20 | OCT | 2019
Women organizations protesting at the Zócalo in Puebla – Photo: Édgar Ávila/EL UNIVERSAL

Why was Mara Castilla murdered?

Alejandro Hope
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Mara was murdered because no one in Mexico is afraid of the Law

Mara was murdered because no one in Mexico is afraid of the Law. A man dragged her against her will into a motel room, raped her, strangled her, and dumped her in a desolate area, knowing that every step he took could be retraced and monitored from a distance. He did all this, despite knowing he was going to be the first suspect in her disappearance. He did it, surely because he trusted people would do nothing. He did it because impunity is almost universal and he assumed his case wouldn't be the exception.

Mara was murdered because a company decided to prioritize its sales growth rather than preserve the integrity of its clients, because the same company didn't establish enough filters to avoid employing psychopaths, because the company didn't do enough to keep their promise of being a safe transport alternative.

Mara was murdered because authorities care so little about femicides that they aren't even counting them right. There isn't an official database on the number of women who have been murdered because they are women. There are some estimates, however: in an article published in 2014, José Merino, Jessica Zarkin, and Joel Ávila estimated there were 4,306 femicides during the years 2006-2012. This is probably the best estimate of the size of this problem. Yet – as the authors themselves acknowledge – this is a figure that could be below the actual number. We have no accurate way of knowing. And we don't know because no authority is counting the cases.

Mara was murdered because we have built a structurally unsafe country for women, because we have allowed – according to the data of the Survey on Social Cohesion and Crime Prevention (ECOPRED) – no fewer than 332 thousand girls and women, living in urban areas, ranging from ages 12 to 19, to become victims of harassment every year (Note: thank you to José Merino and Alexis Cherem for the data.)

Mara was murdered because in Mexico we tolerate, and even celebrate, a thousand ways in which women are subjected to violence, because we cannot be bothered to do something despite knowing that, according to the INEGI, two-thirds of Mexican women have been victims of some type of violence at some point in their lives.

Mara was murdered because violence against women has been made invisible. Nine out of ten cases of sexual violence against women aren't reported to the authorities. And they aren't reported for understandable reasons: for a woman, to denounce is to be victimized again, to be forced to relive her nightmare, to be subjected to the insinuation, if not the outright accusation, that the aggression was her fault because of how she was dressed, what she was doing or what she was consuming.

Mara was murdered because violence against women is rarely punished. In 2015, across the entire Criminal Justice System, there were exactly 542 individuals arrested for femicide, and from those 542, only 201 had been sentenced.

Mara was murdered because we did nothing, or because we didn't do enough in the many cases which came before, because we didn't act after the death of Valeria, the 11-year-old girl who was raped and murdered in Neza, or after the homicide of Lesvy Osorio at the UNAM, or the many murders of women in Juárez City over the last two decades.

Mara was murdered because we've failed as a society, because of our indifference, because we haven't demanded that things change once and for all, that the justice system changes, that the Police changes, that Mexico changes.

Mara was murdered because the country is a disgrace and it's time it stops being one.


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