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Murders of Women in Mexico Rise Amid Fears of Lockdown Violence

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This story was originally published April 27, 2020 by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Almost 1,000 women were murdered in Mexico in the first three months of this year, according to government data, showing a spike in violence that combined with coronavirus lockdown measures, advocates say, puts women in double jeopardy.

The rate was 8% higher than the rate for the same period last year, according to the data.

"The deadliest pandemic for women in our country, more than the coronavirus, is feminicidal violence," said Congresswoman Martha Tagle from the opposition Citizens' Movement party.

"Today, violence is the greatest threat to all the rights for women that we have had recognized with great effort," she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

Some 14,000 confirmed cases of COVID-19 have been reported in Mexico, and more than 1,300 deaths, although testing rates are low. Of the coronavirus deaths, about 420 have been women, the government said.

The government reported that at least 720 women were murdered in the first quarter of the year and 244 women were victims of femicide, where a woman is killed because of her gender.

A year ago, at least 890 women were killed.

Women carry pink crosses during the "Day without women" protest, as part of the escalation of historic protests against gender violence, in Mexico City, Mexico, March 9, 2020. | REUTERS/Gustavo Graf
Women carry pink crosses during the "Day without women" protest, as part of the escalation of historic protests against gender violence, in Mexico City, Mexico, March 9, 2020. | REUTERS/Gustavo Graf

Gender-based violence is widespread in the Latin American country.

The national statistics agency (INEGI) has said two-thirds of women in Mexico have experienced some form of violence, with almost 44% suffering abuse from a partner.

The femicide rate has more than doubled in the past five years, and gang violence has pushed the murder tally to record heights. Most violent crime in Mexico goes unsolved.

With coronavirus lockdown measures extended until at least the end of May, advocates worry that such alarming rates of violence may get worse.

Calls and messages sent to the National Network of Shelters — a network of almost 70 refuges for female victims of violence — rose more than 80% between mid-March and mid-April when compared to the previous month.

"It's terrible. I think many more women could die because of violence than COVID in this period," said Patricia Olamendi, a lawyer who represents victims of violence and has written protocols on femicide investigations.

She added that the government has not published a plan to address the spike in domestic abuse.

"There is a complete and absolute abandonment," she said. "What's happening in the country is inhumane."

In a meeting last week regarding violence against women during the pandemic, Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero said the country's 911 emergency hotline was key to battling the scourge.

"We must join efforts to face the pandemic of violence (against women) that is the silent pandemic, but also the one that causes pain (and) costs thousands of lives a year," she said.

The Interior Ministry did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Protests against gendered violence grew earlier this year, with millions of Mexican women staying home from work during a nationwide strike in March, a day after a series of protests across the country for International Women's Day.

Mexico suffered its worst year for homicides in 2019, with a record 34,582 victims, according to data published in January.

Reporting by Oscar Lopez @oscarlopezgib and Christine Murray; editing by Ellen Wulfhorst.

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