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Femicide: The Invisible Giant in the Room

TW: Mentions of sexual assault, murder and body harm.


As a young Latinx person living in the U.S, I've always been interested in finding ways to connect with my community. As a child, this meant trips back to my mom's home country or learning through my mom's stories. Soon enough, I learned about the disheartening realities of living in Latin America as a woman. Femicide is rampant across the region, and organizers have been trying to get systemic changes in place to prevent the issue's growth. Feminists within the area helped popularize the term "femicide" to describe the murder of women based primarily on the fact that they are women. While the specifics of the term vary across scholars, community members and organizers, it is a matter of disregard for women's lives. Within the area, intimate partner femicide is the most prevalent form, but it can range from sexual orientation killings, armed-conflict-related killings and racial killings. 

Collecting statistical data for these cases is extremely difficult since each country reports and gathers information differently. According to A Gendered Analysis of Violence, from the top 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide in the world, 14 are from Latin America. If that doesn't seem bad enough, there are only 33 countries in Latin America, so that's almost half of the countries of the region. While countries within the region have passed legislation to protect women's rights in the area, there is a disconnect between legality and reality. With the patriarchal nature of Latinx culture, it is hard to see these laws actually being enforced. State governments have actually been complicit in the perpetuation of machismo and violence against women. The issue becomes even more concerning when we dig into the numbers within each country. While it may come as no surprise, this lack of repercussion and protection from the state has led to rising case numbers. In Colombia, the rate has increased to a woman being killed every two days. 

Some efforts are being made to alleviate the problem, such as creating female-friendly urban areas and the criminalization of femicide specifically. These female-friendly urban areas are notable for their women-only transportation and the resources they provide for women. These areas do not serve as solutions to the issue, but they hope to curve the harassment and targeted violence women face. The criminalization of femicide helps provide specific codes for these cases and distinguishes them from ordinary crimes. Yet, it has not been codified in many countries. This ongoing struggle has erupted with social movements that aim to continue pushing for the protection of women. This can be seen through the popularization of the chant "Violador en tu Camino" (rapist in your path) in 2019, which directly blames the government for the continuous violence women face. While it sprouted in Chile, the chant has become popular in protests around the entire region. Online awareness has spread like fire with the hashtags #NiUnaMas (Not One More Woman), which demands an end to femicide.

After researching and hearing about the experiences of many Latinas, it has become clear that this is not only an issue in the area, but a symptom of a global disregard for women's rights. While people may argue about the necessity of feminism and its usefulness in modern-day life, it is undeniable that women still face obstacles in their day-to-day lives. Women's rights deserve to be uplifted now more than ever, and the evidence is here to prove that. It is an issue that extends past Latin America and rings true for women across the world.

Arlette is a third year Journalism major and Latin American Studies minor at the University of Florida. Born and raised in Miami, they love anything that connects them to nature and sunshine. Whenever they aren't reading or writing, they can be found gardening, baking, crafting, or analyzing psychological thrillers. Passionate about all things people centered, they hope to pursue a career that allows them to stay close and accountable to their community.
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