748 women have disappeared this year alone, an average of seven a day since the beginning of 2022. This has sparked outrage across the country, with many protesting against the authorities they believe to be indifferent about the problem.
Deemed the most lethal location on the planet for women prior to the Covid-19 outbreak, Latin America is as deadly as ever, with activists of the #NiUnaMenos movement blaming Coronavirus for consolidating the ongoing problem of domestic and gender-based violence throughout the region.
According to the UN, while an average of twelve Latin American women a day were subject to femicide in 2018, the current reality is much worse, further aggravated by the pandemic which brought about the murder of 18 Argentinian women by their partners in the first 20 days of lockdown, and a 65% increase of corresponding cases in Venezuela.
No country paints as dark a picture as Mexico, however, which has become notorious for femicide over the past decade and where 3,723 women were murdered in 2020 alone.
A well-known reality in 2022, 748 women have already disappeared since January (an average of seven a day) according to the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances’ latest report on the matter.
This, alongside the ever-growing number of reported femicides, has sparked outrage among Mexicans concerned that victims’ families are often the ones left to carry out their own investigations due to widespread indifference by authorities.
‘Mexico is continuing to fail to fulfil its duty to investigate and, therefore, its duty to guarantee the rights to life and personal integrity of the victims as well as to prevent violence against women,’ reads an Amnesty International report. ‘Feminicidal violence and the failings in investigation and prevention in northern Mexico are not anecdotal, but rather form part of a broader reality in the country.’
Essentially, while gender-based violence has been rife in Mexico for some time now, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has continually downplayed its prevalence, branding those protesting his lack of action as ‘conservative’ and wrongly ensuring the female public that they are protected.
Yet it seems his government will be hard-pressed to gloss over the issue any longer, as it was recently brought to national attention by the death of 18-year-old Debanhi Escobar.
After her case made headlines — a watershed moment that protestors hope will guarantee no more women or girls go missing — López Obrador urged Mexicans not to worry because it ‘happens everywhere.’
This triggered furore across the globe, with many disturbed by the fact that even when authorities are spurred to act by public outcry, investigations are seldom efficient.
‘The first thing is that they don’t carry out diligent investigations or searches, and the second thing are the statements issued by authorities, in some cases linking them to illegal activities,’ says Angelica Orozco, who leads the United Forces for Our Disappeared.
‘The problem is not only that authorities are slow to investigate and do it badly, but that they also tend to blame the victims.’
It’s for this reason that a depressing pattern has emerged, whereby when women disappear, they turn up dead.
In Mexico, the sheer absence of a genuine comprehension of the matter, adequate prevention measures, and sufficient attention from policymakers to make visible and consequently tackle such a prevalent issue has done nothing but augment it.
As rage boils about this unrelenting wave of femicide and gender-based violence, people worldwide have begun organising demonstrations in solidarity with the protests that have continued to unfold.
Fortunately, these actions are helping generate awareness about the issue both locally and abroad, a display of cross-border feminist support that denounces the outsized gender violence that’s recently reached a tipping point.
‘We can and must stay active, wherever that may be: online, in our work and study spaces, in our daily lives. Let’s not forget that differences can and must be made at micro-political levels, too,’ says writer Estefania Castañeda Pérez.
‘There is a strong desire to always be open about the different struggles. There’s more awareness of femicides and machismo in general. People want to keep the ball rolling and challenge what it means to act. This has just generated more anger and more courage for us to keep mobilising in whatever way we can and in whatever capacity.’