Women’s activists in Mexico took over the country’s National Human Rights Commission building Tuesday in protest of their government’s handling of abuse and violence against women.
Dozens of activists have refused to leave the building and are saying they will turn the Mexico City building into a shelter for victims to make up for decades of murders and abuse, according to the Associated Press.
The event shows the dire situation facing women in Latin America, who have been more exposed than ever to domestic violence and murder.
If we think of COVID-19 as a threat multiplier of existing social and economic inequalities throughout the Americas, one particular problem that has magnified during the pandemic is violence against women.
Even before the arrival of coronavirus, Latin American countries had some of the highest rates of gender-based violence in the world. Still, violence against women has soared as victims are forced to spend more time locked in with their abusers during quarantines.
Maybe nowhere has this unfortunate trend been clearer than in Mexico. In April, 337 women were murdered throughout the country, the highest amount of any month in Mexico in the past six years, according to a report titled “The Two Pandemics” by the local women’s rights organization Equis.
President Andrés Manuel López Obrador has denied any increase in violence against women or a spike in domestic violence reports during the pandemic.
However, calls to emergency helplines for women in Mexico have increased by more than 40 percent from March to April as there were more than 21,700 domestic violence calls placed. That is 30 calls per hour for the entire month.
A similar rate of increase in domestic violence calls was also reported in Chile.
Domestic violence, as well as other forms of gender-based violence, has increased all over Latin America and the Caribbean during the pandemic, according to a recent United Nations report.
“Women have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic…while they have also taken on greater care demands at home as well as being more exposed to increased violence in a region with high rates of gender-based violence already,” the UN report reads.
In Peru, more than 1,000 women disappeared between March and June. When lockdowns went into effect in Paraguay in March, cases of domestic violence rose by more than 35 percent per day, according to the local Public Ministry.
In Colombia, a local nonprofit said that 99 women had been murdered between January and June of this year. A local emergency phone line in the country has reported a 230 percent increase this year in calls for domestic violence.
“Widespread lockdowns have resulted in horrific conditions where girls and women, who are experiencing violence and abuse, have no one to turn to and nowhere to go. They are trapped. A catastrophe is unfolding in Latin America,” said Debora Cobar, the regional director for Latin America and the Caribbean for the global nonprofit Plan International in a statement.
Michael has been a reporter covering Latin America since 2014. He has lived and worked in Costa Rica, Colombia and Mexico. His work from the region has appeared in The Guardian, The Associated Press and Vice.