The often overlooked struggle to address violence against women in Mexico may have reached a turning point this week, after the country’s secretary of the interior approved “gender violence alerts” for 11 municipalities in Mexico state. The alerts, which some local governments have been requesting for several years, provide municipalities with federal funding and technical assistance to implement programs to combat gender-based violence.
The murder of women because of their gender, known as femicide, is an all-too-common occurrence in Mexico. But homicide cases involving women in the country are seldom classified as femicides; a study released earlier this year by the National Citizen Observatory on Femicide (OCNF) in Mexico found that, of the 3,892 women killed between 2012 and 2013, less than 16 percent were investigated by authorities under the classification.
While the alerts are a step forward in the government’s efforts to tackle the issue, some human rights advocates say that more must be done in a country where six women are murdered every day, by some estimates. It is also unclear how much federal funding will be dedicated to preventing violence against women as a result of this week’s announcement.
Still, some observers see cause for optimism. In an interview with SinEmbargo, María de la Luz Estrada, director of the OCNF, expressed hope that this week’s approval would signal a change in the government’s attitude toward gender violence, and called Mexico state governor Eruviel Avila’s push for the gender alerts an “acknowledgement of the existence of structural and systematic gender violence that has worsened with disappearances and femicides.”
There may also be signs that the approval of the alerts reflects a broader change to how gender violence is understood in Mexico. On Tuesday, a prosecutor in the northern state of Chihuahua sentenced five men each to 697 years behind bars for the trafficking and murder of six women, a sentence that Telesur called “an unprecedented move in a country where the systematic killing of women often goes unpunished.”