Since 1993, hundreds of Mexican women have gone missing in the border town of Ciudad Juárez, in murders that have gone unsolved and largely ignored by the municipal government. But a new report from Al-Jazeera says that the Juárez murders are just one part of a worsening pattern of violence against women in Mexico, one where few perpetrators are ever brought to justice.
A United Nations representative tells Al-Jazeera's Judith Matloff, "Femicides are a pandemic in Mexico." According to numbers gathered by the National Citizen Femicide Observatory, of the nearly 4,000 women murdered in 2012 and 2013, only 24 percent were ever investigated by police, and only 1.6 percent of the perpetrators were sentenced. The group estimates that six women are murdered each day.
While the Juárez murders have grabbed the most headlines, Matloff writes, about one-third to one half of the murdered women in the country die at the hands of intimate partners, and the other half are suspected to be part of the overall violence linked to the country's drug cartels:
In fact, more women have been killed in the state of Mexico, which surrounds the capital city of the same name. The number doubled from 2005 to 2011, when the current national president, Enrique Peña Nieto, was governor of the state. Today he has pledged to combat drug violence overall but has not spoken out against femicides.
Impunity is the main motor of the gender crime, Güezmes says, as well as social norms that allow the violence to be ignored or accepted as a normal part of life. She describes femicides as the extreme end of a society where 63 percent of women have suffered abuse by male hands. She estimates that maybe a third or half of the cases involved sexual partners. The balance — abductions, rapes and discarding the bodies like garbage — are probably linked to the generalized drug violence that is tearing Mexico apart.
Some of the drug cartels are believed to be kidnapping women in order to force them into prostitution.
This isn't the first time in the past year that violence against women in Mexico has been called a "pandemic." Some 4,000 women disappeared in Mexico between 2011 and 2012, most of them in the states of Chihuahua and Mexico. Over and over, the families of murdered women tell the same story: whether their family members are murdered by a boyfriend or as part of a drug crime, law enforcement officials are often incredibly unresponsive. The family of Barbara Reyes told Reuters that they spent 11 months looking for her after she disappeared in August 2011, only to finally learn that her body had been found two months after she vanished. Her remains were dumped into a mass grave along with other unidentified corpses.
José Diego Suárez Padilla tells Al-Jazeera's Matloff that he's been searching for justice for his daughter Rosa Diana for four years, after an abusive ex-boyfriend murdered her following months of threats. The ex eventually confessed to the murder, Padilla says, but has never been arrested. A special prosecutor for crimes against women is said to be looking into the murders of Mexican women from 1995 to the present, but admitted to Al-Jazeera that in 2014, not one person was prosecuted.
Mexican women protest against femicide, July 2014. The cross reads "Neither forgiveness nor forgetting against femicide." Screengrab via TeleSUR English