Femicide: Why Do Protection Measures Fail?
The protection for women is limited to keeping the aggressor away without an education and follow-up strategy to prevent femicide.
Ayda María Martínez Ipuz
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Femicide poses a constant risk to the lives of Latin American women. According to the Gender Equality Observatory of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), over 12 violent deaths of women due to gender reasons occur every day. This trend is only worsening.
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Just take a look at the case of Bogotá, where three women were brutally murdered by their partners during the Mother's Day weekend. One of them was Érika Aponte Lugo, a 26-year-old woman who was killed by her ex-partner, Christian Camilo Rincón, inside a café at the Unicentro shopping mall, shocking those present at the scene and those who witnessed the incident through social media.
According to the ECLAC report, in 2021, 4,473 women became victims of femicide in 29 countries and territories in the region. This has led institutions in the region to be concerned about enacting protective laws, and protocols, and establishing new institutions. However, femicide continues to persist as a harsh reality.
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Furthermore, there are failures in the protection measures for women exposed to domestic violence. Most of the time, the follow-up on these cases only involves periodic police visits to the victim's residence, without considering her workplace or other spaces where she may be vulnerable and unsafe in the presence of her aggressor.
According to Adriana Márquez, a professor at the Faculty of Law, Political Science, and Social Sciences of the National University of Colombia (UNAL), "Prevention should be a priority in these cases, but we have fallen into a reactive method that is ineffective and falls short due to a lack of human and physical resources to handle the cases." She adds, "Very rarely do protection measures extend to the victim's daily life, which is futile because there are different places beyond the home where the measure should be extended, such as her workplace, places where she interacts with family or friends, or when she travels, which are not currently prioritized."
Intervening with education to change a culture of sexism is another pending task. According to the expert, the opportunity to harness the possibilities of building a civic culture regarding family relationships, neighborly relations, public spaces, and mobility has been missed.
Protection measures implemented in several Latin American countries such as Colombia, Chile, Brazil, and Mexico aim to prevent the aggressor from approaching the victim or residing within the family environment. However, the reality has shown that measures like restraining orders are not adequately verified by the issuing authorities.
"What happens is that an order is issued for the police, through the Immediate Response Commands (CAI) in the case of Bogotá, stations, or local police, to be aware of the cases and make occasional visits. Furthermore, the Office of the Attorney General is also notified and responsible for addressing the cases," explains Professor Márquez.
The volume of cases of domestic violence is so high that, with limited institutional capacity and presence in the territories, it becomes challenging to provide in-depth attention to each case. As a result, restraining orders often remain superficial.
"There are other measures that are also part of protecting and restoring the rights of the victim, including psychological treatment and conflict management courses. These measures show that some attempts are made based on prevention rather than just restriction. However, fulfilling all the existing requests is another matter," states the expert. She believes that women should receive comprehensive support to address the culture of sexism, including pedagogy and work within schools, to intervene in a phenomenon that should be unacceptable for the societies in the region.