At least 2,795 women were murdered in 2017 due to their gender in 23 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean, according to official data compiled by the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean (GEO) of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC).
The GEO reports annually on the number of homicides of women 15 years and older perpetrated for gender-related reasons in the region’s countries. To give full account of the magnitude of this scourge, ECLAC also compiles so-called intimate femicides (those committed by someone with whom the victim formed a couple at some point), which is the only data reported by countries such as Chile, Colombia, Guyana and Jamaica.
In absolute terms, the list of femicides is led by Brazil (with 1,133 victims confirmed in 2017). Nonetheless, if the rate per every 100,000 women is compared, the phenomenon has a scope in El Salvador that is seen nowhere else in the region: 10.2 femicides for every 100,000 women. In 2016, Honduras recorded 5.8 femicides for every 100,000 women. In Guatemala, the Dominican Republic and Bolivia, high rates were also seen in 2017, equal to or above 2 cases for every 100,000 women. In the region, only Panama, Peru and Venezuela have rates below 1.0.
“Femicide is the most extreme expression of violence against women. Neither the criminal classification of this offense nor the efforts to make it statistically visible have been enough to eradicate this scourge that alarms and horrifies us on a daily basis,” said Alicia Bárcena, ECLAC’s Executive Secretary, who called on countries to prioritize public policies aimed at preventing, sanctioning and eradicating all forms of violence against women in the region.
In the Caribbean, four countries accounted for a total of 35 femicide victims in 2017: Belize (9 victims), the British Virgin Islands (1), Saint Lucia (4) and Trinidad and Tobago (21). In the same year, Guyana and Jamaica—which only have data on intimate femicides—reported the deaths of 34 and 15 women, respectively, at the hands of their current or former partners.
In 2017, the rates of intimate femicides in Latin America ranged between a maximum of 1.98 for every 100,000 women in the Dominican Republic, to a minimum of 0.47 in Chile, according to the GEO’s Note for Equality No. 27.
In light of the seriousness of this phenomenon, 18 Latin American countries have modified their laws to sanction this crime, classifying it as feminicide, femicide or aggravated homicide due to gender: Costa Rica (2007); Guatemala (2008); Chile and El Salvador (2010); Argentina, Mexico and Nicaragua (2012); Bolivia, Honduras, Panama and Peru (2013); the Dominican Republic, Ecuador and Venezuela (2014); Brazil and Colombia (2015); Paraguay (2016); and Uruguay (2017).
One of the main challenges to adequately addressing this issue, according to ECLAC, is to understand that all the forms of violence that affect women are determined, beyond their sex or gender status, by economic, age-, race-, culture-, religion-related and other types of differences. In this sense, public policies for their eradication must consider women’s diversity and the varied ways in which violence against them is manifested.
The Commission also poses the need to create inter-agency agreements that allow for strengthening the analysis of femicide at a regional and national level. In addition, it proposes working on consciousness-raising and capacity development among public officials, especially judicial officials, to improve femicide records and provide responses that reflect a human rights approach and a culture of equality.