International Women's Day shines fresh light on Mexico's 'femicides'
Ahead of International Women's Day, the United Nations chapter in Mexico called for the government to define 'femicide' as a 'particularly intolerable' crime. Female homicides have shot up in recent years.
It’s been two years since Obdulia de Paz’s former boyfriend broke into her home and killed her mother and daughter with the help of his son, nephew, and a friend.Skip to next paragraph
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“The police carried my daughter out wrapped in a blanket filled with blood,” Ms. de Paz says. “I wanted to see her for the last time, but they wouldn’t let me.”
Her story is just one of thousands in a unique type of violence taking place in Mexico, politicians and rights groups say. These female homicides, also called “femicides,” are fueled by a sense that women are property and perpetuated by a law-and-order vacuum, they say. Female homicides almost doubled to 1,926 in 2009 from 1,085 in 2007, according to the national statistics agency.
“Most of these women are dying at the hands of their partners or people they know, or in highly vulnerable situations, specifically because they are women,” says Rocío García Gaytán, president of the federal government’s National Women’s Institute (Inmujeres).
Mexico gained notoriety for the unsolved murder of hundreds of women in the border city of Juárez in the 1990s and early 2000s. Since then the issue has mostly floated under the radar of a raging drug war – although it has received new attention this week.
The United Nations coordinator in Mexico called on the government Monday to legally define femicide as a separate and "particularly intolerable" crime, in order to give it the attention it needs in Mexico. Separately, ahead of International Women's Day today, a congressional committee said Monday it would present a bill to categorize femicides separately in the penal code and require special investigations geared toward reducing discrimination against victims' relatives, which is known to happen in such cases.
United States officials have also taken note. “Gender violence in Mexico has reached an alarming level, particularly in the border areas and big cities,” says a 2010 cable from the US Embassy in Mexico City, published last month by WikiLeaks.
Mexico State refuses to investigate
Mexico has made progress in fighting crimes against women. A 2007 federal law provides funding at all levels of government to deal with gender crimes, a version of which has been passed at the state level. The federal government has an office dedicated to solving federal cases of violence against women.
Setbacks have occurred, however. Federal investigations made possible by the 2007 law have been halted by three states, most recently Mexico State, which in January voted against a federal investigation into a steep rise in women murders in the state.
Female homicides in Mexico State more than doubled to 205 in 2009 from 98 in 2005, according to a report submitted to Congress last year by the state prosecutor’s office. The report said one cause of the murders was “personal and sentimental instability (single mothers, various sex partners).” Critics said the report itself showed that the state perpetuates sexism.
Mexico State has defended its decision to bar the federal investigation, saying it was a politically motivated attempt to tarnish its governor, Enrique Peña Nieto, considered a presidential contender for 2012 elections for the main opposition party. The prosecutor’s office would not comment for this article.