Terrorized

Central America’s gang violence is particularly sadistic when aimed at women

A woman and her son look out of a doorway in a neighborhood with heavy gang violence on July 20, 2012 in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. (Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

An in-depth report in the New York Times takes a close look at the violence in Central America that is driving women from that region into the United States.

The report focuses on Honduras, one of the five deadliest countries in which to be a woman. Official statistics show that 380 Honduran women were murdered last year, in a country with a population roughly equivalent to New York City’s. But the actual number is believed to be far higher.

Many of these homicides suggest a particular kind of terror aimed at women specifically. In much of the world, most murdered women are killed by husbands, partners, or family members. But in Honduras, many women are killed in a gruesome fashion — shot in the vagina, skinned alive, strangled in front of their children — that appears intended to send a grim message. In 2017, 41 percent of women and girls killed in Honduras showed signs of mutilation or cruelty beyond what was actually needed to kill them.

Part of the wanton cruelty stems from the violent narco economy, in which gangsters spread terror by murdering women associated with the members of rival gangs. Another factor appears to be a culture of machismo that tolerates domestic abuse. In 2013, the government passed a law imposing harsher sentences for femicide, but it is rarely applied. Domestic violence laws didn’t even exist in Honduras until 1997.

The fact is that the police are rarely interested in investigating murders of women, and 9 out of 10 cases involving a femicide never go to court. These forces are pushing more and more women in Central America to attempt to enter the U.S. illegally. Not surprisingly, the Trump administration is cracking down on such attempts harder than ever. In June, Jeff Sessions, the attorney general at the time, sought to reverse a 2014 decision that allowed domestic violence survivors to claim asylum in the U.S. (He was blocked by a federal court.)

Meanwhile, women in Honduras continue to fear for their lives in a country where death could come at any moment, in a form of violence meant to keep them in a constant state of terror.

Read more at the New York Times.

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