Opinion – Femicides in Latin America and the Caribbean: The possible responses from women’s organizations to fill institutional gaps

By Eugenia D’Angelo, Executive Director, Mundosur


About the Author

Eugenia D’ Angelo is a Lawyer and PhD student in Human Rights, Carlos III University, Madrid. She is the coordinator of the Latin American Network against Gender Violence. She is also an international consultant on gender, human rights and international development cooperation.

 

 

 


As D’Ignazio and Klein explain, data on feminicides/femicides are an example of “missing data.” That is to say, data that States do not bother to collect despite its obvious relevance for an important sector of society, in this case, for women.

The generation of data is not only an international responsibility assumed by the States having ratified the Belém Do Pará Convention, but it also facilitates the correct diagnosis and subsequent elaboration, evaluation and monitoring of public policies that respond to and curb gender-based violence and femicide. The message that States are giving today is a lack of interest and invisibility of women and girls, perhaps under the idea that what is not counted does not exist.

That is why Latin American and Caribbean territorial organizations, researchers, journalists and people from civil society, have assumed the role of generating their own records of violence against women, girls and diversity, in an effort to challenge power through the processing of “territorial data”. This is the case of the work carried out by the MundoSur organization, and the Latin American Map of Femicides project (LMF), through which we have generated different alarms that denounce the States’ actions during 2020 and 2021.

The LMF is the only open access platform that currently works to make feminicides/femicides visible, and also inform, communicate and provide data on the issue in Latin America and the Caribbean. This is done by contrasting State data with those from territorial sources, which is updated weekly. The MLF collects and standardizes the data, verifies the information obtained, and proceeds to its analysis.

The MLF is also a political advocacy tool as it provides information necessary to require States to comply with their international obligations. In this sense, the detailed monitoring and weekly monitoring of State portals has allowed us the elaboration of alarms in cases of significant increases in feminicide/femicide in a given territory compared to the same time period of the year precedent, or even in cases where State’s websites do not work. These alarms are communicated to the official agencies and institutions of each State through the preparation and sending of formal letters, in which the problem encountered is explained and answers are requested, referring to the international commitments undertaken by the State concerned.

On the other hand, there are States that do not directly generate information on feminicides/femicides or do so in a highly deficient way (due to the methodology, the updating or the quality of the data). In these cases, it is the civil society organizations that, in an organized and methodical manner, monitor the crimes that appear in print media, providing information on femicides in their respective countries and taking over the discourse when states leave this space of power vacant. In Latin America and the Caribbean, this is the case of Nicaragua, Puerto Rico and Venezuela. Therefore, MundoSur generates instances of strategic litigation consisting of the preparation and submission of complaints to the Committee of experts of the MESECVI in order to demand compliance with the obligations contained in the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment, and Eradication of Violence against Women (Convention of Belém do Pará).

For the success of the MLF the work in network is fundamental since it assures the constant update of the information. Therefore, networks have been woven to generate information exchange agreements. Thus, organizations that were already monitoring femicides in Latin American countries were invited to join the Latin American Network against Gender Violence, which today includes more than 30 organizations from 17 countries in the region. During the first year of the project, the work of MundoSur was to unify and systematize the information received by the organizations in different formats, in a single database. This is because each organization has an installed methodology of data collection, so they share their records through various tools (Excel spreadsheets, images, infographics, screenshots, newspaper clippings, whatsapp messages, among others). Our goal was first to strengthen collaborative work and then work on the development of tools that allow us to collect homogeneous information on femicides, to allow us to read and analyze the different scenarios in which femicides occur in the region. What we did then was, on the one hand, to work with the actors involved to drive the transfer of knowledge from technically empowered organizations to smaller organizations, with less technical resources and/or experience in data collection from the territories, generating training instances in the survey and handling of sensitive data.

On the other hand, knowing the importance of the information exchanged being hosted and systematised in a secure data infrastructure, which allows territorial organisations to know about the use and destination of this information, we have stepped up efforts to build a comprehensive infrastructure for monitoring, storing and securing sensitive data information for all the organization’s projects. Finally, together with the organizations that are part of the Latin American Network against Gender Violence, we develop a unique form in Kobo with pre-established analytical fields that allow the recording of more information on each of the cases. In this way, it is sought that the organizations with which we work in the different countries of LAC use a unique methodology in the collection of cases of femicide, ensuring that such sensitive data is treated and stored with the utmost care. By collaborating in the empowerment of organizations in the use of this methodology, it is possible to analyze the scenarios in which feminicides/femicides occur in the different countries of the region with which we work. In this way, we can compare intersectional information on femicides in different countries of the region (for example: if they had dependent children, link with the perpetrator, weapon used, ethnic or racial belonging, among others).

The work done by feminist organizations, networks, collectives, among others, is essential when States are not providing the necessary responses to end gender-based violence. However, in order to find concrete answers and effective and sustainable solutions over time, today more than ever, the articulation of multi-actor and multi-level responses is essential. Civil society and governments should work together, sharing spaces for discussion and analysis of the reality and evaluation of possible responses.

Only through this process will it be possible to develop comprehensive and transversal public policies that subvert the power relations that crystallize discrimination, violence and inequality in order to achieve the goal of ending all forms of discrimination and violence against women and girls, and to progress towards more democratic, inclusive and respectful societies which ensures human rights of all people.

Source: MundoSur, Latin American Map, 2021. Recovered from Mapa Latinoamericano de Feminicidios – MUNDOSUR.

 

Source: Graph showing some of the variables with which we are working in seven countries of the region. MundoSur, Latin American Map, 2021. Recovered from Mapa Latinoamericano de Feminicidios – MUNDOSUR