Image Source: New York Times
By Samantha Loomes
Since the year 1993 thousands of women have been kidnapped, abused and murdered in the Mexican border town Ciudad Juárez, the place once dubbed “the most dangerous city in the world.” Pink crosses litter the city. A way to remember all the women who were taken too soon. Ciudad Juárez has become a city in perpetual mourning for its lost daughters.
Femicide is defined as the systematical killing of women purely based on the fact that they are women, what is happening in Ciudad Juárez is femicide. It’s a pandemic, a United Nations officially declared it so in 2015.
The northern Mexico town is infected with an unknown evil that steals girls in the nighttime, and no one knows who is killing the women of Ciudad Juárez. There have been investigations into the matter of the slain women, there have even been two arrests, but the killing never stopped and neither did the desperation for answers. It is the popular opinion among the residents of the city that the police are doing very little to stop these horrendous crimes some would go so far as to say that the police and local authorities have helped cover up the scandal of the “femicides”. The families believe the victims are kidnapped by the local drug cartels, forced into prostitution and then murdered. For instance in the case of one Lupita Montes, daughter of Susanna Perez Montes mysteriously disappeared in 2009 and was found dead in the desert in 2012. It was later revealed that she has spent several months after her disappearance in a non-too-savoury hotel called “Verde”, which was just a short walk from the town hall. Her mother claims that: “Lots of people know about this. Even people I know were pointing and saying, ‘she was there’ and ‘she was there too. We saw her at night’. But they said they weren’t looking well. They seemed drugged and men were abusing them.”
Idaly Laguna, went missing at age 19 in 2010 and too was found dead in the desert, when her mother realized the authorities would do nothing, she went searching for answers at Verde. She asked the receptionist whether or not she had seen her daughter and said that, “The receptionist didn’t even look at the photo. She just said she didn’t know anything.”
It is clear that the matter of the missing girls is a pandora’s box, bolted shut by the people of the town shrouded in mystery.
It is easy to blame the killings on gang violence that Mexico is so well known for, and to believe that the evidence points to a sole syndicate for these crimes, after all, most of the girls share a bevvy of characteristics, they are all dark skinned, dark haired, dark eyed they all come from low-income families. What people have failed to realize is that there is no sole blame in this case. There is no one syndicate or one true evil, the country itself has enabled the violence against women by leaving it unchecked for so many years.
A study was conducted in 2008 on the Feminicide Database which looked at the murders of the women between the years 1993–2007 the study was conducted at the Colegio de la Frontera Norte where researchers began looking at the heinous nature of each and every crime. They found two types of murders which consisted of the same patterns. The first was classified as “intimate femicide”, which refers to victims who knew their murderers. The second was coined “systemic sexual femicide”, which referred to the woman hunted and murdered by people who killed them without knowing them, murdered them just because they could it was defined as systemic when it included kidnapping, sexual violence, torture, and body abandonment. Intimate femicide accounted for 30.4% of the murders. 30.4% of the woman in Mexico were killed by people they thought they could trust. These murders went unchecked, and the culture of violence against women became the norm.
According to Mexico’s penal code, femicide can be punished with 40 to 60 years in prison, a $2000 fine, loss of inheritance rights, and obligatory economic redress and public apologies to victims’ families.
Yet 98% of these crimes go unpunished.
Six women are murdered every single day in Ciudad Juárez according to the National Citizen Femicide Observatory. Some are only five years old.
Parents find their daughters mutilated, dismembered and stabbed, some are beaten so badly that they cannot be identified, and their parents will spend the rest of their lives wondering if their daughter is one of the unrecognizable, and still 98% of these crimes go unpunished.
If anything the victims themselves are often painted as the villains of the story, authorities blame them for their own deaths, conjuring stories of double lives and secret prostitution scandals. Even more shocking? The relatives of the victims are more often than not revealed to be selling the bodies of the girls to the press so that they can continue to sensationalize the crimes. Anyone who investigates further into the matter is seen as “staining the city’s good name.” The tarnishing of the cities reputation does not go unpunished, over 100 journalists have been killed in since 2000, “Notre Digital”, an online newspaper announced its closure following the deaths of two of their reporters stating that “Awareness-raising about violence in the city was inconvenient to those who dominate the public sphere in their own interests.” In laymen’s terms, the cartels who act as the authorities of the city do not like when people talk about the reality of life in Ciudad Juárez.
The Patriarchal system in Mexico is also a huge contributor as to why the poor treatment of women is so accepted, women have long been viewed in Mexico as one of two things, a obrera (worker) and a ramera (whore). The city is governed by men, the authorities are comprised of men, the factories are owned by men and the cartels are run by men, men who have all been raised to view women as inferior which is why their deaths are viewed as little more than a nuisance created by women themselves because in a man’s world it simply cannot be a man’s fault.
As the London school of economics and political science so aptly put it, “Behind this pandemic there lies a strange kinship between neoliberal economic measures, violence driven by organised crime, a patriarchal approach to working women, and legal impunity around femicide in Mexico.”
So contrary to official discourse, there is pretty damming evidence that the femicide is not a myth, its victims are not prostitutes with double lives and yes! If any real reduction in violent crimes against women is to be seen change is needed, the way in which the country views women must change, the way in which the country punishes murders must change and the utter lack of females in positions of power must change.
Which is why we must commend the people already implementing those changes in Mexico, like the creators of the program and app “No Estoy Sola” (I am not alone), the app works as a quick trigger distress signal, that notifies five contacts chosen by the woman that she is in distress, accompanying the signal is the woman’s location. The app is 100% free of charge and is available on Apple and Android.
Again we must commend the people who created the movement “Ni Una Mas” (Not one more), the people who educate, protest fight the femicide that grips Ciudad Juárez. The people who have risked their lives to offer the women some sort of protection, some sort of peace.
The femicide taking place in Ciudad Juárez is very real, and the people of Mexico need to realize just how terrible it really is. These women are seeking help they’re seeking justice and protection, it’s our job as humans to tell their story, to help them in any way we can.