With a femicide rate of 1.4 per 100,000, women and girls in Mexico experience gender-based killings at a rate only slightly above global averages (1.3 per 100,000), however since 2007, the number of killings has grown exponentially. This is related to organized crime but also to the militarization of the war on drugs. Understanding the intersection of security policy, femicide, and other forms of gender-based violence is essential.
According to Data Civica, most victims of drug war killings are young men and most homicides are associated with firearms in the public space. Crucially, although women represent a numerically smaller share of murder victims, they experience different patterns of violence, and patterns that have changed significantly in current context: before 2009, women were mainly murdered in their home. In recent years, more women are killed in the public space.
But femicides are not the only expression of the overlap between gender beliefs, violence, organized crime and state response. In recent years, another phenomenon has been growingly drawing attention: the staggering increase of women for drug-related offences. In Mexico drug offences represented the second most frequent cause of incarceration at the local level (in 2018) and the most frequent cause of imprisonment at the federal level (2017). As a result, the female prison population has generally followed and upward trend, increasing by 60 per cent between 2000 and 2017.
Many of those detained, particularly those arrested by the military, experience additional violence, with the first National Survey on Prison Population, revealing that 41% of women arrested by the Navy (and 21% of those arrested by the Army) were victims of rape. In the context of COVID-19, an Amnesty law has been approved, which, if applied promptly and thoroughly, will benefit women incarcerated for drug-related offences.
Although the militarized drug war has substantially altered patterns of gender violence, it has also served to obscure other phenomena, particularly intimate partner violence. Domestic violence against women is generally not prosecuted nor sanctioned; women face structural, social and cultural barriers to access justice and violence against them is thus met by impunity. In this scenario, access to judicial information, particularly sentences, is crucial, in order to develop evidence-based public policy aimed at eliminating violence against women and make public institutions accountable. Worldwide, men are victims in 80% of total homicides, whereas 82% of victims of intimate partner homicide are women. The most recent data on violence against women in Mexico show that 66.1% of women 15 years of age or older have at least suffered an incident of emotional, economic, physical or sexual violence and/or discrimination at least once in their life. Of the women who have experienced physical or sexual violence in their communities, 49.5% did not report it because they considered it “a minor incident of no consequence” while 15.2% did not know how or where to report it.
In the context of COVID-19, the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights have called on states to take measures against the staggering increase of cases of domestic violence against women and children. In Mexico, official data show how that in March 2020, which coincided with the beginning of “social distance” measures, show that the number of calls to 911 reporting domestic violence, sexual abuse and other gender-based crimes increased by 20% in relation to the previous month. However, local courts do not seem to be providing the corresponding services to guarantee women’s access to justice. Seemingly, there do not seem to exist enough economic resources to respond to the increasing request of access to shelters for women victims of violence.
Author: Corina Giacomello
Profesora-investigadora del Instituto de Investigaciones Jurídicas de la Universidad Autónoma de Chiapas y colaboradora de Equis: Justicia para las Mujeres A.C.