After hundreds of women have died at the hands of machista violence in Nicaragua over the past five years, Vice President Rosario Murillo has declared that she is “concerned” about these cases. There have already been nine femicides in the first two months of 2018.
However, far from proposing a solution to this violent escalation that has become more raw and outrageous day by day, Murillo minimized the crime wave under the argument that for the last five years, Nicaragua has had the fewest “homicides against women” in the region.
“Here we see that in Guatemala, the total number of murders [of women] between 2013 and 2017 was 3,050; in Honduras, 2,285; El Salvador, 2,075, all within that five-year period. Then, there were 859 in the Dominican Republic and 322 in Nicaragua. We’re missing Costa Rica – we’ll look for that data also; and we’re missing Panama which is going to give us their data in the next few days,” declared Murillo to the official media.
The Vice President felt obligated to react after the terrible cases registered in Esteli less than 3 weeks ago. Murillo requested a report from the head offices of the National Police of the number of femicides registered between 2012 and 2016.
“As we can see, there are fewer women victims of murder in Nicaragua than in the other countries. This doesn’t make us happy, we’re not celebrating having fewer women victims of homicidal murder… what’s known as femicides… having one, two, three, four, five women victims is a lot,” said Murillo.
Catholics for the Right to Decide responded with indignation to Murillo’s declarations, which were issued in the official press on March 1st. According to this non-government organization, the Vice President’s posture “is nothing more than another expression” of the attempt to make invisible the femicides that are registered “in pro of projecting a false image of the inexistent social welfare in Nicaragua, contradicting the reality of hundreds of women and orphans in our country as a result of femicides.”
The NGO pointed out that if the rates of femicide were measured numerically, Murillo would be right in affirming that Nicaragua is the country that registers the fewest in the region. “But we shouldn’t only take into consideration the number of cases but also their relation to the number of inhabitants and the population density of the country, among other things. We’d like to remind her that our country has fewer inhabitants and less population density than the rest of the Central American countries,” notes Catholics for the Right to Decide.
The Coordinating Team for Catholics for the Right to Decide, headed by Magaly Quintana, keeps a count of femicides based on standards parallel to the official ones. In these five years, they’ve registered over 334 femicides, although they complain that they must obtain the statistics via the denunciations to the communications media and their legal team, since the state institutions don’t release information to the public.
Juanita Jimenez, director of the Autonomous Women’s Movement, also reacted with incredulousness to the data presented by Murillo, whose administration habitually “paints a good face” on such statistics. She also recalled that the government of Daniel Ortega and Rosario Murillo reformed Law 779, which sanctioned gender violence, and they reduced the crime of femicide to the private realm of the couple. In the same way, they’ve left gender inequity out of the picture in all the other social relations and dynamics, for example the terrible murder of a 12-year-old girl in Pueblo Nuevo, a municipality of Esteli, at the hands of her uncle and another man.
“These are empty statistics. For example, different entities recognize that Nicaragua advances in gender equality by having more women in public positions, as the official discourse states. Nonetheless, the reality goes counter to women’s interests.” Jimenez offered an example: “There are more women in Parliament, but this period has brought us ever more setbacks with the reform to Law 779.”
For their part, Catholics for the Right to Decide insisted that the registry and the analysis of the data related to this problem is ever shabbier, beginning with the counter-reform to the Law 779, “clearly undertaken with that same general objective of rendering invisible the cases of femicides, and including as such only cases involving partners or former partners, or someone who hoped to have some kind of a relationship with the victim.”
“They don’t even call them femicides”
Mayte Ochoa, public policy specialist for IPAS Central America, criticized the fact that Murillo terms the femicides “homicides of women”, when in the national legislation the crime is clearly designated as such.
“The State wants to sweep this problem out of sight. It wants to paint it as not serious, and not take on the responsibility for the family and the orphans that the machista violence leaves. There’s impunity and permissiveness shown by not pursuing the femicides,” affirms Ochoa.
Jimenez agreed with Ochoa and assured that Vice President Murillo was trying to “hide the gender violence and its structural causes” by characterizing it as “homicide”.
Ochoa sees it as contradictory that the government’s official discourse affirms that it protects the family, yet the reform to Law 779 forces women to mediate with their aggressors. She adds to this the elimination of the police Women’s Commissions, although this special attention is much needed. “There’s no real political will to change things,” sustained the advisor for IPAS Central America.
Jimenez warned that this situation feeds the aggressors’ sense of impunity and sends a negative message of “symbolic violence” to women. “For that reason, there’s a greater level of viciousness and hate expressed against women’s bodies. According to stories we’ve received, there are threats made to women that they’re going to cut their head off, as occurred with Karla Rostran.”
Jimenez feels that the excessive violence, lack of protection and impunity can be explained by the elimination of the model of integrated attention to gender violence. A model should not only be focused on sanctions, but also on prevention.