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Femicide: the result of machismo and silence

January in Ecuador began with two events in the space of a week that shook the nation. The gang rape of Martha in a Quito bar, and the murder of Diana, stabbed to death by her ex-partner, originally from Venezuela. The latter triggered a number of xenophobic acts by local residents, and immigration restrictions, which have been widely criticised.

 

Sinay Céspedes Moreno

 

January in Ecuador began with two events in the space of a week that shook the nation. The gang rape of Martha in a Quito bar, and the murder of Diana, stabbed to death by her ex-partner, originally from Venezuela. The latter triggered a number of xenophobic acts by local residents, and immigration restrictions, which have been widely criticised.

For lawyer and master in international and comparative law, Hugo Cahueñas, both outrageous events are the product of machismo. “Those words that demean women, those images that objectify them, those jokes that belittle women, and above all, that silent complicity with machismo, are also responsible for the death Diana and rape of Martha.”

Today the phenomena of gender-based violence, particularly against women, and femicide, represent serious problems in Ecuador, where many voices are demanding targeted policies to end these scourges.

Eleven women have been murdered so far this year in different areas of the Andean country. Some even in public places and in front of citizens or members of the national police force, which has not taken appropriate action to avoid this fatal outcome.

Social organisations, human rights activists and the population in general have not wasted any time in condemning these and other violent incidents. They demand that the authorities address the issue with greater rigour, adequate procedures for victims and for perpetrators to face the full weight of the law.

In accordance with article 171 of the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Code, the penalty for the offence of rape is 19 to 26 years imprisonment.

Moreover, femicide was criminalised in Ecuador in 2014, and since then official records show a murder of this type every three days.

Figures from the National Institute of Statistics and Census confirm that five in every ten deaths are caused by stab wounds, with 35% of victims aged between 25 and 34 and six in every ten perpetrators in the 25 to 44 age bracket.

Other statistics, provided by the ALDEA Foundation, Taller de Comunicación Mujer (Women’s Communication Workshop), the Ecumenical Commission on Human Rights (CEDHU) and the Red de Casas de Acogida (Shelters Network), show that there were at least 88 femicide victims from 1st January to 31st December 2018 in Ecuador.

The data indicates that in the final two months of last year, 13 victims were violently killed because they were women.

The provinces with the highest incidence of this offence were Guayas with 18 cases, followed by Manabí (12) and Esmeraldas (8). The records do not include the seven Ecuadorian women murdered abroad, as well as two women previously reported missing but found in 2018.

In 66% of cases the perpetrator is the partner or ex-partner of the victim, whilst in 7% of cases he is her father or step-father. Studies indicate that in 18% of assaults there was already a history of violence, known to the authorities.

The most recent example is the death of Amelia de Jesús. She had a protection order for herself and her son against her ex-partner, who in the end managed to end her life in the middle of a public street.

“Granting a protection order to a woman is not a guarantee that she will not be mistreated. Alongside this order, the possibilities of caring for her should also be considered,” stated Sybel Martínez, vice president of the Protection Council.

To this we can add the close to a dozen attempted femicides that have been stopped by law enforcement officials or the victim’s neighbours.

From 2014 to the end of 2018, 877 minors were left orphaned following the violent deaths of their mothers.

Faced with this reality, Ecuadorians are not limiting their demands to improved women’s protection programmes and the prevention of crimes against women; they are also calling for measures to preserve and restore the rights of those affected. (PL)

(Translated by Rebecca Ndhlovu – Email: rebeccandhlovu@hotmail.co.uk) – Photos: Pixabay

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