Protesters at a femicide protest in Zocalo, Mexico City the day after International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women 2019. The sign says "No nací mujer para morir por serlo"- "I was not born a woman to die for being it". Thayne Tuason/Wikimedia Commons

Death of 26-year-old activist leads to ‘femicide’ protests in Latin America

The slaying of 26-year-old Isabel Cabanillas de la Torre on Jan. 18 has fueled demonstrations against “femicide,” or the act of murder based on ones gender in areas of Latin America.


According to BBC, Latin America has one of the highest rates of femicide in the world, with 98% of gender-related killings remaining unprosecuted.


At the center of the protests is the killing of Cabanillas, a young activist and artist who was shot in the Mexican border city of Juárez. The motivations for the killing of Cabanillas remain unknown. 


Protesters chanted “not one more” while marching to the historic center of the city and the top of the international bridge that connects Mexico to El Paso, Texas in hopes of sending a message to police, reported NPR


Lorena Nunez Gonzalez, a Latina PSU student who is also an outreach and involvement coordinator of Dream PSU club, expressed her experiences in Mexico where she grew up: “How violent it is to just to be a woman no matter wherever you are, but especially in Mexico. Like I would wear jeans, not even a skirt, people would catcall me, 10 men on the street would yell at me.”


Gonzalez said she believes Mexico is still a traditional country where if women gain autonomy, men are going to feel threatened about losing their power, as she shared her mother’s story about her experience as a woman in Mexico: “Their police force is very corrupt, so my mom has so many stories of her being catcalled or being harrassed and she has many times gone to the police station in Mexico. They either ignored her or make fun of her, or even they catcalled her a lot.”


According to The New York Times, machismo—or aggressive masculine pride—is valued within many cultures in Latin America. This often leads to authories becoming complicit or often times abusive toward reports of sexual harassment or violence by women. 


One out of every three women in Latin America has experienced sexual or physical violence, according to a study done by the United Nations


Susanne Bahl, a professor in the criminology and criminal justice department at PSU, said corruption by drug cartels plays a role in the number of unsolved cases. “Drug cartels run some cities in Mexico, like Cuidad Juarez, which impedes law enforcement’s efforts to catch the abusers/murderers of the missing women.”


According to the UN, violence against women in Mexico has gone up substantially in the last two years. The rate of killings has gone up to 10 women killed per day in 2019.


Dr. Danielle McGurrin, an associate professor of criminology at PSU, said, “Governmental corruption by the state and impunity for offenders generally go hand in hand, this coupling effect—among other causes—allows these crimes to negatively reinforce the behavior.”


“Some women victims are at greater risk for victimization because of the dangerous geographic pathways between home and work,” MrGurrin said. “Criminal offenders tend to exploit the environment and opportunity, especially when there’s little formal and informal social control to deter crimes and offenders.”