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Central America: Common Territory for Femicide

La Hora, January 19, 2010
By Mario Cordero

The number in homicides of women, or femicides, committed in the region has experienced an alarming increase, according to the study “Femicido en Controamerica” (Femicide in Central America) which presented its findings from last year in San Jose, Costa Rica, at the meeting of the Consejo de Mujer de Centroameria (Council of Women’s Ministries of Central America).  The document is comprised of a quantitative and qualitative investigation of the extreme manifestations of violence against women. 

The study was conducted in Guatemala, Honduras, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Panama and the Dominican Republic by the Centro Feminista de Información y Acción de Centroamérica (Feminist Center of Information and Action in Central America), el Fondo de Desarrollo de las Naciones Unidas para la Mujer (The UN Development Fund for Women) and la Organización Canadiense de Cooperación Horizontes (Horizon Organization for Cooperation of Canada).

Although the concern for femicide is has grown in recent years, the study found that in reality, the problem has been taking root for decades in Central American society.

The findings indicate that this phenomenon has manifested itself in the entire region and most alarmingly in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador.  The study identified the situation in which femicide is produced, analyzing some with case studies.

Alarming figures

The analysis studied violence against women from 2000 to 2006.  In this period, in the majority of countries in the region, they found 2 to 4 murders per 100,000 people, except in El Salvador, where the number of women killed was around 13 for every 100,000; Guatemala followed with 10.  In actuality, the number of homicides has doubled in the region.

The case of El Salvador is concerning; in 2004 7 women were killed for every 100,000 people but just two years later, in 2006, the number jumped to 13, almost double.

Honduras and the Dominican Republic also present high figures with 5 and 3 femicides, respectively, for every 100,000 people.

The figures are less alarming in Nicaragua (2.5), Panama (2.5) and Costa Rica (2).  Only in Nicaragua is that figure decreasing, while in the other countries it is increasing and in some, doubling.

According to the data 1 in 4 female victims were between the ages of 10 and 19.  This demonstrates that young women are at risk.  The highest figure is for women between the ages of 20 and 29 who are at the greatest risk.  Almost half of all femicides take place in women from ages 10 to 29. 

The study also makes clear that in countries like El Salvador and Honduras, the phenomenon of gangs is generating a greater number of murders of women when compared with that produced by the couple and former partners.

The above includes deaths provoked by sexual exploitation, revenge between men and mafias connected with prostitution.  Femicides have taken place in the street, public places, streams, beaches, vacant lots, among other places.  The majority of femicides are committed with guns and knives.

Despite the constant complaints that infanticide is only a particular type of violence and that the number of violent deaths in men is greater, studied in percentages, violence against women is growing exponentially.  El Salvador has seen a greater increase in female deaths than male deaths.  Murders of men have increased by 40% while femicides have increased by 111%.

In Guatemala, these figures are higher.   Femicide is growing by 183% while murders of men is growing by 100%

Without a safe place

Another relevant figure is that there is no safe place for women.  Of all femicides, 1 in 3 occurs in the home. 

The principal people responsible for femicides are significant others, ex-partners or other people within the family like fathers, brothers, stepfathers or cohabitants.  Gangs are also responsible for many femicides.

For their part, illegal practices connection with organized crime such as arms proliferation, mafias, international trafficking networks are also responsible for femicides.

The study only intended to analyze figures from past years.  Although there have been advances in causes to help end femicide like the passing of the Law Against Femicide or the Law Against Human Trafficking in Guatemala- the figures keep climbing.  The increase in violence against is due to structural deficiencies that the State must reform to stop these crimes from continuing.       

[La Hora]












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