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A look at feminicide in Mexico: 2007-2008.

The report from the Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional del Feminicidio (OCNF, National Citizen Feminicide Observatory), entitled Una mirada del feminicidio en Mexico: 2007-2008, was part of a collective effort by member organizations working together to uncover gender-based killings of women.

The general objective of the study was to document the frequency and degree of the various forms of feminicide in 13 Mexican states from January 2007 to July 2008 to make this information available for the creation of efficient mechanisms for the prevention, punishment and eradication of feminicide. Meanwhile, the specific objectives were:

1. To analyze how the current administration's changes in the realm of civil and human rights have fostered an environment in which violence against women is possible.

2. To classify the murders of women in order to identify the different varieties of feminicide in Mexico.

3. To document a case study that provides an example of the way in which the authorities treat the problem of feminicide in Mexico.

4. To revise and analyze the State's fulfillment of recommendations on gender violence and due diligence in women's killings.

5. To provide information that may be useful for policy-making in human rights, justice and public safety for Mexican women.

The OCNF defines feminicide as the murder of women motivated by misogyny. Feminicide implies distain, discrimination and hatred of women, which is echoed in the justice system's failure to investigate and prosecute these crimes and the responsibility and/or complicity of the State.

To document cases of feminicide in Mexico, we created a database inspired by the interdisciplinary study by the Colegio de la Frontera Norte and the Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women in Ciudad Juarez under the coordination of Dr. Julia E. Monarrez, entitled "Sistema Socioeconomico y Geo-referencial sobre la Violencia de Genero en Ciudad Juarez. Analisis de la Violencia de Genero en Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua: Propuestas para su prevencion."

Our database included information from five states in the northern region (Chihuahua, Nuevo Leon, Sinaloa, Sonora, Tamaulipas), six states in the central and lowlands region (Federal District, Mexico State, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Morelos, Tlaxcala) and two states in the south (Tabasco, Yucatan).

This database included a range of variables divided into five categories--prior variables; socio-demographic and economic variables; geographic variables; variables related to the crime; and variables related to the murderer--which facilitated the individual analysis of each case. The violence to which the woman was subjected, her relationship with the killer and other indicators help identify the different forms of feminicide, which include intimate feminicide, infant feminicide, family feminicide and systemic sexual feminicide.

Our database was based on: a) newspapers and magazines; b) online sources and press releases on the Internet; and c) official sources, i.e., information published by government agencies.

A case study was documented in the border state of Chiapas, where human rights organizations have denounced the torture, human trafficking, sexual violence and brutal murder of women, which has been largely ignored.

Principal Results

The OCNF database recorded 1,014 deaths of women in the 13 states included in the study during the period January 1, 2007 to July 31, 2008.

The socio-demographic analysis was based on three variables: the victim's age, occupation and marital status, with age being one of the most important. In the 13 states, most of the women who were killed were between 21 and 40 years old, 42.7% of the 1,014 documented cases. The second highest incidence of murder was among girls and young women age 11 to 20, who comprised 13.8% of the total. Nonetheless, many of the cases documented in the periodicals did not specify the victim's age, and this data was also often missing in the official records, which demonstrates a lack of rigor in the investigation of these women's deaths

With regard to occupation, 15.9% were described as "housewives," 12% were students or unemployed minors and 8.6% were domestic workers or had some other sort of paid employment outside the home. In over half of the 1,014 cases in the 13 states (50.4%), there was no information about the victim's occupation.

In order analyze the painful deaths of these women in our country and to be able to classify them according to the different varieties of feminicide, we also need to look at other variables, such as where the body was found, the cause of death, the sorts of scenarios in which the bodies are commonly found, the motives for the murder and the relationship between the victim and her killer.

In the 13 states examined, we found that four out of ten women and girls (41%) died as the result of acts that imply the use of excessive force and physical aggression, including asphyxia, stabbing and blunt trauma to the head, while one in four (25.7%) were shot. In 269 cases (26% of the total), there was no information on the cause of death; for example, the Offices of the Attorney General in the Federal District, Guanajuato, Tabasco or Chihuahua did not provided this information.

Our study also revealed that 42% of the murdered women and girls were found in public spaces; they were thrown in the trash or abandoned in empty lots. Another 34.9% were found in their homes, and in 16.6% of the cases, it was not possible to determine were the body was found.

In an overwhelming percentage of the cases (over 51.57%), the relationship of the victim with her killer is unknown. However, 19.82% of the 1,014 victims were killed by an intimate partner (a husband, cohabiting partner, lover, etc.), 11% by a family member and 10.7% by a stranger.

Motives for the murders of these women and girls were only known in 314 cases: family problems accounted for 7.1% of the total 1,014 murders; jealousy, 4.95%; rape, 3.25%; misogyny, 2.66%; and revenge, 2.36%. In 700 cases, the motives were not reported (69.03%).

While in sheer numbers more women were killed in Mexico State, Chihuahua, the Federal District and Jalisco, in terms of prevalence in the 13 states, a greater proportion of women were killed in Chihuahua, Morelos and the Federal District. However, when we apply the formula for prevalence to the cases of feminicide, the leading states are Morelos, Sinaloa, Sonora, the Federal District, Mexico State and Tlaxcala with the same rate of prevalence. Prevalence in the state of Chihuahua is considerably diminished; of the 206 murders of women identified by the state Prosecutor's Office, just 70 cases reported in the press were analyzed, only 48 of which were feminicides. The other cases could not be analyzed because the Prosecutor's Office has yet to provide the information needed for the database. It should be noted that even though prevalence is the proportion of women victims of feminicide to the total, the number of murders registered are still included, which reflects the specific factors that influence women's lives and safety.

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

The different types of feminicide can be classified according to how the women were killed, why they were killed, where they were found and who killed them. These variables help us understand the nature of the violence that resulted in their deaths.

Classification of Feminicide

Systemic Sexual Feminicide

Systemic sexual feminicide is characterized by the brutal and sadistic torture of the victims. In our database, 194 systemic sexual feminicides were registered; 90 cases in the Federal District, followed by 23 in the State of Mexico.
   In January 2008, the naked body of
   25-year-old Maria Elena was found on
   Calle 12 de Octubre in Colonia Huayatla
   in the Delegacion Magdalena
   Contreras in the Federal District. Her
   body was discovered on its side, with
   the marks of beatings and blood on
   her back and scratches on her arms,
   cheeks and legs; she was bleeding
   from the mouth and traces of semen
   were found.

   The body of 13-year-old Yadira from
   the State of Mexico was found at the
   entrance to the aqueduct. It is believed
   that she was kidnapped and
   raped. She was found half naked, with
   her left nipple torn off. Her cause of
   death was strangulation.


Intimate Feminicide

This classification is applied when the victim is killed by an intimate male partner (a boyfriend, husband, lover, cohabitating partner, etc.), with whom the victim had a relationship either when she was killed or during some time prior. A total of 229 cases of intimate feminicide were recorded in our database; 57 cases in the State of Mexico; 26 in the Federal District; 22 in Guanajuato; and 21 in Sonora.
   In Gaby's Motel, at the 2.5-kilometer
   mark on the Cuernavaca-Cuautla
   Federal Highway, the body of a 23-year-old
   woman was found. She had
   been stabbed in her right check, neck,
   thorax and abdomen by her boyfriend.

   In Guanajuato, 14-year-old Teresa
   was beaten and killed by her 20-year-old
   boyfriend Ezequiel Valadez Manriquez
   because she refused to have
   sex with him.

   In Tlaxcala, Maribel was murdered by
   her cohabitating partner when she refused
   to work as a prostitute. Her body
   was found in bed; her murderer had
   cut off one of her fingers and broken
   her ribs. Her face and neck were swollen
   and bruised from being beaten,
   and she was bleeding from her ears
   and nose.


Infant Feminicide

The murder of infant girls or young girl children is committed primarily by their fathers or close relatives and to a lesser degree by mothers or women caregivers. These deaths are related to problems of intra-family violence and abuse; the girls are often the result of unwanted pregnancies, and they are commonly killed in the context of marital conflicts, for revenge or because they were crying or displaying some other behavior typical of young children. A total of 95 cases of infant feminicide were recording in our database. The greatest number occurred in the State of Mexico (39 cases), followed by Jalisco (19 cases).

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]
   In the Federal District, a girl aged two
   years and nine months died in the
   Hospital Infantil de Mexico due to internal
   bleeding. She had bruises all
   over her body as well as trauma to
   her head, lungs, stomach and heart,
   the result of abuse by her parents and
   grandmother.

   In the state of Nuevo Leon, a two-year-old
   girl died from multiple blows
   to her entire body. Her stepfather beat
   her because she was "misbehaving."


Family Feminicide

This category includes women killed by a family member. A total of 95 cases were recorded in our database, with the State of Mexico leading with 44 cases, followed by Jalisco with a total of 17.
   In the state of Sinaloa, a 36-year-old
   woman was killed. Her son and his
   father were at home drinking. She told
   them that they should stop and was
   more insistent with her son, who got
   up, walked around the house and
   came back with an AK47. He shot his
   mother and later killed himself.

   In the State of Mexico, the body of 53-year-old
   Hortensia was found in her
   home in a bag, wrapped up in a blue-and-black-checkered
   blanket. Her
   body had been hidden under a pile of
   wooden and cardboard boxes. She
   had been killed by her son, Jose Angel
   Camacho Flores, with whom she had
   argued because she didn't like a relationship
   that he was having with a
   woman. She was smothered with a
   plastic bag.

   In the state of Guanajuato, 16-year-old
   Marisol was killed by her uncle.
   The police found her semi-nude body,
   with her hands and feet tied with a
   cord. She had injuries to her face and
   head. She had been raped and was
   found in a fetal position.


Unspecified Feminicide

This category includes those cases in which the newspapers did not provide precise information on the victim, the killing, the motive or the murderer. It also includes cases provided by government officials who took part in this study. The scant information that we do have opens an infinite array of possibilities with regard to the precise type of feminicide implied. A total of 288 cases were "unspecified," with 105 cases in the State of Mexico, 46 in the Federal District and 29 in Sinaloa.
   The body of a woman age 25 to 30
   was found in a ditch in Hermosillo. The
   motive for her murder and the identity
   of her killer are unknown.

   In Tabasco, 73-year-old Velia was tortured
   and strangled. Her murderer
   and the location where her body was
   found are unknown.


Chiapas Case Study

In the state of Chiapas, we were able to review legal files on the murders of women thanks to an agreement of collaboration obtained by the Special Commission to Identify and Track Investigations Related to Feminicide under the prior Legislature. These files offered important parameters within our special study, which included similarities with different federal agencies.

From 2000 to 2004, a total of 571 women and girls were killed in the State of Chiapas, however we do not know which of these were feminicides, nor do we have recent information because the Ministry of Justice and the Special Attorney General for the Protection of Women's Rights in Chiapas have still not responded to our request for access to information on women's murders from 2005 to 2008.

The Chiapas case study brought to light a series of examples of impunity, and unfortunately, this situation is not limited to this state. A series of serious practices within the Mexican penal system threaten the lives and safety of women, as seen in:

* Failure to monitor women's murder files, because the cases are mislabeled as another sort of crime and the officials in charge do not notice.

* Lack of a protocol for the investigation of women's murders, as well as the lack of gender and human rights perspectives.

* Reluctance of the authorities to provide services, which means that the cases are resolved in a summary fashion outside of a legal framework, without consideration for the consequences of such actions.

Conclusions

The OCNF understands feminicide as the most extreme form of violence against women, which ends the life of Mexican women as the result of gender inequity, misogyny and the lack of access to and administration of justice. Clearly, then, not every killing of a woman is feminicide.

The current administration of the federal government has made some changes in national security, which have had repercussions in civil rights and especially in the rights of women, who have been the object of sexual abuse and aggression at the hands of the military.

Our study found feminicide to be a complex problem that involves various factors, including discrimination against women and the naturalization of gender violence within our patriarchal culture. Extreme violence against women is manifest in many forms and gives rise to different types of feminicide.

Our documentation of 1,014 murders of women in 13 states of the Mexican Republic demonstrates the magnitude and seriousness of the systematic violation of women's human rights and integrity. We found that extreme violence against women and girls takes many different forms: intimate feminicide, family feminicide, systemic sexual feminicide, infant feminicide and even feminicide related to stigmatized occupations. Nonetheless, due to the lack of investigation by competent authorities, a considerable number of feminicide cases were unspecified.

Our report concludes that this lack of specific information on the crime, as well as certain socio-demographic variables, could result in a situation similar that in Ciudad Juarez: the discovery of the unidentified remains of 50 girls and women possibly killed between 1993 and 2005. These victims will never be named because there is no genetic record to confirm their identity, which is yet another form of victimization at the hands of the authorities.

Even when we had access to official information provided primarily by the state prosecutor's offices, there was a noteworthy lack of information in the other institutions responsible for defending and protecting women's human rights. These agencies have attempted to excuse their shortcomings by declaring that they are not trained to handle these crimes.

Meanwhile, the Mexican government continues to exercise practices that result in serious violations of women's human rights as the result of the failure to guarantee and respect these rights. According to the international and national legal system, the Mexican State is obligated to investigate all situations in which human rights have been violated, but the violations related to feminicide continue to enjoy impunity.

In light of our findings, the OCNF calls for the necessary and urgent creation of comprehensive and expeditious legal mechanisms to clarify the murders of women that can be classified as feminicide, which would be one of the most important instruments for the corresponding investigation and punishment of those who are guilty of these crimes.

To carry out timely, efficient and thorough investigations, the Mexican government is encouraged to create and implement a protocol of special investigation and attention to the crime of feminicide under the direction of a multidisciplinary team with a gender perspective that is sensitive to the issue of feminicide.

The OCNF also suggests the creation and continuation of agreements of collaboration and institutional alliances with the Mexican government, in order to encourage the flow of information that will facilitate cross-referencing of data and help to clarify the cases of unspecified feminicide.

At the same time, in light of the current militarization of our country, we must implement periodic evaluations in the militarized zones under the guidance of national and international organizations that defend women's human rights in order to protect the lives and safety of the women who are living in these areas.
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Publication:Women's Health Journal
Geographic Code:1MEX
Date:Jan 1, 2009
Words:2922
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