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. 

Sources:

“Women Voice Ire, Fear as Femicides Continue to Rise in Mexico,” Justice in Mexico, March 10, 2020.”

Gatitos Contra la Desigualdad, “Feminicidio: una pandemia invisible,” April 24, 2020.

Oscar Lopez, “Mexico City mayor promises to eradicate violence against women,” Reuters, July 9, 2020.

David Agren, “Femicides rise in Mexico as president cuts budgets of women’s shelters,” The Guardian, July 22, 2020.

Laura Calderón et al, “Organized Crime and Violence in Mexico: Special Report 2020,” Justice in Mexico, July 30, 2020.

“Mujeres y policías chocan en Ciudad de México en una marcha contra el machismo,” La Oferta, August 16, 2020.

“Resultan lesionadas tres personas en marcha feminista de la CDMX,” El Universal, August 16, 2020.

Pedro Villa y Caña, “Pide AMLO respetar derecho a manifestaciones de mujeres en León,” El Universal, August 24, 2020.

“Jessica, Marcela, Danna y Fernanda, 4 feminicidios que sacuden a México,” El Universal, August 27, 2020.

“La niña también traía tatuajes por todos lados”, dice fiscal de BC sobre feminicidio de Danna,” Animal Político, August 27, 2020.

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.