More than 3,000 women are murdered in Mexico each year: How violence affects the youngest victims

In recent years, instead of decreasing, sexual crimes against girls have increased. Impunity rates continue to hover around 95%

Día Internacional contra la Violencia de Género 2023
Names of victims at a stand in the Guadalajara International Book Fair, on December 1, 2022.Nayeli Cruz
Almudena Barragán

Emilia was 14 years old when she disappeared on her way to school in Apatzingán, Michoacán. Her mother and family reported her missing, blocked roads in desperation and marched to demand that she be found. None of this worked, and the teen’s body was located six months later in a vacant lot. She joined a long list of girls and women who are murdered every year in Mexico with total impunity. Violence against women, far from ending or decreasing, has increased in the last 30 years, even though governments insist on highlighting some specific declines. Newly published data reinforces the theory that women in Mexico experience violence from birth.

Every year, more than 3,000 women — including children and teens — are murdered, although only 24% of that figure is counted as femicides. Feminist and civil society organizations, however, point out that it is very likely that this number is much higher due to the problems getting prosecutors and courts to investigate and pass judgment with a gender perspective. “Of all those murdered, 50% have characteristics of femicide,” says María de la Luz Estrada, director of the National Femicide Observatory, which believes the real number of femicides is more than 1,500 each year. Until the month of September, state prosecutors’ offices had tallied counted 625 of these misogynistic murders.

A recent study published by the National Institute of Statistics (Inegi) indicates that in recent years there has been an increase in sexual crimes against girls and adolescents, complaints of family violence, trafficking and child femicides. For example, in girls between five and nine years old, sexual abuse occurs almost three times more often than in boys, while girls between 15 and 17 years old were abused eight times more than their male peers. In 2022, according to data from the state prosecutors, the crime of rape registered a peak in the 10 to 14 year old group and occurred 4.7 times more in girls than in boys of this age, with 4,197 complaints filed.

The violence faced by women and girls is considered a widespread and devastating problem in Mexico that begins to be suffered at alarmingly early ages. It is a situation that develops from the first stages of life and affects the health and well-being of the victims, even a long time after having been abused. Exposure to violence from the first years of life can become a pattern that affects the rest of their life and can lead to tolerance, and even reproduction of violence later in life.

Any figure regarding sexist violence usually falls short. Currently between 10 and 11 women are murdered a day, the impunity rate exceeds 95%, and only one in 10 victims dares to report their attacker due to fear and lack of trust in the authorities.

As women grow older, violence also increases. A 2023 national census by state prosecutors shows that in the case of girls and adolescents from 0 to 17 years old, violence within the family is the crime that occurs most frequently, with 22,271 cases this year. This year, 2,588 crimes were recorded against girls aged 0 to 4 years and 8,058 cases involving teens aged 15 to 17 years. Family violence occurs approximately twice as often in girls as in boys and increases as women become adults, while in men it decreases during the last stage of adolescence.

Hundreds of women will take to the streets again on Saturday, November 25, the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, to demand justice and an end to the murders, rapes, disappearances, harassment and impunity. They will march for their daughters, for their mothers, for their friends who are no longer there.

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