Mapping for justice: How one woman took it upon herself to register femicide in Mexico

María Salguero is the creator of the National Map of Femicide in Mexico

Mapping for justice: How one woman took it upon herself to register femicide in Mexico
A demonstrator holds up a stencil of the Spanish message: "Mexico Femicide" in Mexico City - Photo: Ginette Riquelme/AP
English 03/03/2020 18:26 Lorelei Zeltzin Sánchez Mexico City Actualizada 19:01
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“When I began mapping femicide, there were between five and six women murdered each day. Currently, there are between 10 and 11 women murdered every day,” says the geophysicist María Salguero, the creator of the National Map of Femicides in Mexico.

In 2016, the researcher began registering in a map the numbers of femicide in Mexico. Her objective was to make visible the problem of gender violence in the country. Over three years later, she keeps on working.

“One of the most important things is to name it and understand that they’re not numbers, they have a name,” she said in an interview with EL UNIVERSAL.

Another fact she stresses is the age of the victims, for in 2016, the women murdered were between 30 and 36 years of age, whereas now, they are between 18 and 25 years old. Salguero Bañuelos warns about a 6% increase in the murders of women in 2019 in comparison to 2018.

“In 2016, I registered approximately 2,400; in 2017, I had the same number, while in 2018, it rose to over 2,500. In 2019, 3,825 women were murdered in the country,” said the geophysicist.

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According to data of the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP), in 2016, there were 602 alleged femicides; in 2017, 741; in 2018, 891, and in 2019, 976.

In total, Salguero said, she has mapped 8,640 cases. Since 2018, she added the label “organized crime” on the map, for the number of women murdered by organized crime was on the rise.

“The red flags are still being the State of Mexico and Colima. In Colima, there are 28 murdered women for every 100,000 inhabitants, so it has the first place. Over 10 murdered women is a violence epidemic, according to the World Health Organization,” she stressed. Nevertheless, she clarified that it is not a figure at a national scale but that is only present in state and municipalities.

In the first two years, Salguero focused on mapping femicides using news as a basis and in 2018, she began to analyze the context in which women were being murdered.

She said that Colima, Chihuahua, Baja California, Jalisco, Guanajuato, and the State of Mexico have the presence of organized crime.

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Ciudad Juárez is an important area for organized crime because it is the entryway for the biggest drug market in the world. In recent years, there have been disputes between the Juárez and the Sinaloa cartel, which has made violence rise,” she said during a presentation at Mexico’s Supreme Court.

She explained that organized crime also murders women. “They kill them for their sense of belonging. They are seen as an object owned by the rival and, to cause damage, they kill their women.”

Salguero added that the UN catalogs them as femicides for enemy ownership, which is registered since the guerrillas in Colombia and Central America. “This pattern of murders is also registered in Mexico City by the La Unión Tepito cartel,” she added.

María Salguero said that the life of women is not only affected by the cartel's war for other factors, like the increase of weapons, addictions, and drug dealing, also have an impact.

“In Ciudad Juárez, women’s partners consume drugs; for instance, meth makes them aggressive. There are also women who are drug addicts and that, in many cases, are drug dealers but earn MXN $20 for every crystal meth packet they sell; there’s a lot of inequality.”

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The researcher mentioned impunity as the main cause of the rise of femicides in the country. “Impunity overall. Since I began the map, relatives [of the victims] complain about authorities having the body, did not pick up evidence, contaminated it, or lost it.”

She also included the deficiency of the Public Ministries for on many occasions, the relatives of the victims cannot have access to the investigation file, are revictimized, the previous investigation is not well done, and the evidence is even lost.

“When they find the body, a funeral home picks it up, not a coroner; they don’t pick up evidence either and contaminate the few clothes left,” she said.

She added that in Mexico City’s Public Ministries, the alleged aggressors have been arrested but due to the lack of evidence they are released.

After the case of Fátima, a 7-year-old sexually attacked and murdered in Tláhuac, María Salguero asserted that the timely search for a disappeared girl or woman could prevent femicide.

“The femicide issue is also federal, so the government must follow the recommendation of the Committee for the Eradication of all the Ways of Discrimination Against Women. Moreover, it must coordinate actions to prevent, sanctions, and eradicate violence against women, as well as giving more budget to women issues,” said the researcher.

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