measures that predated and influenced the current Federal Penal Code (CPF):

English translation:

Article 325.

The crime of femicide is committed by a person who deprives a woman of life for reasons of gender. It is considered that there are gender reasons when any of the following circumstances occur:

  1. The victim presents signs of sexual violence of any kind;
  2. Inflammatory or degrading injuries or mutilations, before or after the deprivation of life or acts of necrophilia, have been inflicted on the victim;
  3. There are antecedents or data of any type of violence in the family, work or school environment of the perpetrator against the victim;
  4. There has been a sentimental, emotional or trust relationship between the asset and the victim;
  5. There are data that establish that there were threats related to the criminal act, harassment or injuries of the perpetrator against the victim;
  6. The victim has been held incommunicado, whatever the time prior to the deprivation of life;
  7. The victim’s body is exposed or displayed in a public place.

Anyone who commits the crime of femicide will be sentenced to forty to sixty years in prison and a fine of five hundred to one thousand days.

In addition to the sanctions described in this article, the perpetrator will lose all rights in relation to the victim, including those of a successional nature.

In the event that femicide is not accredited, the homicide rules will apply.

A public servant who maliciously or negligently delays or hinders the prosecution or administration of justice shall be sentenced to three to eight years and a fine of five to fifteen hundred days, and shall be removed and disqualified from three to ten years to perform another public employment, office or commission.

In Nexos magazine, Elizabeth V. Leyva notes that although a fair majority of Mexican federal entities adhere to the federal norm as outlined above, “the truth is that legal classification of femicide is not the same in all laws: each state recognizes this problem with various characteristics with which it can be identified.” As a federal republic with the current criminal law system, states (32 in total) can individually regulate crimes and classify them as they deem appropriate. Thus, it is critically important to analyze and detail the similarities and differences in the classifications of these penal codes in an effort to elucidate whether certain legal provisions impact the number/level of femicides in each respective state.

It is important to understand how the Mexican Federal Penal Code on femicide parallels or differs from legislation at the state level. Firstly, both federal and state penal codes define femicide as a crime that deprives a woman of life for reasons of gender. Because this definition is potentially problematic (“gender” is not the same as a female person), Leyva describes current legislation having an “androcentric” view that disregards the death of a woman occurring as a result of her being female. As a result, critics point out that the legal definition of femicide is flawed by a male-dominant perspective and can lead to an ineffective understanding and enforcement of the law.

The essential qualifying circumstances for femicide are described in the penal codes as “gender reasons,” which can be divided into two categories: 1) The various forms the act of violence can assume and 2) the types of acts that occur before or after the death of the woman. The first category includes the following circumstances:

1.The victim presents signs of sexual violence of any kind

Circumstance one describes that femicide can occur through a nonconsensual sexual act aimed at the subordination and domination of women. Observing trends more generally, according to UN Women, “1 in 3 women over 15 years of age has suffered sexual violence” in Latin America and parts of the Caribbean, which is categorized as an epidemic by the WHO. Additionally, UN Women states that “femicide and sexual violence are closely linked to deficient citizen security, to general impunity and to a macho culture that undervalues women,” all of which are pervasive in the state of Mexico.

5. There are data that establish that there were threats related to the criminal act, harassment or injuries of the perpetrator against the victim

Circumstance five establishes that femicide is not an isolated act that happens without prior signs, but also the result of continuous acts of violence against the victim by the perpetrator. In other words, the perpetrator of a femicide is someone that has sexually or violently abused the victim prior to the murder. A 2019 National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía) report based on data from Chihuahua details that “43.3% of women have faced assaults from the current or last husband or partner throughout their relationship.” Critics highlight that the Mexican state has been negligent in stopping these chains of attacks before they result in the deaths of women.

2. Inflammatory or degrading injuries or mutilations, before or after the deprivation of life or acts of necrophilia have been inflicted on the victim

Circumstance two discusses the physical characteristics of the violent acts, which include scratches, bruises, cuts, stab wounds, or gunshot wounds, etc. With this reason, one can observe certain ambiguities with respect to operationalizing “inflammatory” or “degrading.” In essence, these injuries and mutilations are expected to be either of the aforementioned designations without having an explicit definition and/or reference point to classify them as such. This could contribute to an ineffective understanding and enforcement of this portion of the law.

The second category of gender reasons encompasses the types of acts that occur before or after the death of the woman.

6. The victim has been held incommunicado, whatever the time prior to the deprivation of life

Circumstance six states that during this crime, women may not be in a position to communicate or request third-party help, leaving them rather defenseless. Leyva notes that “the temporal nature of this sentence is ambiguous because it does not define how long ‘the time prior to the deprivation of life’” actually is. With this, one observes states, like Colima and Sinaloa expanding this notion in a more concise manner, isolating what they are actually attempting to legislate:

When the victim has found herself in a state of defenselessness, this should be understood as the situation of real helplessness or incapacity that makes her defense impossible. Either due to the difficulty of communication to receive help, due to the distance to an inhabited place or because there is some physical or material impediment to request help.

7. The victim’s body is exposed or exhibited in a public place

According to Leyva, though this may appear circumstantial to the crime of femicide, it possesses a powerful significance. In her text Women and the Public Sphere: A Modern Perspective, Joan Landes, a professor of Women’s Studies and History at Pennsylvania State University, postulates that women were denied status as a political subject when conceptions and definitions of political subjectivity, and more generally, politics were shaped in the pre-modern era. As actors in the private sphere, their treatment and struggle for human rights was, and still is, made invisible. With women now occupying positions in the labor market and public sphere, men often confuse female liberation as an intrusion of sorts with respect to previously solidified gender roles. Thus, when men commit femicide and display the body in the public arena, they are sending a psychological message for women to stay home. This aspect of femicide is often made worse when the public and political actors blame the victim for walking home alone or not being home as the patriarchal narrative expects.

Once convicted of committing femicide, punishments vary decidedly between states. In comparing the penal codes, the minimum sentence for femicide is 20 years in prison, while the maximum constitutes 70 years. Additionally, beyond the previously discussed, basic components observed in the entities’ penal codes, certain states present interesting additions and considerations worth noting. For example, in Jalisco, the penal code accounts for a variant of femicide known as “lesbofeminicidio” (the murder of a woman because she loves/loved another woman) and “transfeminicidio” (the murder of because she is a transgender or transsexual woman) by including the circumstance of “when the perpetrator acts for reasons of homophobia.” These variants are not popular in other states’ penal codes due to their lack of exposure in the media. In Puebla, one of the additional circumstances constituting a gender reason is “if the victim is pregnant.” This circumstance acknowledges that the perpetrator of the violence is often the biological father and that the crime of femicide may be committed to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood and alimony.

Many critics argue that the statutes for each state’s criminal code on femicide are not uniform, making it especially difficult for third-party groups to ensure effective, nation-wide implementation. For example, there is still no general agreement on whether the act of femicide is a separate category of crime or an aggravated form of homicide. In March and February 2020, many Mexican media outlets, like La Jornada highlighted the danger in a proposal by the Office of the Federal Attorney General (Fiscalía General de la República) to eliminate the designation of “femicide” as a crime and to treat it as an aggravated form of homicide. This would allow for easier facilitation of investigations and prosecutions, the Office of the Attorney General argued. However, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) objected, stating that the elimination of femicide as a category of crime would constitute a “setback” because of “the specificity of the content, implications, and meaning of this crime, (because) it makes invisible the essential component of hatred against women, as well as through it seeks to perpetuate the cultural patterns of subordination, inferiority, and oppression of women.”

With the aforementioned analysis on the legal context of femicide in Mexico and the possible threats to its legal standing, it is important to quantitatively determine whether certain legal provisions are responsible for lowering the rates of femicide in certain states. In acquiring this information, the Mexican government could more effectively tailor its federal policy and response to the crime.

Sources

Seguridad Secretaria de Seguridad y Protección Ciudadana. “Información sobre violencia contra las mujeres.” Centro Nacional de información. Información con corte al 30 de abril de 2020.

Linnea, Sandin. “Femicides in Mexico: Impunity and Protests.” Center for Strategic & International Studies. 19 Mar 2020.

Morales, Gretel. “What is femicide?” El Universal. 27 Feb. 2020.

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Lagarde, Marcela. “¿A qué llamamos feminicidio?” Comisión Especial para Conocer y dar seguimiento a las Investigaciones Relacionadas con los Feminicidios en la República Mexicana y a la Procuración de Justicia Vinculada. 14 de abril 2004 al 14 abril 2005.

Cheatham, Amelia. “Mexico’s Women Push Back on Gender-Based Violence.” Council on Foreign Relations. 12 Mar. 2020.

La Redacción. “La nueva tipificación de feminicidio implica un retroceso: CNDH.” La Jornada. 13 Feb. 2020.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI). “‘ESTADÍSTICAS A PROPÓSITO DEL DÍA INTERNACIONAL DE LA ELIMINACIÓN DE LA VIOLENCIA CONTRA LA MUJER (25 DE NOVIEMBRE):’ DATOS DE CHIHUAHUA.” INEGI. 26 Nov. 2019.

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Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir (CDD) & Comisión Mexicana de Defensa y Promoción de los Derechos Humanos (CMDPDH). “Femicide and Impunity in Mexico: A context of structural and genearlized violence.” Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, CEDAW. 17 Jul. 2012.

Leyva, Elizabeth. “El Mosaico del feminicidio en México.” Nexos. 11 Dec. 2017.

Programa de Asuntos de la Mujer y de Igualdad entre Mujeres y Hombres. “Legislación penal de las entidades federativas que tipifican el feminicidio como delito.” Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos. 11 Dec. 2015.

Expansión Política. “El asesinato de la activista Isabel Cabanillas genera indignación en Chihuahua.” Expansión Política. 20 Jan. 2020.

Ortiz Uribe, Monica. “A Feminist Is Murdered In Mexico, And Protesters Demand Answers.” NPR. 26 Jan. 2020.

Gamboa, Suzanne. “Shooting death of young woman activist returns spotlight to ‘femicides’ in Juarez and Mexico.” NBC News. 24 Jan. 2020.

El Universal. “Identifican a Fátima, la niña de 7 años asesinada y torturada en Tláhuac.” El Universal. 17 Feb. 2020.

Al Jazeera News. “Ingrid Escamilla Murder: Mexican social media users express shock.” Al Jazeera. 13 Feb. 2020.

BBC News Mundo. “Feminicidio de Ingrid Escamilla: la indignación en México por el brutal asesinato de la joven y la difusión de las fotos de su cadáver.” BBC. 11 Feb. 2020.

McDonnell, Patrick & Sanchez, Cecilia. “In Mexico, a grisly killing inflames debate about femicide.” Los Angeles Times. 14 Feb. 2020.

Gutherie, Amy & Hernandez, Alicia. “Mexican women paint, march to protest gender violence.” Associated Press News. 8 Mar. 2020.

Villegas, Paulina. “In Mexico, Women Go on Strike Nationwide to Protest Violence.” The New York Times. 9 Mar. 2020.

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Pereda Martinez, Alicia. “Cada dos horas y media matan a una mujer en México.” El Universal. 29 May 2020.

Agren, David. “‘The message he’s sending is I don’t care’: Mexico’s president criticized for response to killings of women.” The Guardian. 21 Feb. 2020.

Diaz, Joy. “Outraged By Femicides, Mexican Women Demand Change During Nationwide Walkout.” KUT: 90.5 (Austin’s NPR Station). 9 Mar. 2020.

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Reza, Abraham. “En enero de 2020, cada día 10 mujeres fueron asesinadas.” Milenio. 26 Feb. 2020.

Ortiz, Alexis. “2019, el año con más mujeres víctimas en México.” El Universal. 3 Feb. 2020.

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A Look at Violence in Mexico City: Femicides and Underreporting

Source: SESNSP.

08/07/19 (written by kheinle) — Both the country of Mexico and the nation’s capital city, Ciudad de México (CDMX), have garnered attention for their high levels of crime and violence in recent months.

National Context

As a nation, Mexico is on pace to have the deadliest year on record, according to data released in mid-July by Mexico’s Secretary General of National Public Security (SESNSP). The government registered more than 17,000 intentional homicides in Mexico from January through June 2019, which is 94 victims of homicide per day thus far this year. Another 84,000 cases of intentional assault were reported that time frame, as well as more than 750 cases of kidnapping and 4,230 incidences of extortion.

Mexico City is also seeing elevated levels of homicide with estimates pointing to increases of 10-20% during the first six months of 2019 compared to the same period in 2018. According to SESNSP, by the end of June, Mexico City had 10,616 victims of violent crime, including homicide, assault, femicide, kidnapping, rape, extortion, and corruption, among others. Mexico City also had the highest rate of mugging (street-level theft) during that time period with a rate of 117.8 cases per 100,000 residents. Animal Político noted that this rate is almost four times that of the national average for such crimes.

Mexico City’s Mayor, Claudia Sheinbaum, weighed in on the levels of violence in the capital with regards to women and to the accuracy of reported data.

Violence against Women in Mexico City

 

Mayor Sheinbaum speaks at conference

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum speaks at an event with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador in December 2018. Photo: Javier Ríos, Milenio.

In early July, Sheinbaum vowed to eliminate violence against women, also known as femicide. “To avoid and eliminate violence against women … finally, that is the objective,” she said. “It’s not fighting it – the objective is ultimately to eradicate violence. That should be the goal.” Sheinbaum is Mexico City’s first elected female mayor.

Femicide has long been a serious problem in Mexico. Almost half of all women (45%) in Mexico reported being victims of abuse at the hands of their partner, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI). Another 18% said the violence was specifically physical violence. In the first half of 2019, there were 470 cases of femicide with an average of just over 78 cases per month, according to Mexico’s Secretary General of National Public Security. It is also worth noting that in just the first five months of 2019, more than 80 women were murdered in Mexico City alone.

Mayor Sheinbaum’s announcement is another step in the government’s strategy outlined to eliminate violence against women. As reported by Reuters, “such protective measures have quadrupled [in Mexico City] since last year,” which includes “the strengthening of the city’s 32 legal and psychological support shelters known as ‘Lunas.’”

Verifying Crime Rates

In mid-July, Mayor Sheinbaum’s administration made more news when it released government data on crime levels that call into question the previous administration’s reporting. Since taking office in December 2018, Sheinbaum has been criticized for escalating levels of violence in the nation’s capital. Some estimates said homicides had risen by more than a third since December. The data released in July, however, show that although murders in Mexico City have increased by 12%, violent crimes overall have decreased by 8% since Sheinbaum was elected. Thus, while some numbers continue to rise at lower rates in Mexico City, other crimes have actually reversed course.

Image from Mexico Evalua's Fallas de Origen report

Source: México Evalúa.

Sheinbaum’s administration argued that previously reported data was inaccurate or incomplete. For her part, Mexico City Attorney General Ernestina Godoy stated that the previous registry used by officials “was distorted.” She continued to explain that upwards of 24,000 ‘high impact criminal cases’ out of 214,000 reported cases had been doctored and misclassified when entered into the registry. For example, “In cases of rape,” she said, “they were classified as sexual harassment or abuse, or just injuries.” The United Nations stepped in to help reclassify the cases.

A Focus on CDMX

It is not uncommon in Mexico to underreport cases of crime and violence. México Evalúa addressed this topic in its publication, “Fallas de origen: Índice de Confiabilidad de la Estadística Criminal (ICEC).” The study measured the reliability of homicide data that prosecutors and attorney general’s report to SESNSP. Overall, Mexico City scored a 7.20 on the ICEC scale, just slightly below the national average of 7.62. Colima had the best score with 9.57 and the State of México (Estado de México, EDOMEX) scored the lowest with 2.50.

With a score of 7.20, Mexico City “ranks in the second half of the scoring, sitting in the 21st position in the ICEC ranking” of 32 Mexican states and federal entities, according to México Evalúa. The report noted that “there are federal entities that do not have similar conditions and resources [compared to CDMX] yet scored better…” Thus, Mexico City’s reporting of data on violent crimes like homicide falls below national averages and indicates an opportunity for the capital to strengthen its processes.

For more information on México Evalúa’s report, click here.

Sources:

“Homicide Rates and Clandestine Graves Highlight Mexico’s Systemic Challenges.” Justice in Mexico. June 26, 2019.

“Fallas de Origen 2019: Índice de Confiabilidad de la Estadística Criminal.” México Evalúa. July 2, 2019.

Lopez, Oscar. “Mexico City mayor promises to eradicate violence against women.” Reuters. July 9, 2019.

Cattan, Nacha. “Mexico City Says Ex-Government Changed Data to Hide Crime.” Bloomberg. July 20, 2019.

Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública. “Víctimas de Delitos de Fuero Común 2019.” Gobierno de México. July 20, 2019.

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. July 22, 2019.

Angel, Arturo. “Aumentan homicidios en 18 estados; en Nuevo León y Sonora el incremento fue superior al 65%.” Animal Político. July 23, 2019.