November 4, 2005

Femicides Attract International Attention

Hollywood actress Jennifer Lopez was the sensation this month in the Sonoran border city of Nogales. Dashing around public streets and low-income neighborhoods, JLO filmed scenes for the upcoming Gregory Nava movie Bordertown, a story about the Ciudad Juarez femicides.

Some might argue that the film starring Lopez could just as well be about Sonora. Figures maintained by the Sonoran non-governmental organization We Citizens for Non-Violence report that at least 148 women were murdered in Sonora from 2000 to early October of this year. Thirty of the murders happened just this year alone.

Ciudad Juarez, which has a population about one-half the size of Sonora’s, registered at least 184 women’s homicides from 2000 until the third week of October of this year, according to press accounts and the book Harvest of Women by El Paso journalist Diana Washington Valdez. The Ciudad Juarez murder toll doesn’t include victims from Chihuahua City and other parts of Chihuahua state.

Nogales and the state capital of Hermosillo accounted for the biggest share of Sonoran femicides, though women’s homicides occurred in other communities as well. In one of the most recent murders, an unidentified dancer was beaten and then run over by four men near the tourist zone of Guaymas on October 9. Sonora state investigators later claimed they had leads but announced no arrests.

Triggering growing indignation, the killings are prompting women’s advocates to take the issue to the national and international stage.

Patricia Alonso Ramirez, the coordinator of We Citizens for Non-Violence, said this week that the Mexican Congress has been petitioned to dispatch a delegation to Sonora in order to gather information about the women’s homicides. Alonso earlier announced that Amnesty International has agreed to review the case of Sonora for possible action. “We went to the international organization because of the misogynous attitudes of Governor Bours and Attorney General Abel Murrieta,” Alonso contended.

Friction over women’s homicide investigations- or the lack thereof- has mounted in recent months between women’s advocates and the state administration of Governor Eduardo Bours. A confrontation between We Citizens for Non-Violence and state authorities broke out in front of the building where Gov. Bours was giving his second government report on October 12 in Hermosillo, resulting in the eviction of protestors.

Later resuming their demonstration, the protestors held aloft a giant banner that read: “Mr. Governor, We Citizens congratulate you on your second government report. The 145 murdered women in Sonora can’t.”

Delivering his speech, Gov. Bours insisted that while his government doesn’t shy from applying the law, “it’s tolerant and respectful of opinions and the ideas of others.”

A cursory review of press accounts indicates different motives for the Sonora women’s murders, including domestic violence. Other victims suffered sexual assaults, and some showed signs of torture and mutilation similar to the more well-known cases in Ciudad Juarez. Sonora state authorities dispute the number and nature of women’s murders reported by We Citizens for Non-Violence.

Gov. Bours welcomed news of Amnesty International’s possible intervention in his state. “They are going to realize that the information managed by different media outlets and persons is completely wrong. It’s not about femicide cases as they have wanted to portray it,” Gov. Bours said. “(Women’s murders) are not cases of femicide. They have nothing to do with the description of femicide as it stands. There is a serious problem with the handling of information.” According to Sonora’s chief executive, a more serious problem is the murder of men, who are killed at the rate of 20 to 1 compared to women.

Reprinted Frontera NorteSur, U.S.-Mexico border news Center for Latin American and Border Studies, New Mexico State University.

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