Femicide in South Africa
In September 2019, after days of protests, the South African government declared femicide in South Africa a national crisis. Femicide, simply put, is the intentional murder of a woman. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) elaborates on the definition and adds that the murder of a woman is intentional because she is a woman. It is different from male homicide because in many cases of femicide, the crime is “committed by partners or ex-partners and involves ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner.”

The Facts

The Republic of South Africa is at the southern tip of Africa, and Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho borders it. Femicide in South Africa is nothing new, dating back as early as colonialism in the 17th century. Female violence has continued since then, possibly due to the lack of severe consequences for the perpetrators. However, studies for femicide in South Africa did not begin until 1999.

According to South Africa’s Department of Police, someone murders a woman every three hours, which equates to about seven per day. In contrast, someone murders a man every 30 minutes, about 50 per day. Despite the lower murder rates for women, most female homicides are much more violent in nature than the male. Many of the female victims suffer assault, rape and burning before their perpetrators dump them. In comparison to other countries, this rate of femicide is almost five times higher than the world’s average. South Africa ranks fourth in the world for the highest rate of violence against women. Additionally, people reported 39,633 rapes and 6,253 sexual assaults in 2017 alone.

Activism Enabling Change

Femicide has gained a lot of media attention in recent years. Anene Booysen suffered brutal rape and murder in 2013. In 2017, an ex-boyfriend murdered Karabo Mokoena. Protests against femicide in South Africa broke out in September 2019 after the rape and murder of the University of Cape Town student, Uyinene Mrwetyana. The protests requested action from the South African government, including the death penalty for all perpetrators of femicide.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa announced that the country was in a national crisis of violence against women after three days of protests. He detailed a plan of action to combat femicide and gender-based violence, including making the register of offenders public, reviewing cold cases and providing harsher penalties for perpetrators. President Ramaphosa also promised to implement policies in schools, workplaces and communities that would curb violence against females.

The Cavalry Steps In

Femicide in South Africa is also gaining attention internationally. The stories of Anene Booysen and Karabo Mokoena have made international headlines. Award-winning and South African-born actress Charlize Theron has used her platform to speak out against the violence against women in the country, and she has been doing so since 1999. She urged the leaders of South Africa to do more for women and told men not to be bystanders.

In an era of the internet and movements such as #MeToo, the ongoing femicide in South Africa is impossible to ignore. Thankfully, the South African government has taken the right steps. Not only did the President of South Africa publically acknowledge it as a national crisis but also vows to take action against it. It remains for one to see if the South African government keeps its promises, but it is clear that the women and media of South Africa will hold it accountable until they get the justice they deserve.

Emily Young
Photo: Pixabay

Femicide in Mexico“Mexico is a deadly place to be a woman.” That is the line Isabel Cholbi used in her piece in Berkeley Political Review on femicide in Mexico. The definition of femicide is the intentional murder of women simply because they are women. However, some broader definitions say it is all murder of women and girls. Intimate femicide—the killing of women by a current or former boyfriend or husband—is one of the most common forms. More than 35 percent of all women’s murders are, in fact, a result of intimate femicide. In contrast, only 5 percent of all men’s deaths are by an intimate partner. Understanding the hate crime of femicide is incredibly relevant. This piece will cover femicide in Mexico as well as current efforts to stop it.

Femicide in Numbers

There are more than 63 million women and girls in Mexico, which equals approximately 60 percent of the population. However, there is an escalating wave of violence happening against them, occurring more frequently and becoming more brutal. It began in the 90s in Ciudad Juarez but now has spread throughout the entire country. In fact, between 2015 and 2019, more than 3,000 women reported acts of violence Every day and estimate 10 women are murdered in Mexico. Per 100,000 people, 0.66 percent of women were murdered in 2015. This number has nearly doubled from then to 2019, rising to 1.19 percent.

Taking Action

Prompted by these cases, the Mexican government took action. In 2007, the government launched the Program Against Gender-Specific Violence (AVGM). This program envisions prevention and emergency measures that have been established in 18 out of 32 states. Some of these measures involve increased patrolling, more light in public spaces, higher supervision to public transport and follow-up to protection orders in cases of family violence.
The European Union has provided foreign aid mainly from its “Spotlight” initiative to combat gender violence.  Mexico has joined this initiative. The first phase involves investing 500 million euros in the top five most conflictive areas to be a woman or girl. This program is set to last four years before expanding into a second phase. Short objectives are to better the current public politics, strengthen the institutions, change the “macho” culture and strengthen the job of civil society organizations. “These initiatives are like a mouthful of air,” said Irinea Buendía, mother of Mariana Lima, who was a victim of femicide in Mexico.

Looking Forward

Femicide is increasingly relevant in the world, especially in Mexico. In Mexico, the government with AVGM, and the international community with Spotlight, are a beacon of hope for decreasing violence against women and femicide in Mexico.

Johanna Leo
Photo: Flickr

10 facts about violence in honduras
In Honduras, the homicide rate is currently 43.6 per 100,000, meaning for every 100,000 of Honduras’ inhabitants, about 44 people will be murdered every year. With this statistic alone, it is easy to see Honduras has one of the highest homicide rates in the world. However, by evaluating the implemented solutions working to combat violence, homicides in Honduras appear to be dropping; raising the possibility of losing its position as the murder capital of the world. Here are 10 facts about violence in Honduras.

10 Facts About Violence in Honduras

  1. Murder – In 2011 Honduras experienced a peak in murder rates making Honduras the holder of the highest homicide rate in the world. Between 2011 and 2015, the murder rate in Honduras decreased by 30 percent. Homicides went down from 88.5 per 100,000 residents to 60.0 per 100,000 and have remained constant or decreased slowly depending on the year. However, in Honduras, only 4 percent of reported homicide cases result in arrest showing there is still lots of room for improvement.
  2. Lack of Trust – Police and judicial systems in Honduras suffer from corruption, lack of training and a list of cases so long that even honest, well-equipped officials struggle to keep up. As a result, members of the most vulnerable Honduran communities often do not trust the police, public prosecutors or judges to do their jobs. Fearing retaliation from violent perpetrators, they often refuse to provide witness testimony necessary to bring about a conviction. This causes Honduran judicial officials to lose trust in victims. This lack of trust and support fuels a vicious cycle of violence and impunity that has contributed to Honduras’ status as one of the most violent countries in the world. The Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police is working to rid the force of corrupt leaders, strengthen public and police relations and reorganize their internal and external goals. Today, the Special Commission to Purge and Reform the Honduran Police has put in nearly 15 months of work and suspended or removed 5,000 police from the force.
  3. Poverty – Poverty and violence are directly related, and they work together to generate difficult living conditions in Honduras. As of 2017, 64 percent of Honduras’ population lives in poverty. Further, Honduras has the second smallest middle class in Latin America, at only 10.9 percent of the population. A larger middle class would result in stronger public institutions, stronger economic growth and greater societal stability. Therefore, Honduras would see lower levels of violence because of stronger societal relations. Working to stem both violence and increase economic opportunities is the key to sustainable development.
  4. Illegal Drug Trade – Central America serves as a transit point for at least 80 percent of all cocaine shipments between the Andean region and North America. Criminal groups in Honduras are very aware of this and profit primarily from drug trade and extortion as well as kidnapping for ransom and human trafficking. In February 2019, authorities in Honduras arrested four Colombian citizens caught in an attempt to smuggle over 100 kilograms of cocaine into the United States through a remote region of the country’s eastern coast. This is one example of thousands.
  5. Gangs – Gang presence in Honduras is common in poor urban areas and where territory is controlled by members of rival gangs, the most powerful being the Mara Salvatrucha and the Barrio 18. The most common age for Honduran gang members is between 12 and 30. Gangs constitute a real but often misunderstood feature of these 10 facts about violence in Honduras. While there is little doubt that they are involved in significant levels of violence, gangs are highly diverse and linked more to localized insecurity rather than the transnational danger ascribed to them by the media and certain policymakers. It is understood that 40 percent of gang members claim to be involved in gangs to ‘hang out,’ 21 percent because they had gang member friends and 21 percent to evade family problems. There is also a correlation between youth unemployment and gang membership: only 17 percent of gang members were employed and 66 percent actively characterized themselves as unemployed.
  6. Domestic Violence – One woman is murdered every 16 hours in Honduras, and the country has the highest femicide rate in the world. Shocking numbers of rape, assault and domestic violence cases are reported. However, 95 percent of cases of sexual violence and femicide in Honduras were never investigated in the year 2014. As mentioned above, widespread underreporting is likely to be linked to the lack of trust in governmental figures such as police and judicial systems. Rape is widespread and is employed to discipline girls, women and their family members for failure to comply with demands. In Honduras, there is a 95 percent impunity rate for sexual violence and femicide crimes and the lack of accountability for violations of human rights of women is the norm rather than the exception.
  7. Honduras Youth – The expansion of gangs and the increase in violence is linked to the lack of opportunities for the youth of the country. Many young Hondurans turn to gangs for their welfare protection and identity construction because they see no other way. Gangs emerge in this context as an option that is often desired for the marginal youth as it provides a form of transition from adolescence to adulthood. About 2 percent of females go completely uneducated, compared to 3 percent of males. Likewise, secondary school lasts between two to three years between the ages of 13 and 16, and 38 percent of females drop out compared to 33 percent of males.
  8. The Public and Prevention – In areas with low levels of violence, residents have taken incidents of crime and made an effort to minimize conditions that might allow violence to thrive. Kindernotheilfe has partnered with the community-formed group Sociedad más Justa (ASJ). They are dedicated to improving the living conditions of children and young people in Tegucigalpa and protecting them from violent abuse. Since 2004, parents, children, young people, teachers, churches, justice officials, city administrations and other NGOs have gotten involved. Some of their help include psychological and legal counseling, neighborhood patrolling and organized children’s clubs and activities.
  9. USAID and Honduras Citizen Security – On Sept. 30, 2016, the U.S. Agency for International Development programs for Honduras invested in a $34.17 million project lasting until Feb. 13, 2021. They are working to support the Government of Honduras’ efforts to improve the service delivery of justice institutions; increase the capacity of police to work with targeted communities; and incorporate respect for human rights to help reduce violence, decrease impunity and implement human rights standards within government institutions. During the third quarter of year one, they achieved key targets, including launching five city events, holding an international conference, instituting a Supreme Court Innovation Committee, connecting with the LGBTQI committee and collaborating with other donor programs.
  10. The Peace and Justice Project – The Peace and Justice Project provides investigative, legal and psychological support for people with few resources who have been victims of violent crimes and push for structural change in Honduras’ security and justice systems. The project has a 95 percent conviction rate, almost 24 times the national average. This has reduced the impunity rate in key communities from 4 percent convictions to 60 percent convictions for violent crimes, while also reducing the overall homicide rate drastically. Over the last 10 years, 600 lives have been saved through interventions in these violent communities.

These 10 facts about violence in Honduras prove that while strides have been made, violence in Honduras is still a major global concern. Communities and citizens of Honduras should continue to make a difference by demanding higher standards and continuing prevention actions. Furthermore, other nations should continue to support by becoming involved in helping strengthen institutional, governmental and police and judicial systems to see long term change.

Grace Arnold
Photo: Flickr

Gang violence in El Salvador

El Salvador is known for being one of the most dangerous countries in the world with one of the highest homicide rates. Most of the violence in El Salvador comes from the presence of gangs and the harsh retaliation from law enforcement. Below are 10 facts about gangs in El Salvador and potential solutions to tackle the issue.

Top 10 Facts About Gangs in El Salvador

  1. There are two main rival gangs in El Salvador: MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha) and 18th Street (Barrio 18). They have claimed unofficial territories in several regions in El Salvador and have been known to engage in several criminal activities including murder, rape and extortion. In 2017, there were a total of 3,954 homicides, 1,850 reported cases of rape and 1,414 reported cases of extortion, all linked to the gangs.
  2. As of 2018, El Salvador ranked 5 among countries with the highest homicide rates in the world. An estimated 60 percent of homicides are related to gang activity, and many are committed against women in addition to sexual and physical abuse. One woman dies every 24 hours solely based on their gender.
  3. An estimated 60,000 gang members are living in El Salvador, which is about 1 percent of the population. Gang members live among civilians and often attend the same schools, making other students more susceptible to gang threats. As high as  60 percent of schools in El Salvadoran are affected by Gang threats, which have led thousands of students to drop out. In 2015, approximately 39,000 students dropped out.
  4. Extortion is one of the most common crimes committed by gang members. The gangs in El Salvador obtain revenue by extorting it from civilians and local businesses. Gang members will often go as far as to execute individuals or their friends and family when their payment is overdue or insufficient. In 2015, one in every four Salvadorans has reported that they have been a victim of extortion. At least 80 percent of small businesses in El Salvador have claimed that they pay extortion fees to the gangs, forcing some to close or go bankrupt.
  5. Gangs often recruit unemployed or out-of-school youth. About one in four young men ranging from ages 15 to 29 aren’t employed or in school, making them more vulnerable to gang involvement. Most members claim to have joined a gang at 15 years old. These boys are frequently pressured into joining gangs either through the promise of security or the promise of social acclaim and power.
  6. The government has been brutally cracking down on gangs. In 2003, the government launched La Mano Dura, also known as Iron Fist, which is a government intervention policy that allows for the extrajudicial killings and mass incarceration of suspected gang members by law enforcement. This policy temporarily decreased crime rates by 14 percent in 2004 shortly after it was launched; however, rates spiked up in the years following until a recent drop in 2015.
  7. Many El Salvadorans seek the help of “coyotes” to take them to the U.S. border. “Coyotes” are essentially migrant smugglers who help people who are in danger and transport them north to the U.S. border to pursue safety and escape from gang violence. In 2018, 235,708 people migrated from El Salvador in hopes of escaping violence and conflict, and most migrated to the U.S. Early into 2019, the migration rates are still on the rise.
  8. There have been efforts towards a gang truce in the past. In 2012, MS-13 and Barrio 18 negotiated on a truce that resulted in a 53 percent decrease in homicide rates in the first 15 months. However, the truce did not persist under the 2014 administration because of the lack of government involvement in negotiations, and the homicide rates began to rise again. Nevertheless, this data exhibits that a gang truce is a viable solution towards reducing violence.
  9. Gang-related homicides have been on a decline since 2015. This is in part due to USAID projects including the Education for Children and Youth at Risk project, which prevents the Salvadoran youth from getting involved in gangs. The project has provided access to quality education for more than  370,000 middle school students in 750 schools and has provided support to 23,000 youth who are out of school so that they can return to classes. This project implements longer school days, interactive teaching methods, extracurricular activities and tutoring.
  10. There are local efforts to reduce gang violence in El Salvador. Creative is a nonprofit organization that employs young people who are at risk of getting involved with gangs. Creative has provided “more than 3,000 youth in 10 municipalities” with economic opportunities by partnering with businesses such as Microsoft to train them and provide them entry into the workforce. Creative also builds community-oriented infrastructure and offers counseling programs for teens.

These 10 facts about gangs in El Salvador demonstrate that violence has long been a major, cataclysmic issue. However, through local efforts to prevent youth involvement in gangs and rigid opposition against cutting foreign aid to Central America, El Salvador may see slow but steady improvements towards rebuilding their economy and reducing conflict.

Louise Macaraniag
Photo: Flickr

Femicide in El SalvadorEl Salvador is the smallest country in Central America with an estimated population of 6.2 million. However, this number is often fluctuating due to massive violence in the country. El Salvador has the world’s highest homicide rates and pervasive criminal gangs. One murder happens every two hours on average. In 2018, there were 3,340 documented murders and the country has an estimated murder rate of 51 per 100,000 inhabitants.

Women’s rights in the Central Americas and the Carribean have been slowly improving over the years. However, in El Salvador, women still lack basic rights and suffer from many violent crimes. With so many deaths, it comes as no surprise that El Salvador has the highest femicide rate in Latin America and the third highest in the world.

Femicide in El Salvador: The Facts

Femicide is the gender-based killing of women because of their gender. It is the leading cause of premature death for women globally. Femicide in El Salvador is a serious issue as one woman is murdered every 19 hours. In 2019, 76 femicides already occurred in El Salvador. The country has the third-highest rate in the world for the violent deaths of women. In 2016, 524 women were killed, a majority of them under 30 years of age. Within the first two months of 2018, 72 women were murdered.

High Femicide Rates But Low Convictions

Violent death isn’t the only threat to these women. Over a time span of ten months in 2017, there were nearly 2,000 reported sexual assaults in El Salvador. Around 80 percent of these victims were 17-years-old or younger. Femicide in El Salvador is not only overlooked by the world but by the Salvadoran government as well. Between 2013 and 2016, the Salvadoran government opened 662 femicide cases. Only 5 percent reached a conviction. Only one in ten of the murder cases where a woman is a victim of femicide results in a conviction.

Gangs Present Another Threat

Most of the violence against women in El Salvador is committed by various gangs residing in the country. According to the Salvadoran government, around 10 percent of people are in gangs and these gangs often see women as easy targets.

Agnes Callamard, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, said in a CNN interview that women’s bodies are treated as “a territory for revenge and control.” Callamard explained that the gangs are male-dominated and girls and women are merely part of the territories they control.

Women’s trauma

Women in El Salvador who survive these brutal acts of physical and sexual abuse suffer from trauma and often have nowhere to turn for help. Many women even try to flee the country in an attempt to escape. However, those who are unsuccessful in their attempts risk being killed or tortured by their abusers back home for merely trying.

Thankfully, groups like the Organización De Mujeres Salvadoreñas Por La Paz (ORMUSA) work to end gender violence and femicide in El Salvador. ORMUSA believes that promoting equality by supporting the economic empowerment of women is the key to changing attitudes. ORMUSA even helped draft a law that came into effect in 2012 which puts femicide in the criminal category in El Salvador and establishing special provisions to protect women from gender-based violence.

With such high femicide rates, El Salvador remains the most dangerous country for women. Though groups and activists are trying to stop these violent acts, El Salvador still has a long way to go.

Madeline Oden
Photo: Wikimedia Commons