Women have always faced more obstacles than men. They have been denied the right to vote, struggle to get equal pay in the workplace, and are told they should continue to be housewives instead of pursuing an education. A large problem that women also face in countries like Argentina, El Salvador, and India is that they are being abused and in severe cases, murdered. A survey that was conducted by Small Arms, stated that 14 out of the 25 countries that held the highest rates of femicide in the world are from Latin America(Quinones, 2017) One of those countries is Mexico. Mexico has been facing an increase in crimes for the last decade. Most of the crimes people recognize are related to drugs. Just in 2016, the drug lord to one of the largest drug cartels in the world was finally apprehended. While it is true that a portion of the murders that are being committed in Mexico today are related to the drug trafficking industry, there is also that other portion that is not. Those victims are women, and they are murdered by their family members, or by opportunists because of their gender.
Definition of Femicide
The word femicide has been used to describe the killings of women. The initial definition of femicide was “the murders of women by men motivated by hatred, contempt, pleasure or a sense of ownership of women‖”(“The History of the Term..”, n.d). However, this definition was modified as the numbers of killings escalated. Femicide now included “torture, sexual abuse, deprivation of liberty, post-mortem dismembering and the abandoning of bodies in public spaces by perpetrators (individual or groups), known or unknown to the victim”(Rashida, n.d, p.7). In order for people to see the severity of this problem every form of femicide needs to be properly understood. There are intimate, non-intimate, honor killings, female infanticide, the murder of women for their sexual orientation/identity, genital mutilation, dowry-related femicide and organized crime-related femicide(Etherington & Baker, 2015). It is not as simple as killing women or young girls but a more detailed reason as to why they were killed.
Some of the less common types of femicide include female infanticide and dowry-related femicide. Female infanticide is the killings of female infants. Dowry is a “cultural tradition where the family of the bride provides money and/or property to the family of the groom” (Etherington & Baker, 2015). If the groom asks for a larger dowry or if the family is not satisfied with the dowry that has been given to them, the bride will be seen as an “unsuitable wife” and then they are either murdered or forced to commit suicide with the harassment that is being given by the groom and his family (Etherington & Baker, 2015).
The most common forms of femicide that are being seen in Mexico is organized crime-related femicide, intimate, non-intimate and genital mutilation. It was difficult finding statistics specific only to female genital mutilation, but a report released in 2004 said that “130 of the over 470 femicides have included torture, mutilation, and rape.” (Starr, 2017).
Femicide in Nuevo Leon
Nuevo Leon is one of the states in the country of Mexico that hold the highest rates of femicide. As of August 2018, Nuevo Leon had reported 37 femicides, which was a 40.5% increase from 2017 when there were 15 reported femicides (Delgado, 2018). A report states: there was a 40% increase from 2005-2009, going from 2.45 to 3.52 femicides per 100,000 inhabitants. Sixty-seven of every 100 women have suffered some kind of violent act from their partner, a family member, or a person in their community, workplace or school(The Condition of Women…, 2011, p. 3)
Women are hanged, raped(at times multitudinously), hanged, quartered, mutilated, decapitated and are then burned, and publicly displayed which in some cases can be in front of schools(The Condition of Women..,2011). Women are being treated and disposed of as if they held no value.
Femicide in Chihuahua
The state of Chihuahua experienced a spike in gender-based violence in the 1990s. A report states “In Chihuahua, the femicide rate multiplied by 3.7 times in one year: between 2007 and 2008, the femicide rate jumped from 2.9 to 10.6 femicides per 100,000 women” (Alternative Report on.., 2018, p. 5) The violence in Mexico continues but the crimes targeting women has grown dramatically since 1993. “In the five years between 2008 and 2013, 890 femicides in the state of Chihuahua, in comparison to the 447 femicides that occurred in the 14 years between 1993 and 2007”(Alternative Report on.., 2018, pp 5-6). In the year 1993, news broke concerning the rape, torture, mutilation and murder of women in one of the cities in the state of Chihuahua, Ciudad Juárez(Simmons & Mueller, 2014, p. 130). Since that year, the city has witnessed the extreme forms of violence that women face. In Ciudad Juarez, the patterns of killings included the “abduction and disappearances for a few days; torture and sexual assault by groups of men; mutilation, particularly of the sexual organs and breasts”(Rashida, n.d). According to UN Women, “In the state of Chihuahua, 66 percent of murders of women were committed by husbands, boyfriends or other family members”(“Programming Essentials..”, n.d)
A law was passed in 2007, the General Law of Access for Women to a Life Free of Violence(GLAWLFV) and this law also established the process of a Warning Declaration of Gender Violence(National Citizens’ Observatory on Femicide, 2012). It makes sure that authorities are implementing measures to protect women and conduct in-depth investigations into the gender-based violence they face as well as find ways to minimize the issue if not resolve it. “The Declaration may be requested by civil society organizations, human rights institutions, either national or local and international organizations” (National Citizens’ Observatory on Femicide, 2012). The 3 levels of government, federal, local and municipal are to work together to address the problem, find ways to prevent femicide and apprehend the perpetrators. The purpose of establishing GLAWLFV is to ensure the safety of women, however, this has not been the case for the states of Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon. Chihuahua remains without an alert for gender based violence(“Alternative Report on Violence..”, 2018) Civil society organizations have requested a Declaration of Gender Violence 4 times. On January 13, 2012, they requested one for the state of Nuevo Leon for the increasing femicides and disappearances of young girls. The National System to Prevent, Address, Sanction and Eradicate Violence Against Women refused this request and the organizations filed for an appeal(National Citizens’ Observatory on Femicide, 2012).
Organizations have noticed that women are not making reports to the authorities. They feel that: women are fearful of retaliation measures and do not trust the authorities; and the lack of standardized protocols for investigating and prosecuting cases of violence against women, which hamper the right of victims to access to justice and leave a high proportion of cases unpunished.(“Alternative Report on Violence..”, 2018, p.8)
There are delays in the investigation process, little to no forensic testing and judges are biased towards the victims as well insisting that their testimony is not credible(National Citizens’ Observatory on Femicide, 2012). Due to the poor investigations being done by police, this leads to a small number of arrests made. To add on to the lack of reports, for the state of Chihuahua, they described the environment of Ciudad Juarez to be characterized by an extremely acute lack of confidence, suspicion [of the police] and politicization”(“Alternative Report on Violence..”, 2018) Mexico is known for having a weak and corrupt law enforcement system. Unfortunately, this only places women’s safety at a greater risk.
Campo Algodonero Case
One of the biggest cases related to the ongoing issue of gender violence, that Mexico faced is the Gonzalez et al(cotton field) v. Mexico case also known as the campo algodonero case. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights filed a case against Mexico on November 4, 2007, for the disappearance and murder of the 3 young women. The three young girls were Laura Berenice Ramos Monarrez, Esmeralda Herrera Monreal, and Claudia Ivette Gonzalez. Esmeralda was 15 years old and she was a domestic worker. Laura was 17 and she worked as a cashier at a restaurant and lastly Claudia worked in the “maquiladora” or manufacturing industry, she was 20 years old. They were found in a cotton field on November 6, 2001(Tiroch, 2010). Due to the poor investigations carried out by the police, the Court could not establish the exact abuse that they endured during their captivity, but they said that their captivity alone was a severe level of psychological suffering(Torich, 2010). Since all three girls were found half naked, the Court had to conclude that they were sexually abused.
The Court found the government to be in violation of human rights. The state was made aware of the disappearance of the three young women by their families, and given the unsafe environment that Ciudad Juarez was, the state failed to react properly knowing that their lives were in imminent danger. (Torich, 2010). “The Court found that the state had violated the rights to life, personal integrity, and personal liberty of the three victims by failing to prevent the crimes”(Torich, 2010, p. 396). In addition, “the Court concluded that the state had not adopted the necessary measures or that measures were not implemented or were sufficient”(Torich, 2010, p.397)
Universal Declaration of Human Rights
Even if the Inter American Court of Human Rights made their ruling specific to the cases of the three young women, it does not mean that the government has not failed women in other cases as well. The purpose of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights is to recognize that every human in this world has rights. Article 3 of the UDHR states “Everyone has the right to life, liberty and security of a person”(United Nations, 1948, art. 3). Article 7 of the UDHR states: All are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination.(United Nations, 1948, art. 7)
The violence that they are facing is a form of discrimination and so is the poor response from the government. The fact that they are women, keeps them from enjoying their basic rights such as life and liberty and security.
The goal is to prevent and eliminate gender-based violence. To start off, there should be a definition of femicide in the criminal code. Adding a clear description of what femicide is can cause for authorities to start classifying crimes as gender-based. To prevent the continuance of gender based violence, there should be an elimination of those who poorly overlook the investigations. If the person who is supposed to make sure that officers are properly conducting investigations, fails to do so, then there will be no justice for the victim and her family. This includes those who sit in power and are corrupt. Anyone in the three levels of government, federal, local and municipal, should sit in power to serve the people and not to benefit themselves. There should be a removal of the unequal treatment women face in the law enforcement system.
Orders of protections should be extended and the process should not be difficult for a woman to go through that it leads for them to drop their request for an order of protection. It is important to mention once again that the three young women in the campo algodonero case were workers. Authorities believe that women who work are at a greater risk to be victims. In Mexico, in order to survive, you have to work. Most of the women work in the maquiladora industry, which means that there should be more patrolling by police at the time that their shift ends. Programs should also receive additional support so that they can help protect anyone else from becoming a victim. Women’s participation in society needs to be enforced, especially if it concerns their safety.
The case of 2007 should have shown Mexico how large the problem was becoming and where they failed to ensure justice. Femicide is not only an issue in Chihuahua or Nuevo Leon, but it is an issue in other states, and other countries as well. Which is why it is critical for the public to understand that there should be better options to ensure the safety of someone’s daughter. A woman should not worry if they will be next and a parent should not worry if they will get to see their daughter one more time.
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