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Column 120511 Brewer

Monday, December 5, 2011

The Enigma and Infamy of Femicides in Mexico and Guatemala

By Jerry Brewer

The term "femicides" has been colloquially defined as "the systematic killing of women due to their gender."

There is a myriad of scholarly and political opinion in defining and describing the staggering death statistics that continue to manifest this apparent ritual abuse and carnage of women in Latin America.  However, there is nothing complicated about describing many of the crime scenes in which women's bodies are recovered from alleyways and rubbish dumps, often unrecognizable due to torture and sexual mutilation.

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has the dubious distinction of being labeled "the capital of murdered women." Perhaps this city's moniker refers to the epidemic of rapes and murders of women in the region that have gone unsolved and unpunished for years.  Does this sound rather vague and quite possibly just demonstrates a high violent crime rate like many other areas of the world?

Since 2000 more than 3,800 women and young girls were murdered in Mexico, and many remain missing.  Guatemala also finds itself facing the horrors of femicide.  And while these two nations are not alone, the abductions and brutal killing of women in both have become almost routine. 

In Guatemala City, Guatemala, femicide has claimed the lives of nearly 2,200 women and girls since 2001. Women live in constant fear of being snatched from the streets by gangs, or forced off buses at gunpoint into empty lots.  The majority of victims of femicide have been described as virtually unrecognizable, due to torture and sexual mutilation.

These murders go beyond the typical aspects of murder investigation. The "overkill and depersonalization" of these victims is generally attributed to psychopathic personalities.  However, with skilled homicide investigation methodologies utilized, consistent patterns and techniques of similar modus operandi could be attributed to serial killers. 

To the average person, and most people not skilled in death investigations, when confronted by evidence of such violent criminality, the behavior may seem an enigma, even a unique experience. In what can be described from a profiling standpoint, many of these acts of femicide can be simply described as the acts of recreational, hedonistic or lust murderers. These are individuals who hunt and kill human prey for personal enjoyment.

Many police officials in Mexico and Guatemala are quick to minimize the women's murders by stating that the death rate overall in their respective nations is higher for men.  They are not wrong.  However, what they fail to acknowledge is the differences in the manner of death.

A clear and different dimension exists in these ferocious attacks and murders in which many of the women were abducted, held captive for several days and subjected to humiliation, torture and the most horrific sexual violence before dying, mostly as a result of asphyxiation caused by strangulation or from being beaten. Their bodies have been found days or even years later, hidden among rubble or abandoned in deserted areas near the cities.

Although Mexican officials continue to reveal located mass graves of murdered and tortured migrant workers, kidnap victims and drug gang rivals, the victims of femicide are part of a much more prolific conundrum.  In fact, many social scientists describe this femicide enigma as a result of women being categorized as "expendable, usable, abusable, and disposable within societies of inequality, displacement, and extreme poverty."   Essentially, they have been seen to be there to service the needs of others. 

Drug gangs have in fact found what they perceive to be an effective use of women in drug trafficking as mules and decoys.  Many are threatened and extorted to perform these criminal acts at great risk, and many have been murdered and beheaded for defiance.

Guatemalan women are facing incredible violence and impunity. Recently 2,000 women marched through the streets of Guatemala City in support of the "UN's International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women."  Too, in Guatemala City there are now "women-only buses" aimed at reducing harassment and violence against women on public transport.

Women in Mexico and Guatemala continue to have a tough road ahead as they face highly exploitative conditions in employment.  Trafficking of women and children continues due to extreme poverty and their natural vulnerability, which reflects them as objects of manipulation. There are few arrests and rare convictions to what is described as "government impunity."

These horrific crimes against women alone reflect not only a form of discrimination, but also violations of the rights to life, physical integrity, liberty, security and legal protection. This clearly places the State's obligation to investigate and dispense justice. Failure to act is no option and a criminal abuse of authority.

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Jerry Brewer is C.E.O. of Criminal Justice International Associates, a global threat mitigation firm headquartered in northern Virginia.  His website is located at http://www.cjiausa.org/.

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