Increasing Cases of Femicide in Latin America Gaining Attention
Monday, August 17, 2009 11:29 AM

Femicide, the murder of women because they are women, is a growing problem that threatens the lives and rights of women around the world. Hundreds of women in Guatemala and Mexico have been killed over the past few years. These two countries have some of the highest rates of femicide in the world. The Inter American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) gathered in Washington, D.C. in 2006 to discuss femicide in Latin America. A report given at the hearing stated the Commission’s worries about the amount of femicide in the regions: “The report explained that, regardless of their age, ethnicity, kinship and the specific characteristics of each country, these women’s deaths share a common cause: the unequal power relations between women and men, which generates situations of greater vulnerability and place limitations on women’s ability to enjoy their human rights, especially the right to life, personal integrity, freedom and due process.” From Women’s Health Journal 1/09 Dying Because They Are Women Femicide/Feminicide: Extreme Gender Violence.


In Mexico, the border town Ciudad Juárez has become infamous for its number of femicides. The murders of women have extended across Mexico from region to region.  A group of organizations called the Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional de Feminicidio (OCNF, National Citizen Feminicide Observatory) formed to work on detecting femicides in Mexico. The OCNF created a database which has statistics on 5 states in the north, 6 states in the central and lowlands areas, and two states in southern Mexico. From: Women’s Health Journal 1/09 Dying Because They Are Women Femicide/Feminicide: Extreme Gender Violence.


In Guatemala, violence against women is continuing to increase. The increase in femicide has been linked to the increase in gang violence and drug trafficking, as well as the country’s prolonged civil war. Norma Cruz, a lawyer in Guatemala who works to defend the rights of abused women, is the leader of the NGO Survivors. Survivors aids abused women and the families of people killed working for justice. Cruz explained the situation: “We are a society that has gotten used to death. We had the longest civil war in Latin America with thousands of people dead, so people here take it as something normal. Women are not seen as great contributors to the country, so violence against them seems acceptable.” From Guatemala’s ‘Femicide’ Crisis, Al Jazeera. The civil war lasted thirty years, and many of the crimes committed went unpunished.


A Guatemalan Human Rights Commission report stated that femicide is often incredibly brutal, and that the lack of state guarantees to guard women’s rights contributes to the continuation of crime. “The pattern of violence includes sexual assault and physical torture before the women are killed and their bodies are dumped in public places.” From Guatemala’s ‘Femicide’ Crisis, Al Jazeera. Guatemala passed a law against femicide in April 2008. Women’s rights groups worked hard to get the law passed, which officially recognizes femicide as a punishable crime. While this was an important step, femicide is still occuring and the perpetrators continue to go unpunished.


Compiled from: Guatemala’s ‘Femicide’ Crisis, Teresa Bo, Al Jazeera (6 August 2009). Women’s Health Journal 1/09 Dying Because They Are Women Femicide/Feminicide: Extreme Gender Violence, Latin American and Caribbean Women's Health Network, LACWHN (11 August 2009).