Femicides hit record high as protests continue

Protestors in the famed National Palace in Mexico City during a demonstration in August to support calls for justice, accountability, and protections for women. Photo: Edgard Garrido, Reuters.

08/31/20 (written by kheinle) — Femicides continue to increase in Mexico, registering their highest monthly total on record. According to data from Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP), 101 cases were reported in June. This brought the total for the first six months of the year to 566. This comes on the heels of a 130% increase in cases of femicides documented from 2015 to 2019.

Mexico has long grappled with the problem of targeted killings of women. Nearly half (45%) of all women in Mexico reported being victims of violence at the hands of their partner, according to a 2018 survey by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía e Informática, INEGI). More recently, another 18% specified that they were victims of physical abuse. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the National Network of Shelters, a group that supports at risk women and children, reported an 80% increase in calls and a 50% increase in the number of women and children to their shelters.

The Government’s Mixed Response

With the rise in femicide cases, there has been increased attention from national and international critics imploring the Mexican government to step up its efforts. However, the reaction from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his administration is mixed.

The Right to Demonstrate

On the one hand, the administration is at least superficially backing women’s rights and the public’s constitutional right to protest in support of protections for women. For example, following several demonstrations in Mexico City and León, Guanajuato in August, the president used his platform to denounce efforts to silence the public. He vocally supported the protestors’ right to protest, but urged them to do so peacefully. “We have to respect the right to dissent and the freedom to protest, to respect and to be tolerant, but more than anything to respect [the right],” he said. “There should not have to be repression.” [Author’s translation]. He then stressed upon demonstrators to protest and gather non-violently, drawing on non-violent icons like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to drive home his point.

A protestor in Mexico City.
Photo: Pedro Pardo, AFP / Getty Images.

An Insufficient Response

Yet President López Obrador has also come under fire for what protestors have long argued has been his insufficient response to the inequities that women face. In 2020, there have been numerous public protests denouncing the government’s ineffective and inadequate response to femicides. Critics argue that the president is dismissive of both the femicides and protests that have ensued this past year. He often undermines the severity of the issue, attributing the violence to a loss of values and morality, notes media reports. In fact, he recently claimed that “Mexican women have never been as protected as now,” a point against which demonstrators continue to push back.

Reports also show the López Obrador administration proposing to cut funding to women’s shelters in July of this year, the same shelters that support the women facing femicide, domestic violence, and other targeted violence. As The Guardian reports, in early July, “the government approved a 65% budget cut for the federal women’s institute, and the president has also proposed to withdraw state funding for women’s shelters operated by NGOs, suggesting that women fleeing violence could instead be given a cash payment.”

Additional Resources

Justice in Mexico has looked extensively at femicides in Mexico, most recently as part of its publication, “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: Special Report 2020.” This also includes an analysis on the topic of international conventions to which Mexico is a signatory that are in place to protect women. For a breakdown of the legal context of femicide – what it is and what it is not – check out this post. For an overview on the civil unrest and protests in support of women’s rights and safety, there are also several write ups from March and July of this year. Finally, Justice in Mexico looked at the disproportionate dangers women face during the ongoing global pandemic, resulting in a rise in cases of domestic violence resulting from the “Stay Home” initiative.

We will continue to monitor and analyze the trends relating to femicide, its impact on women, and the society’s response. 


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Public’s perception of security in Mexico stays same despite rise in homicides

INEGI logo02/14/16 (written by kheinle) – Homicide rates in Mexico rose in 2015 for the first time since 2011, according to Mexico’s Secretary of the Interior (Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB). The number of homicides nationwide increased from 17,324 in 2014 to 18,650 in 2015, a 7.6% jump. Alejandro Hope, former Mexican intelligence officer, commented at a “Mexico Security Review 2016” conference at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Mexican Institute in Washington, D.C. that, “At the current rate, there will be more homicides under [current President Enrique] Peña Nieto than under [previous President Felipe] Calderón.” Despite the rise in homicides, however, SEGOB’s data reflects a 29.0% decrease in kidnappings, dropping from 1,840 in 2014 to 1,306 in 2015, and a 14.5% reduction in cases of extortion, from 6,155 cases in 2014 to 5,262 in 2015, both positive news for the Peña Nieto administration, as it conti­nues to battle crime and violence in Mexico.

While crime rates varied in 2015, one constant was the public’s perception of security. According to Mexico’s National Institute for Statistics and Geography’s (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI) annual report on public security, “Encuesta Nacional de Seguridad Pública Urbana (ENSU),” the percentage of Mexican’s 18 and older surveyed who felt safe living in their respective city was 32.3% in December 2015, barely up from 32.1% in December 2014 and 32.0% in December 2013. In fact, between September 2013 and December 2015, the public’s perception of security varied only 5.4%, oscillating between 27.6% and 33.0%. That still means, however, that at the end of 2015, 67.7% of Mexican felt unsafe living in their city.

Released in January 2016, ENSU data also shows a growing disillusion that the security situation will improve. From 2013 to the close of 2015, the percentage of those surveyed who believe the security situation will stay the same increased from 18.4% to 21.8%, while those who perceive security will improve decreased from 18.8% to 13.7%. The public’s feeling of insecurity stems not just from high profile crimes like murder, kidnapping, and extortion, but also from smaller crimes occurring more regularly in their neighborhoods. ENSU respondents reported that, “in the last three months of 2015, they saw or heard in and around where they live: consumption of alcohol in the streets (69.8%), theft or assault (67.1%), and vandalism (55.9%)…”

The public’s perception of insecurity in Mexico is not surprising considering the rising rates of homicide, the declining optimism that security will improve, and, among other factors, the public’s lack of confidence in police. According to ENSU results, at the end of 2015, 32.7% of Mexicans believe the Municipal Police (Policía Preventiva Municipal) are “very or somewhat effective” in their ability to combat crime, while 39.5% and 55.7% think that of State Police (Policía Estatal) and Federal Police (Policía Federal), respectively. The public expressed the most satisfaction with the National Gendarmerie (Gendarmería Nacional), rising from 61.9% saying the Gendarmerie is “very or somewhat effective” in March 2015 to 69.2% in December 2015. The Gendarmerie is an elite force of specially trained police that President Peña Nieto pledged when launching the units in August 2014 would “contribute to the protection of Mexicans, their goods and sources of employment when these are being threatened by crime.” The force has received mixed reviews since its launch.


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