Given the increase of gender violence in Chiapas, women and girls marched on 25N

On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the color orange is used to represent a brighter future, free from violence against women and girls | Photo: UN Women.

By: Orsetta Bellani

Estefanía Martínez Matías was 22 years old, she was studying nursing and worked at a clothing store in Tuxtla Gutiérrez to pay for her studies. Her lifeless body was found on November 5 on the side of a road in the southern part of the Chiapas capital, after a mobilization called by her family members and friends in front of the government palace. Six days before, the young woman had left her house to go to a fiesta from which she did not return.

For her and the other women victims of violence in their homes, in the streets, in their workplaces and in the prisons where they are held, today, on the occasion of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, marches were held in Chiapas cities, such as San Cristóbal de las Casas, Tuxtla Gutiérrez and Comitán.  

According to the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Chiapas, from January to October 2022, 39 femicides were registered. Civil society organizations, however, have other data. “Doing an analysis of newspaper articles, we found at least 53 cases that have all the characteristics to be considered femicides. If a woman is killed by her partner, or when the note says that it was an assault, but in the photos, we observe that the victim has signs of sexual violence, we immediately consider it as a systemic sexual femicide,” says Karla Somoza Ibarra, director of the Feminist Observatory against Violence against Women of Chiapas.

The 25N March in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas.

Thanks to the struggle of organized civil society, in 2016 the Gender Violence Alert was declared in seven municipalities of Chiapas, which managed to reduce cases of femicide in cities such as Tuxtla Gutiérrez and San Cristóbal de las Casas. However, at a general level in the state the problem is increasing: according to the Citizen Observatory of Chiapas, in September 2022 there was a 24 percent increase in femicides compared to the same month in 2021 and Chiapas currently ranks fifth nationally for this crime.

Gender violence, explains Somoza, is something that women begin to experience when they are children, and the concern of the demonstrators goes towards them. “The forms of violence experienced by girls and adolescents are expressed in harassment and sexual violence in their schools, homes and streets, disappearances, trafficking and femicides,” write the self-convened and organized women of San Cristóbal de las Casas in the statement they read at the end of their mobilization. They point out that in Chiapas there are large numbers of girls forced to marry or continue with unwanted pregnancies as a result of rape and that, so far this year, 345 girls and adolescents have disappeared in the state, almost eight per week.

Banner in San Cristóbal de las Casas, Chiapas reads: Let’s make noise against the violences towards women and girls.

“Most of the minors who disappear in Chiapas are indigenous women between 12 and 17 years old, so we could say that the population with the highest risk of disappearing in the state are adolescent women,” Jennifer Haza, general director of the Melel Xojobal civil association, said in an interview. “We think that they may be victims of trafficking for sexual exploitation, and that in the case of girls from 0 to 6 years old it may be through illegal adoptions,” he says.

Melel Xojobal has been registering cases of missing children and adolescents since 2019, based on the files that the Prosecutor’s Office publishes on its portal Have you seen her? carrying out a work of systematization that the authorities do not do. In fact, the organization points out inconsistencies between the data that the Prosecutor’s Office has on its website – where 632 files of disappearance of minors appear in 2021 – and those of the National Registry of Disappeared Persons, which counted 51 cases in the same year.

The lack of articulation is perhaps the main problem that civil society organizations and marchers detect in the justice authorities. “In general, I think the Women’s Justice Centers – which are the ones that serve women and girls in the Prosecutor’s Offices – are an excellent public policy. However, there are many coordination problems within these prosecutors’ offices, which also don’t have staff who speak the language of many of the women arriving. The number of public ministries (district attorneys) is minimal, and that’s why they dismiss and divert cases with any excuse, and their headquarters are so small that they don’t even know where to place their staff,” says Somoza Ibarra of the Feminist Observatory against Violence against Women of Chiapas.

Girls, adolescents and women participated in the march this November 25 and demanded a life free of macho violence and justice for all victims of femicides. They also demanded that the authorities act to prevent the aggressions.

Originally Published in Spanish by Desinformémonos, Friday, November 25, 2022, and Re-Published with English interpretation by the Chiapas Support Committee

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