Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean warns of high number of femicides
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Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean warns of high number of femicides

The Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has warned about the region’s high number of femicides.

Last month, the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean of ECLAC complied official data from the region’s countries, revealing that 1,678 women were murdered because of their gender. Public data from some countries – including Mexico, Brazil, and Jamaica – was unavailable

Femicide – or feminicide – is a term which describes the killing of women because they are women, but a wider definition can include any killing of women or girls.

Most femicides are committed by men, although as the World Health Organisation (WHO) notes, female family members are sometimes implicated. Femicide differs from male homicide. In most cases, says the WHO, women are murdered at the hands of their partners or former partners, and follow a pattern of domestic violence, threats, intimation or sexual violence.

Alicia Bárcena, the Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), speaking in November, on the eve of the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women said:  “We cannot allow Latin American and Caribbean women to keep dying due to the mere fact that they are women.”

‘Femicide and impunity in Guatemala’

Last month, Prensa Latina reported that Guatemalan activists and families members held a vigil to remember the thousands of women who have been killed in the country as a result of misogyny and impunity.

According to the data compiled by ECLAC, with 217 femicides, Guatemala’s rate was the second highest number in 2014.  According to a 2012 report by the Small Arms Survey, the country, along with its neighbours in the region, has the highest rates of femicide in the world, with 9.7 deaths per 100,000 women.

One the country’s most high profile cases is that of Claudina Isabel Velasquez. In 2003, the 19-year-old law student’s body was found dumped in an alley in Guatemala City. The teenager had been raped and shot in the head. More than ten years later, Claudina’s father continues to seek justice for his daughter, who is one of thousands of women murdered in Guatemala each year.

But as with other crimes in Guatemala, violence against women is met with impunity – less than 4 percent of cases of femicide result in the arrest or conviction of the perpetrators.

‘Cardinal calls for end to femicide in Honduras’

Neighbouring Honduras had the highest rate of femicide in 2014 with 531 murders.

The archbishop of Tegucigalpa Cardinal Oscar Rodríguez Maradiaga last month urged for an end to femicide in the country.

Violence against women in Honduras is extremely prevalent, and it has spiralled in the last decade. The UN Special Rapporteur on Violence Against Women reported that between 2005 and 2013 the number of violent deaths for women had increased by an enormous 263.4%.

Like Guatemala, impunity rates for femicide and sexual violence in Honduras are also very high at 95 percent.  Although both countries have femicide – or femicinicide – laws, violent crimes against women are all too often not investigated.  In both countries’, less than 2 percent of murders of women were investigated in 2013.

The other country in the area known as the Northern Triangle is El Salvador, which also suffers from high rates of femicide and violence against women. There were, according to ECLAC’s figures, 183 femicides in 2014.

South America statistics

Although the violence-ridden countries of Central American had some the highest recorded femicides in Latin America and the Carribbean – the Dominican Republic had 188 femicides – countries in the south have not gone unaffected.  Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Chile’s total femicides were 145, 97, 90 and 40 respectively.

No official public data was available from Argentina, but according to a report by Latin Correspondent earlier this year, the Argentine NGO La Casa del Encuentro estimated that 277 women were murdered in the country in 2014.

ECLAC has stated that tackling violence against women will be one of the central issues addressed at its Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, due to take place in 2016 in Montevideo, Uruguay.

See also:

Violence against women continues to rise across Latin America

Brazilian women fight back against violence