Murders of women in Mexico increase as drug war intensifies

Of over 500,000 women killed since 1985, almost a third took place in just the last six years, according to official report

(Photo: VICE News)
(Photo: VICE News)

The number of women being murdered in Mexico has increased greatly over the last decade, as a result of the on-going war on drugs, a new study shows.

The report from Mexico’s interior department, the country’s National Women’s Institute and the UN Women agency said that the annual femicide rate was 3.8 per 100,000 women in 1985, before it began to decline steadily, to 1.9 in 2007.

It rose sharply since then, peaking at 4.6 per 100,000 in 2012, reducing slightly and then rising to 4.4 in 2016.

Over 52,210 killings of women recorded over the 32-year period, nearly a third took place in the last six years, said the report.

The rise in killings coincided with Mexico’s militarised offensive launched against drug cartels in late 2006, by the president at the time, Felipe Calderon. It also roughly tracks homicide trends.

Around 12%  of all homicide victims in Mexico last year were women, compared with around 10% in 1985.

“Violence against women and girls – which can result in death – is perpetrated, in most cases, to conserve and reproduce the submission and subordination of them derived from relationships of power,” according to the report.

The tiny state of Colima registered the country’s highest femicide rate in 2016, with 16.3 per 100,000. It was followed by the states of Guerrero, Zacatecas, Chihuahua and Morelos.

The highest for a single state was 421 in the state of Mexico, which surrounds the capital on three sides and is the country’s most populous state.

Most of those are states with a heavy presence of organised crime gangs, with Guerrero in particular being a hotspot.

The study noted an increase in recent years of murders of women outside the home “which probably is related to the increase in organised crime activities.” Last year, 41% of femicides happened outside the home.

“The increase in killings of women in public constitutes one of the most important findings of this study, which explains a good part of the recent total growth of femicides in Mexico,” said the report.

The study also said that while the vast majority of male homicide victims are killed with firearms, women continue to be killed by the “most cruel means”, like beating, strangling and stabbing, which the reports said reflect misogyny.

“This means there has not been success in changing the cultural patterns that devalue women and consider them disposable, allowing for a social permissiveness in the face of violence and its ultimate expression, femicide,” the report said.

The report recommended that all levels of government tackle the problem by strengthening “public policies to prevent violence and to achieve greater empowerment and economic autonomy for women, as well as eliminating the risks they face in public spaces.”

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