The Silent Epidemic: The Proliferation of Femicide in Mexico
BY: Osayma Saad
On March 23rd, 2020, Mexico mandated stay-at-home quarantine measures for its citizens due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since then, there has been a notable spike in female homicides. More specifically, these relate to the murder of women because they are women: femicides. As a matter of fact, the month of April was seen to be the deadliest month in the last five years with 267 recorded femicides.
The reality is that the levels of gender and domestic violence are elevated during the circumstances of the current pandemic, where many women with dangerous home lives are confined with their abusers. Instead of addressing the severity of the issue and acknowledging the plight of women in the country, Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador brushes it aside. At times, he has even undermined the alarming statistics on the violence that his own administration has provided.
López Obrador has gone as far as telling a journalist that “ninety percent of calls that serve as your base are false, it’s proven,” when referring to his government’s own data on emergency calls about violence against women. This alone poses a huge problem of Mexico's leadership publicly diminishing the reality of the violence against women, discrediting their claims and cries for help.
However, his claims do not erase the fact that femicides have increased 137% over the last five years -- four times more than the general homicide rate -- according to the country's attorney general. Maria Salguero, a Mexican femicide investigator and creator of a national femicide map, told CNN that “It's not that the calls are false, it's more that the calls aren't followed through to completion, so they're considered incomplete.” Salguero also points out many systemic issues related to López Obrador’s excuses, including how domestic violence reports frequently come from neighbours and hardly result in any follow up from the authorities, which renders the calls incomplete.
It is easy to say that the majority of the claims are fake when you ignore their existence. How do you begin to solve a problem that you refuse to see?
Criminologist Mónica Franco said it best: “The pandemic has revealed how poorly prepared we have been to address the problem,” addressing Mexico’s lack of responsibility towards the issue. “There’s insecurity about public health, people who lose their jobs, an increase in alcohol abuse,” she said. “Women are affected in multiple ways. They’re often the first to lose their job, they have to take care of the children, and they face the stress of being locked up with their aggressor.” Franco also addressed how authorities are ill-prepared and frequently unwilling to process reports of domestic violence. According to Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de Derechos Humanos, CNDH) only one out of every ten crimes is reported, leaving a close to overwhelming 90% of crimes going unreported and unpunished in Mexico.
When thousands of reported emergency calls concerning women and children suffering physical violence are ignored and go unpunished, we can begin to see that Mexico is living a double epidemic. Corruption and inefficiency have directly led to the destruction of public safety, and the struggles of the underprivileged are more and more exaggerated every day.
Femicide is only the beginning. The underlying root of the issue still exists and comes with other socio-economic consequences. Male-perpetrated intimate partner violence (IPV) against women is a pervasive global health issue with nearly one in three women experiencing such violence in their lifetime. In addition to impacting health outcomes (ex: reproductive and mental health), IPV adversely affects other important global development domains. Studies increasingly demonstrate that IPV has negative economic consequences for women’s employment (ex: difficulties with finding and sustaining employment, work productivity) for women with IPV experiences. This may be due to abusive partners’ interference with women’s employment through harassment and other job interference tactics. Without the proper resources, infrastructure, and support, women in dangerous situations that may be living with IPV have very little chance of escape.
This isn’t the first time this has been reported on, and it is not a new issue. Countless news services, NGO’s and independent organizations have been trying to bring this issue to light for more than a decade, and it has existed for much much longer. Even if the pandemic has caused an uptick in femicides and IPV, the issue does not stem from the sudden onset of the virus, but from the already inefficient domestic violence response systems put in place by the government.
Keeping femicide in the public eye and providing information and resources to women is imperative in the fight to hold the authorities responsible and prevent future violence against the women and girls in Mexico. It is our collective responsibility not to fail the thousands of women who are victims of femicide and IPV.
This is an epidemic, and unlike COVID, you cannot distance yourself from the issue.
*All arguments made and viewpoints expressed within Youth In Politics and its nominal entities do not necessarily reflect the views of the writers or the organization as a whole.
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