The United Nations recently announced that Latin America and the Caribbean is the most violent region for women outside of war zones, where an estimated number of nine women are killed daily.
The main reason for the high number of these murders is femicide, when women are killed for being women, often by an partner or ex-partner. According to official data from 16 countries, a total of 2.554 women were victims of femicide in 2017. However, with the lack of reports and consistency of investigated cases, the number could be much higher.
For example, in the mentioned data, neither Mexico and Colombia are included. In 2017, 3.430 women were reportedly murdered in Mexico, but only 760 cases were investigated as femicide. The Mexican law is unclear of what defines as femicide and some states don’t differentiate specific violence against women with other murders.
In Colombia during the same year, 1.002 women were assassinated but only 144 cases were considered as femicide due to the aggressor being a partner or ex-partner. As in many cases around the world, Colombian women are often blamed for the assaults in a culture of impunity, not believing the women and leaving the aggressor on free foot.
Together with Mexico, Central America is considered the most dangerous region were femicide and violence against women have a become an epidemic. In this region the violence is often linked with organised crime such as gangs and drug cartels.
However, something that is clear when the aggressor is someone familiar with the victim, is that domestic violence is a key factor across several femicide cases. The danger lay often at home and the pattern traditionally begins with psychological abuse, which in turn becomes physical.
The higher levels of governments are not working productively to tackle gender-based violence against women. In a report, the UN states that 24 of 33 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have laws against domestic violence, but only nine of them that tackles other violence against women in public or private.
In a region heavily influenced by macho culture, and with conservative and corrupt governments, the solutions to combat this plague are coming from social movements and grassroot organisations. These movements are opening up crucial conversations about topics that are taboo and pushed aside from those in power.
In 2017, 86.700 women in Argentina reported a physical or phycological aggression, this was the first data collected by the official statistics department to map out the magnitude of violence against women, which gained a lot of attention in 2015 with the #NiUnaMenos movement against femicide.
In several countries these movements have been an important turning point to call out on issues from daily sexism, sexual assault to femicide. It is not that the violence is new, it is engraved in the patriarchal culture. With the recent movements the issues are being highlighted and authorities are being taken to account. There is still a long way to go, but now more than ever women are uniting by taking up space and speaking out against injustice. #MeToo, #EleNão and #NiUnaMenos are seeds that will continue to blossom and combat violence against women, in Latin America and worldwide.