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Women organize to fight femicide
Alejandro F. Ludeña
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Country has seen more than 2,000 gender-motivated killings in the past seven years.

Marta Moncada´s husband killed her in a hotel and chopped up her body in 2003. While her tragic end is not uncommon in Honduras, it sparked an outcry among the country´s women who started to speak out against gender-motivated crime.

That same year, the Women for Life Forum was founded, a group of 11 grassroots organizations along the northern Honduran coast, the region with the country´s highest rate of femicide. They aim to help bring about profound change in the country´s patriarchal society to combat violence, especially against women.

According to Carolina Sierra, the group´s executive coordinator, the members´ most notable achievement was to put this issue on the radar of the media and on the agenda of nongovernmental organizations.

Also helping to give this epidemic of violence more visibility was the Observatory on Violence, a project started in 2005 and backed by the United Nations Development Program and the Autonomous University of Honduras.

“The Observatory allows us to conduct a better analysis about women killings, to have access to information that NGOs don´t have,” said its executive director, Reina Rivera. “This way, we can give this problem more visibility, differentiating between those deaths caused by femicide from those that don´t have a tie to gender inequality.” 

Cases on the rise
According to figures of the Women for Life Forum, more than 2,000 women have been killed in the country since Marta Moncada´s murder in 2003, making Honduras the second-most violent country against women in Central America after Guatemala.

But these figures clearly shot up in the year following Honduras´ June 2009 coup that ousted then-President Manuel Zelaya, who had governed since 2006, 337 women have been killed. Killings reportedly occurred against many women for their political beliefs, including opposing the coup, that was carried out by the military.

But in 2010, the first year that the Observatory made a complete count, there were 438 women killed in the country that could be considered femicides, or those murders that occurred because of inequality in power between men and women.

While human rights organizations accuse current President Porfirio Lobo of siding with the aggressors, authorities have admitted that women are especially vulnerable to these crimes.

Human Rights Minister Ana Pineda said during the United Nation´s Universal Periodic Review on Human Rights that weakness in state institutions is hindering investigations of human rights violations.

Three months later, a special police unit was created to investigate these crimes, with an aim to “protect the vulnerable groups of Honduras, including women, young people, members of the gay and lesbian communities and journalists,” said Security Minister Oscar Álvarez.

No political will
But this did not convince women´s groups in Honduras, many of whose members distrust the government. Nelly del Cid of feminist organization Tejedoras de Sueños, or Dreamweavers, says there is no political will to address the issues at the root of femicide.

“The political will is measured in terms of budget, and this is worthless,” del Cid told Latinamerica Press.

Even though some women believe Lobo´s government has done next to nothing to combat this problem, some say some dialogue with the current administration is necessary.

Sierra says she´s worried the situation will only get worse because activists have lost arenas to discuss the issue.

Maritza Paredes, a longtime human rights lawyer, said “femicide limits development, democracy and peace. This is not an issue just about families or women. It´s the country´s issue; the state must act on this.”

Meanwhile, hope lies with women´s organization and resistance to the trend, which have been strengthening in recent years.

Slowly, people are speaking out more and more against violence.

“Leave the individual problems by the wayside and advance in the search for justice” is the goal, Sierra said.
—Latinamerica Press.


Women blame government for scant investigation of femicides.(Photo: Yadira Rodríguez).
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Latinamerica Press / Noticias Aliadas
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