Not a Suicide: Mexico Murder Case Challenges Views of Gender Violence
Rebecca Conan - The Christian Science Monitor
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August 8, 2016
A demonstrator carries a cross that reads in Spanish: "For you, for all" to protest violence against women on International Women's Day in Mexico City. (Eduardo Verdugo/AP)
Six years after Mariana Lima’s brutal death was labeled a suicide, her mother can finally exhale. She dedicated the past several years to campaigning for her daughter’s case to be reinvestigated, and last month her efforts resulted in the arrest of Ms. Lima’s former husband on charges of femicide.
It’s a grim victory for Lima’s family and the relatives of the tens of thousands of others in Mexico who have lost their lives to femicide – the deliberate killing of a woman based on her gender. And it’s an important moment for Mexico, part of a series of small but significant shifts in the landscape of violence against women here.
“This reinvestigation has become a platform from which we can expect all other cases of violent murders of women to be investigated with due diligence and a gender perspective,” says Rodolfo Domínguez, the lawyer representing Lima’s family.
There were more than 16,000 femicides – or roughly seven per day – in Mexico between 2008 and 2014. That makes it one of the worst countries for gender-based violence in the world, ranking worse than already notorious India. Endemic impunity means murders go unpunished here, with only 1.6 percent of femicides in 2012 resulting in sentences.
Lima’s case, despite evidence of strangulation and a marital history of rape and physical violence, represents a universal challenge in cases of femicide in Mexico: rates of generalized violence are high, tending to inure people, and views on gender are often skewed.
A recent survey by the National Autonomous University (UNAM) found that 88 percent of Mexicans believe “violence [is] a fact of daily life.” More than half of female respondents from Mexico state and Mexico City said they have experienced violence within the family, and 1 in 3 male respondents said it is acceptable to hit a woman “under certain circumstances.”
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