The issue of violence against women in Mexico has been a cause of concern for many years. The cases of Femicides surged at an alarming rate during the coronavirus confinement in Latin America. Mexico has been rated as one of the most violent countries for women in the world by the United Nations, where women are kidnapped, murdered and raped often by men. Since the country authorized stay-at-home orders on March 23rd to curb the spread of COVID-19, Mexico has reported a substantial increase in gender-based violence.
Femicide is defined as an “intentional murder of women because they are women, usually perpetrated by men (partners or ex-partners)”, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Mexico has been tracking femicides for the past eight years, recording a 137 per cent in the last five years (four times more than homicides).
Research shows that every 24 hours, 10 Mexican women have been murdered this year. Based on government data, 267 murders of women were reported in April making it the deadliest month in the last five years. Nearly 1000 girls and women have been killed in the first four months of 2020. Figures depict a 7.7 per cent rise in femicides from the beginning of 2020 until June, compared to the same time span last year.
A national network of women shelters reported a 60 per cent increase in emergency calls during the “quédate en casa,” or stay-at-home order. 21,722 calls were made about women’s domestic violence as per government data in April, and 26,171 calls in March.
Government authorities vowed to mitigate the rising cases of femicides and committed to make it a “priority for the government.” Yet, the government approved a 75 per cent budget reduction (more than MXN 151 million – USD 7 Million) for the national women’s institute. They defunded the budget allocated to women shelter houses, and instead distributing it directly to the victims. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador also discredited the gender-based atrocities commenting “Ninety per cent of those calls that serve as your base are false, it’s proven.” He blames femicide on the “neoliberal models” and claims the high numbers are misinformed and manipulated by the media. He said, “Homicides are measured, but the degree of social decomposition produced by the neoliberal model is not measured.”
The government also telecasted a Public Service Announcement (PSA) campaign “Count to 10” to prevent violence against women by encouraging families to count to 10 before the attacker strikes. The campaign evoked anger from the people pointing out that ‘domestic violence was a far more serious issue than family members getting on each other’s nerves.’
Earlier this year, twenty-five-year-old Ingrid Escamilla was brutally stabbed to death by her boyfriend. A week later, seven-year-old Fatima was kidnapped, murdered, and her body was found in a plastic bag. Their killings sparked a one-day demonstration across Mexico on International Women’s day calling it “A Day Without Us”. Women were enraged by the inefficiency of femicide prevention from the government, the lack of cooperation from the police and the failure of proper coverage by the media.
A series of femicides are reportedly occurring across the world amid the COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, particularly Peru and Turkey.