Gender inequality is a thing of the past. This is the narrative we are fed; that any incidences of violence or discrimination regarding gender, particularly towards women, are anomalies often attributed to developing countries. We are all quite content to think, “We’ve got this under wraps” and the discussion is closed. The fact of the matter is not enough people openly admit that gender violence is rife.
Femicide is a crime involving the violent and deliberate killing of a woman. Many States do not specifically define this crime in their criminal codes and as a result, statistics are hard to come by. Nevertheless, it is estimated that worldwide 181 women die every single day because of systemic gender-based violence within the male-dominated societies they inhabit. Approximately 6 of these women will be Mexican. The effects of armed violence, drug trafficking and organised crime in Mexico have a substantial effect on the lives and safety of women who are more likely to be killed or mutilated by men than die of cancer, as a direct result of war or in a car accident. This is outrageous.
However, femicides are not exclusive to Latin America. In 2014, 53 women were murdered in Spain as a direct result of domestic violence, although Feminicidio.net contests this highlighting that these official records only represent half of actual cases. It is also disturbing to note that the some of the highest rates of femicide have been recorded in the Baltic states. This is ample confirmation that gender violence continues to be widespread and cannot be ignored.
The EuroLat Assembly adopted an urgent resolution on femicides in March 2014. This commitment needs to be reaffirmed at the Assembly’s upcoming meeting in Panamá. Inaction on the part of regional authorities, national governments and international bodies is simply unacceptable. It is clear that something is seriously lacking in world society, our society, if violence against women is still prevalent. One major hurdle that stands in the way of the progression of female rights is that brutality towards women often goes undetected. Violent behaviour generally occurs in the private, domestic sphere where the rotten concepts of machismo and misogyny have no boundaries.
One example of the outdated predator-prey, male-female relationship is the tragic femicide of Diana Rosa Suárez Torres, a 22 year old Mexican business student. Her ex-boyfriend confessed to her murder but has yet to be charged. The police in Atizapan de Zaragoza have told her father that this was not a crime, despite the fact she sought a restraining order – which was denied by local authorities – to protect herself against the violent Gilberto Campos García. This level of impunity is commonplace in Mexico and nearly five years on, her parents continue to seek justice with little optimism.
Women are regularly told by judges that they are guilty for having incited violence and the standard of investigations is often inconsistent. Effective law-enforcement is needed but how can this be achieved when such a mentality continues to exist? All states are responsible for ensuring the safety of all their citizens – women are too often excluded from this fundamental, human right. We must not forget the rallying slogan of second-wave feminists in 1960s: that the “personal is political”. In other words, whether the violence occurs in the home or out in public, intervention is absolutely necessary. It cannot be whitewashed.
We must ask ourselves whether the root of the problem has really been discovered. In Latin America, there is a clear reason for this violence. It is deeply rooted in a macho mentality which bolsters unequal power relations. This patriarchal model which engenders many societies, visibly or inconspicuously, facilitates the subordination of women and girls – the majority between the ages of 15 -44 – on a global scale and renders them powerless. It sets a precedent and allows other countries to condescend and exonerate cases of gender inequality at home. This attitude must be wholly discredited; tradition and culture do not justify acts of incomprehensible violence.
Therefore, the discussion must be kept open. The next UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice will be held this April in Doha, Qatar, shortly after the EuroLat Assembly meets. So far, there is no specific mention of femicide on the discussion agenda, although violence against women and women’s rights do feature.
Michelle Bachelet said that ignoring women – who make up over 50% of the world’s population – means that the social and economic potential of many countries will not be fully realised. With this in mind, 2016 is set to be the European Year on combatting Violence against Women. This issue is not a case of women versus men, but rather of men and women denouncing abuse, violence and discrimination together. Femicide is a global problem and inequality is a very present reality. Hopefully the upcoming meetings will increase the profile of the issue and push it up the priority list on the global political agenda. Whatever action is taken, it cannot come a moment too soon.
Image courtesy of Marco Monetti