It's easy to put on blinders to the rest of the world when the news gets uncomfortable. When it scares you, makes you question the systems you live in, or challenges your perception of the world. Recently, I had the chance to listen to a young woman, about my age, briefly explain her experiences in Mexico observing violence. Violence towards women and children that is many times overlooked. Through tears she spoke of the inequalities she saw and struggled through herself. The murders that had taken place in her city and the terrorism she witnessed towards women that followed them everywhere they went. I was shocked to hear of the anemic responses from government systems that claim to protect the people they serve, but have turned a cold shoulder to the reality their countries face.
Many times, these patterns of violence lie in deeply rooted cultural beliefs that oppress and demean and justify murder in the name of honor. Although the media has chosen to stray from reporting "honor killings" and femicide, recent events in several countries have created public uproar that isn't easy to ignore.
I've chosen to highlight a few examples of gender-based violence within the past year that deserve more awareness and concern.
The Killing of Uyinene Mrwetyana - South Africa
The South African
Just last summer, a young girl's murder at a post office in Cape Town sparked a number of protests and petitions fighting for justice against the high femicide rates in South Africa. Professor Rachel Jewkes, director of a global program against violence towards women explained, "We have three women killed every day by a husband or a boyfriend in South Africa, and this is much higher than in many countries. It's much higher than it is in Europe or Australia". As anger grew over the death of Uyinene, President Ramaphose visited her family, promising to strengthen the country's national response to gender-based violence and review laws on sexual offenses (The New Yorker). Although promising, the recent coronavirus lockdown release in South Africa, has caused another surge of reported murders that seem to have no end in sight.
Femicide and Coronavirus - Mexico
The Wall Street Journal
Violence against women is on the rise worldwide... and coronavirus has only made it worse. As a result of national shutdowns and lock-ins, women have never been more at risk from their abusers at home. In Mexico, the National Institute for Women approved a 75% budget cut in April that could gradually eliminate funding for vital women's shelters (Global Citizen). President Obrador has continued to deny the severity of the issue at hand, claiming that "90% of the calls to the emergency services over domestic violence were false and that Mexican women are more protected than ever." By protecting his political agenda, he continues to normalize an epidemic that could kill thousands before the end of 2020 (CSIS).
"Honor Killings"- Middle East
Ahlam, a 30-year-old woman from Jordan, was killed by her father on July 17 after months of domestic abuse leading up to her death. Her death has renewed calls from social media users and others to change constitutional articles within the Jordanian government which justify "honor killings". For example, in Article 340 of the country's Penal Code, a reduced penalty is allowed when a man kills or attacks his wife or any of his female relatives in the alleged act of committing adultery or in an "unlawful bed." Under Article 98, the penalty can be reduced further if the perpetrator commits the crime in a "state of great fury resulting from an unlawful and dangerous act on the part of the victim." The Human Rights Watch states, "Every year, 15 to 20 women and girls in Jordan are burned, beaten, or stabbed to death by family members because they are seen as having transgressed social codes of honor." Until the Jordanian government makes greater strides to revise their country's Penal Codes and protect victims, gender discrimination and harmful norms will remain.