Mexican deputies toughen up femicide legislation

Lower house passes reform to place suspects in pre-trial detention and prevent them from fleeing justice

Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies has approved a reform to make femicide a serious crime meriting preventive prison. Under current legislation, a suspect may be released pending trial, creating a risk for witnesses and other potential victims, according to human rights groups.

A 2016 march against femicide in Mexico City.
A 2016 march against femicide in Mexico City.AFP-GETTY
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Los diputados mexicanos endurecen la legislación ante el alza en los feminicidios

The reform to Section 167 of the National Penal Procedures Code seeks to ensure that defendants will appear in court instead of fleeing justice. The initiative will now move to the Senate for debate.

Mexico’s response to violence against women is still deficient, which leads to a lack of faith in the authorities, said Deputy Claudia Anaya Mota, who introduced the initiative in the lower house of Mexico’s Congress.

The National Observatory against Femicides estimates that 60% of female killings in the country go unpunished.

The municipality of Ecatepec, in the State of Mexico, is considered particularly dangerous

María Eugenia Ocampo Bedolla, another federal deputy, said it is necessary to include femicides on the list of high-impact crimes deserving of pre-trial detention, as the killing of women has reached alarming rates in Mexico.

“The administration of justice has not adequately responded to violent crimes,” she said, adding that this creates “an increase in insecurity for women.”

Femicides in Mexico made world headlines in 1993 due to a spate of cases in the border town of Ciudad Juárez. But it was another 20 years before the country’s penal code incorporated femicide as a crime.

A poster showing missing women in Ciudad Juárez.
A poster showing missing women in Ciudad Juárez.AP

In 2012, Congress approved prison sentences of 40 to 60 years for individuals found guilty of killing a woman for gender-related reasons. Federal authorities asked the states to adapt their own legislation to the new situation.

To date, the only state that has yet to incorporate femicide into its criminal code is Chihuahua – which is home to Ciudad Juárez. In 2015, the Senate’s Gender Equality Committee told the Chihuaha State Assembly to incorporate the crime into its code, but the change has yet to happen.

In 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled against Mexico for its inability to guarantee women’s right to life. The historical ruling involved three women who had been murdered in Ciudad Juárez in 1993, and found that Mexico had obstructed families’ access to justice.

These days, human rights groups are particularly concerned about another part of the country: the state of Mexico, where 2,318 women have been murdered over the course of nine years, according to the watchdog group National Citizen Femicide Observatory (OCNF). The municipality of Ecatepec is considered particularly dangerous: around 600 women were killed there between 2012 and 2016.

English version by Susana Urra.


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