On January 4, Abril Pérez Sagaón was assaulted in her apartment in Mexico City while she was sleeping. Her husband and former Amazon Mexico CEO Juan Carlos García, hit her with a baseball bat and tried to strangle her to death, she barely survived after the intervention of one of the couple’s three children.
Pérez Sagaón denounced the attempted murder and obtained a restraining order against her husband. As a precautionary measure, García was detained in September, but the case took a turn when Judge Federico Mosco González reclassified the femicide crime as an attempt of “domestic violence.” This reclassification paved the way for the removal of Garcia’s detention and eventually to his release on November 8, following the ruling of judge Carlos Trujillo Rodríguez.
On Monday November 25—amid the commemoration of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women—Pérez Sagaón was shot to death in her car while heading to the airport after attending a custody hearing of her children. García, disappeared since his release, is presumed to be the intellectual author of the murder. The horrific case and the judges’ decision, has infuriated a country that according to the new report issued by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), occupies the eighth position in femicides among the 32 countries of the region, as of 2018.
Pérez Sagaón is one of 10 women murdered every day in Mexico. Figures issued by the country’s National Public Security System’s Executive Secretariat (SESNSP), report 2,833 women have been killed in Mexico from January to September of 2019. But as documented by Animal Político, only 726 cases are investigated and classified as femicides, while the other 2,107 murders as intentional homicides. In Mexico City alone, 122 women have been murdered from January to June 2019, and only 17 cases have been investigated as femicides.
Under the Declaration on the Elimination of Violence Against Women, signed in 1993, the United Nations (UN) defines violence against women as “any act of gender-based violence that results in, or is likely to result in, physical, sexual or psychological harm or suffering to women, including threats of such acts, coercion or arbitrary deprivation of liberty, whether occurring in public or in private life.”
According to the UN, “violence against women and girls is one of the most widespread, persistent and devastating human rights violations in our world today [and] remains largely unreported due to impunity, silence, stigma and shame surrounding it.” One in three women and girls experience physical or sexual violence in their lifetime, and as in Abril’s case, one in two women killed worldwide were murdered by their partners or family. Violence against women is as serious a cause of death and incapacity among women of reproductive age.
In 32 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean alone, at least 3,529 women were victims of femicide in 2018. According to the report by ECLAC, the five countries with the highest rates of femicide in Latin America are: El Salvador (6.8 femicides per 100,000 women), Honduras (5.1), Bolivia (2.3), Guatemala (2.0) and the Dominican Republic (1.9). In the Caribbean, Guyana leads with 8.8 femicides per 100,000 women, followed by Saint Lucia (4.4), Trinidad and Tobago (3.4), Barbados (3.4), and Belize (2.6).
Although all countries in Latin American ratified the United Nations Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, and 14—Mexico included—ratified the convention’s optional protocol that allows a special UN committee to monitor states’ compliance, these commitments have not translated to a decrease in femicides.
This in part because legally, not every country shares the same definition, classification and data collection of femicides, resulting in cases of violence against women being wrongly categorized as regular homicides. The report issued by ECLAC notes how in many cases, killings of women by their current or former partners are not considered femicides, even when there have been previous reports of domestic violence, as in the case of Abril. Furthermore, only a minority of countries in the region record gender-based killings of transsexual women and/or female sex workers as femicides, further skewing the numbers.
ECLAC has urged measuring femicide in the region’s countries as essential for designing, implementing and evaluating public policies aimed at protecting victims of gender-based violence, specifically to prevent femicide, provide reparation for dependent collateral victims, and punish the perpetrators. To tackle these challenges, ECLAC is promoting the development of a Femicide Registration System in Latin American and Caribbean countries, which would serve as a tool for improving the quality of national information with a view to deepening the analysis of femicide and strengthening regional comparability.
While the measure is well-intentioned, the Abril’s of the region—and the thousands of children and girls whose lives have been interrupted by femicide—cannot wait. Countries will have to step up their own protocols beyond better data collection techniques to adequate judicial procedures to prevent and decrease the horrid and high numbers of women killed by the basis of their gender.
As expected, women in Mexico and other cities across Latin America will continue taking their protests to the streets until their decry becomes a national priority. In the name of Abril, and thousands of other voiceless victims, the pressure must not stop until governments listen and decide to act once and for all. Enough is enough.