In the Face of Increasing Gender Violence in Chiapas, Women and Girls March on the Occasion of November 25th

On November 25th, San Cristóbal women and girls marked the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women with a march and demonstration.

By Orsetta Bellani

Estefanía Martínez Matías was 22 years old, studying nursing and working in a clothing store in Tuxtla Gutiérrez to pay for her studies. Her lifeless body was found last November 5 on the side of a highway in the south of the capital of Chiapas, after a mobilization convened by her family and friends in front of the government palace. Six days earlier, the young woman had left her house to go to a party from which she didn’t  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 Eradication 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, however civil society organizations handle other data. “In analyzing newspaper articles, we found at least 53 cases that all have the characteristics to be considered femicides. If a woman is murdered by her partner, or when the article says that it was an assault but in the photographs we observe that the victim has signs of sexual violence, we immediately consider it a systemic sexual femicide,” says Karla Somoza Ibarra, director of the Feminist Observatory against Violence against Women in Chiapas, in an interview.

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 femicides in cities such as Tuxtla Gutiérrez and San Cristóbal de las Casas. However, generally in the state, the problem is on the rise: 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.

“The forms of violence experienced by girls and adolescents are expressed in harassment and sexual violence in their schools, in their homes and in the 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 a great number of girls forced to marry or to continue with unwanted pregnancies resulting from rape and that, so far this year, 345 girls and adolescents have disappeared in the state, almost eight per week.

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

Since 2019, Melel Xojobal has been registering cases of missing children and adolescents, based on the files that the Prosecutor’s Office publishes on its website ¿Has visto a ? (Have you seen ___?) In fact, the organization points out inconsistencies between the data that the Prosecutor’s Office has on its web page – where 632 files of missing minors appear in 2021 – and those of the National Registry of Missing Persons, which counted 51 cases in the same year.

The lack of coordination is perhaps the main problem that civil society organizations and marchers detect in the justice authorities. “In general, I believe that the Women’s Justice Centers -which are the ones that attend to women and girls in the Prosecutor’s Offices- are an excellent public policy. However, there are many coordination problems inside these prosecutors’ offices, which also do not have staff who speak the language of many of the women who arrive. The number of public defenders is minimal, and for this reason they dismiss the complaints and divert them with any excuse, and their offices are so small that they don’t even know where to place their personnel,” says Somoza Ibarra of the Feminist Observatory against Violence against Women in Chiapas.

The march on November 25 was attended by girls, young women and women who demanded a life free of sexist violence, and justice for all victims of femicides, as well as demanding that the authorities act to prevent aggressions.

This article was published in Desinformémonos on November 25th, 2022. English translation by Schools for Chiapas.

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