Executive Director and Data Coordinator of Intersecta
For decades, the Mexican feminist movement has advocated for state policies to legally recognize, contain and reduce the gender violence which affects women every day. As a result, a number of measures have been taken, spanning from the elimination within law of the notion that rape within marriage was the exercise of a right ‒a position the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation only abandoned in 2005‒ to the creation of laws that recognize the varying forms of violence that a woman can experience within a patriarchal system.
In the context of these transformations, the focus has been on intimate partner violence, particularly when it ends in feminicide. This violence has changed in recent times. Apart from increasing, a key issue has emerged that has not been appropriately addressed by the policies that claim to protect the lives of women: firearms.
Data from the past three decades regarding intentional homicides in Mexico show an increase and transformation of violence. On the one hand, said data shows that between 1990 and 2007, the rate of this kind of events declined. However, when Felipe Calderón Hinojosa became president, he implemented a series of security measures aimed at ‘fighting’ organized crime and drug consumption, one of which was to increase military presence on the streets. Since then, levels of violence began to escalate dramatically. Just between 2007 and 2011, homicides almost tripled from 8,1 to 23,6 for every 100 thousand people in the country.
What is more, not only did homicidal violence increase ‒for both men and women‒ but for the latter in particular, the way these aggressions are perpetrated changed. Specifically, before 2007, the murder of women in their homes was usually committed by means of physical force (choking) or the use of a knife. In 2010, alongside the generalized rise in violence, the rate of women killed by a firearm in their homes rose by 150%. The most recent data available (from 2020) indicate that the majority of murders of women in Mexico are perpetrated at gunpoint: six out of every ten women murdered die this way. When it comes to murders in the home, 45% of women are murdered by this means.
A recent phenomenon that has called into question public policies ‒or the lack thereof‒ that focus on the prevention of domestic violence and feminicides was the confinement period during COVID-19. During that time, reports of family violence, calls for help and requests for asylum in specialized shelters for women who are victims of violence increased. Specifically, the 911 registration system shows a total of 961.776 calls triggered by situations of family violence and intimate partner violence in 2020. This is a significant rise when compared to the 686.146 calls received in 2019. In 2020, around 110 calls were received nationwide every hour for these reasons.
In comparison with 2020, information regarding homicides also shows that a change may have resulted from the dynamics adopted during the confinement. Overall, homicides decreased for both men and women, particularly those that occur on the streets. However, homicides by firearms grew in the case of women.
As to women murdered at gunpoint in the streets, the data from 2020 shows that the rate fell by 9% for every 100,000, in comparison with the previous year. However, murders in the home rose by 6%. This trend was exacerbated in regions like Michoacán, where, in the same timeframe, the rate of women murdered increased by 22,9%. When it comes to murders in the home using a firearm, the increase was of 65%.
What is failing to happen in Mexico to control this situation? It is undeniable that the increasing availability of weapons has contributed to the lethality of violence in the home. An estimate by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs indicates that there are currently 16 million weapons circulating in the country. This means that approximately four out of every ten households may have access to one of these devices. Although on paper Mexico has one of the most restrictive policies on the acquisition, possession and carrying of weapons, in practice it is estimated that around 90% of them were acquired illegally.
At the Intersecta organization we believe that, as this issue affects the daily lives of thousands of women and girls, it is urgent to address it through measures and policies that effectively limit the possession of firearms. Furthermore, appropriate precautionary measures should be taken for women and their families living in these contexts and security strategies should be created to contribute to peaceful communities without resorting to militarization.
 It is worth noting that at both the national and local levels, the changes registered in the murders of women are higher than in the case of men, when referring to those that occurred in the home with a firearm.
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