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The Most Dangerous Place for Mexican Women is in the Streets

Photo by xZad | CC BY 2.0


In Mexico, from 2012 to 2015, 10,010 women were murdered–seven a day, according to data from the National Health Information System (Sinais). But who are these women who were assassinated and what were the circumstances of the crime? Today, health statistics allow us to look at what’s happening on both the national and the state levels.

In 2017, the defense of women’s rights in Mexico marks two important anniversaries: 10 years ago the General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence (LGAMVLV) was enacted and entered into force, and it has been five years since the Federal Penal Code incorporated the crime of feminicide, defined as the murder of a woman for gender reasons, that is, for being a woman.

Although both regulations sought to modify public policies aimed at guaranteeing a life free of violence for women and girls and to improve the access to and delivery of justice for victims of gender violence, this has not been achieved in the country.

Law enforcement institutions throughout the country have not adopted the procedures for declaring femicides, nor the protocols for conducting investigations. The majority of murders of women continue to be investigated as homicides and those responsible are charged for this type of criminal offense. Moreover,  state courts were omitted from the application of the ruling on femicide issued by the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation, which is seen as “an input, not an obligation”, according to state judges in Guanajuato.

On November 25, International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, members of the National Network of Journalists from the states of Chiapas, Jalisco, Mexico City, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas and Tlaxcala, presented a series of reports that show how women are killed in each of these states, with specific characteristics, such as youth, a certain degree of education and the place where the events occur.

FEMINICIDE IN THE COUNTRY

The Sinais information, produced with health department death certificates, civil registry records and the death registry of the Public Prosecutor’s Office, reveals that in the country one out of every three women was murdered in the public streets. This makes the streets the most dangerous place for women.

The other place where most Mexican women are killed is in the home: 22.8%. This is followed by “other”, which in statistics is not defined, with 17.6 percent and “unkknown”, with 15.4%.

Most homicide victims on the public streets were single – 42.6% – and one in five was between 26 and 40 years old. At the national level the most vulnerable specific group are single women from 18 to 25 years old.

As for the women who were murdered in their homes, half – 49.4% – lived in a couple–married or free union–while one third was single, and one in ten, widowed.

The homicides of women that occurred in the public street corresponded to women with a bachelor’s level of education or higher. At home, they were women without schooling. That is, the higher the level of education, the more likely it is that Mexican women will be killed on the streets.

The Sinais data also reveals that 39% of the victims “did not work”, although this criterion may be due to the fact that they were engaged in unpaid household work or studying. At the national level, one out of every three victims was employed in personal services and another 7.7% in commerce.

What happens in the states?

Different states show different characteristics. In Chiapas, Mexico City, Hidalgo, Puebla, Querétaro and Quintana Roo, most homicides of women occur in the home. In Guerrero, Morelos and Tamaulipas, the homicides of women in the public streets exceeds the national average.

The ages, marital status and occupations of homicide victims also vary from one state to another. In some, the national tendency is that women aged 26 to 40 are the main victims, but in Oaxaca the age range rises and in Chihuahua it decreases. Tlaxcala is the entity where more girls are murdered from 0 to 11 years old.

The State of Mexico became one of the most violent and dangerous entities for women, followed by Coahuila and Guerrero. But as of 2013, the states of Puebla and Baja California went from being in the last places to among the first.

Women’s Homicides Matter

Of the total homicides in the country, nine out of ten victims are men and only 12% of cases are women. Why, then, analyze the murders of women? Because 95% of homicides, not only in Mexico but in the world, are perpetrated by men, according to the 2013 World Study on Homicide of the United Nations (UN). The vast majority of perpetrators are people close to women, such as their domestic partners and associates.

In Mexico, as of 2012, the Federal Criminal Code considers femicide the murder of women where the murderer has or has had some relationship of a sentimental, affective or trust nature, although this is not the only causal factor. It also contemplates any sign of sexual violence; degrading injuries or mutilations; acts of necrophilia; a history of family, work or school violence; if there were threats, harassment or injury prior to the murder; if the victim was held incommunicado before the deprivation of life; and if the body of the victim is exposed or displayed in a public place.

Under these criteria, 385 of the homicides reported in the Sinais as homicides would be considered feminicides, since previous family violence was documented. The states  with the most cases are: State of Mexico (58), Colima (37), Guanajuato (23), Mexico City (20), Puebla (20), Veracruz (17), Coahuila (16), Michoacán (16). ) and Oaxaca (16).

In its ruling of 2015 in the case of the femicide of Mariana Lima Buendía, murdered by her partner in the State of Mexico in 2010, the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation determined that all murders of women must be investigated applying the  femicide protocols, including preserving evidence to determine if sexual attacks were committed and conducting the necessary examinations to know if the women experienced sexual violence.

Chiapas, a State Without Justice

In June 2013, Omar Fernando Rosales Toledano, then private secretary of the Green Ecologist Party of Mexico (PVEM) senator Luis Armando Melgar, was arrested for the femicide of Viridians Flores Ramírez, 21 years old. Viridians was in a relationship with Rosales and they had a son.

Rosales threw the body of Viridians over the San Cristóbal bridge in 2013. He feigned a kidnapping of the woman and even asked for a ransom from her parents, who suspected him because their daughter had left him because of physical violence. Rosales Toledano fled, but was apprehended.

Four years later, he has not been sentenced and his trial is still grinding on as the defense continues to file appeals, motions and other legal maneuvers to delayed the final decision.

In Chiapas, 352 women were murdered from 2012 to 2015, according to the Sinais data. The majority of murdered women – one in three – were single at the time of their death, as in the case of Viridians, who was separated from Rosales. One in four of the homicide victims were between 18 and 25 years old, like Viridians, which places this population group as the second most vulnerable, just after women between 26 and 40 years old.

Rosales’ economic position has allowed him to file a series of legal appeals, including a federal relief of release alleging  health problems. From August to October of this year, he was admitted to a private hospital in Tuxtla Gutiérrez, one of the best-known and most expensive hospitals in the state capital, for suffering, presumably “gastrointestinal problems and problems with the sciatic nerve”.

The fifth federal judge, José del Carmen Constantino Avendaño, granted an injunction to the alleged perpetrator of the feminicide so that he could be released and treated in the private hospital.  Viridians’ family publicly denounced this decision and managed, just a few weeks ago, to have Rosales returned to jail to continue with the trial.

Data from Sinais also reveals that most of the women – six out of ten – who previously suffered violence were murdered in their homes. The home is one of the most dangerous places for Chiapas, since one in five is murdered there, while 30 to 40% of women are murdered in the street, and 15% in other venues, such as a hotel,  as happened to Viridians.

The age group most at risk of being killed are women from 26 to 40 years of age in free union, who do not work outside teh home and who have high school education.

Viridians’ parents have had to go to the media on more than one occasion to denounce the way in which the trial of the confessed feminicide has been carried out. This is the second time that Rosales has been able to obtain an injunction for release for alleged health problems. The fear of the family is that he will escape when out of prison.

On September 2014, the relatives reported that Judge Julio César Morales Ríos agreed to a reconstruction of the crime at the request of the accused, using the body of a pig. The reconstruction was suspended when the family and the public expressed  indignation for not respecting the Victims Law, which establishes that victims, even when dead, must be treated with humanity and respect for their dignity.

The family of the young woman has been dragged through four years of legal procedings trying to get justice for the feminicide of her daughter. They have had to be constantly vigilant to assure that the accused does not use his influence to get off with a lighter punishment.

In Chiapas, the crime of feminicide is included in Article 164 bis of the State’s Criminal Code, which entered into force on February 8, 2012 and establishes a penalty of 25 to 60 years in prison.

*Collaborative report coordinated and prepared by journalists from the National Network of Journalists of Chiapas, Jalisco, Mexico City, Guanajuato, Hidalgo, Puebla, San Luis Potosí, Tamaulipas and Tlaxcala.

This article originally appeared on America’s Program.

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