By Celia Guerrero
Karen Reyes had landed a second job after sales from her business had fallen due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It was Sunday, November 29, 2020 and that day I had to go to work.
The 31-year-old woman left her home in Ixtapaluca, State of Mexico, early, and her 13-year-old daughter Renata Martinely Luna fell asleep. Her grandparents live nearby, so Karen left her daughter, as on other occasions, confident that she would be safe.
But when he returned from his work day, he found Renata’s body on his bed, with a taped face and signs of physical and sexual violence. “For me there is a single and main suspect,” says Karen in an interview.
It is about her ex-partner, whom in June 2020 she had denounced at the Specialized Agency for Family, Sexual and Gender Violence for trying to record a video of her daughter, while she was bathing. The girl detected the cell phone with which she tried to record her, alerted her mother and the next day they both left the house where they lived with him.
“We delivered the video on a disc as proof and nothing more. I said, ‘Well, graduate, what’s next?’ And simply and simply he told me: ‘Don’t worry, we will follow up with you and I’ll contact you for anything’. And that was all, ”says Karen of that first alert she gave to the authorities.
The officials did not contact her again, nor was the accused person summoned to testify. Five months passed and Renata was murdered. This November 29, 2021 marks one year of her femicide, which, to date, continues with impunity.
“There are other cases of femicide that (society) judges because one is not going to report, that are judged because the girls were walking in the street, that are judged because they came from a party. We denounced, we moved house, my daughter was asleep, what pretext is there? ”, Claims Karen, who maintains the suspicion against her ex-partner for the episode of abuse and other previous threats.
UN Women ranks violence against women and girls as one of the most serious, widespread, entrenched and tolerated human rights violations in the world. During 2020, the year of Renata’s murder, Mexico broke a record for feminicides of girls and adolescents: the figure reached 115.
“These cases that there have been of girls who have been brutally murdered, all of them had systematic violence, it was not the first time they suffered some type of violence,” says Yuritzi Castañeda, general director of prevention and attention to violence in the Secretariat for Women of the State of Mexico.
Renata’s case was one of 22 that occurred in the State of Mexico, which in 2020 represented about 20% of the national total, according to the Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System (SESNSP).
“The first year of this pandemic safeguard, the femicide of adolescent girls and women increased brutally and during 2021 the dynamics did not cease, it remained. This is one of the adverse effects of the reservation ”, considers Tania Ramírez, director of the Network for the Rights of the Child in Mexico (Redim).
In Mexico, feminicides of girls and adolescents aged 0 to 17 have increased year after year since 2015, reaching a total of 542 as of September 2021, according to the SESNSP.
Ramírez speaks of an increase during the pandemic protection due to the characteristics of the child femicides detected by Redim: most of them usually happen at the hands of men, of legal age, who are relatives or people close to the victims. He considers that living together in homes during confinement may have triggered child femicides in 2020.
In the detection of these characteristics of child feminicide, María de la Luz Estrada, coordinator of the National Citizen Observatory of Femicide (OCNF), agrees. “The girls live in a context of violence, which many times has already been denounced and the authority does not act to protect them,” he adds.
“Girls are women too”
Although the problem has been increasing annually for almost six years, it began to be pointed out until very recently through the term “child feminicide”, which makes it possible to highlight those cases where the victims are underage women.
“It is not that it is a new type (criminal) but it is a different approach that would help us understand the seriousness of the problem. A sort of mix between femicide and infanticide ”, explains Ramírez, director of Redim.
In some states, the fact that the victim is a minor can be considered an aggravating factor for femicide, although this depends on the criminal code of each entity. However, the authorities do not always classify this crime as feminicide and there may or may not be aggravating circumstances in the case of minority: “They prefer to take these cases to other legal entities than to classify them as feminicide,” says Ana Yeli Garrido, lawyer, director of the organization Justicia Pro Persona.
“There may be authorities that do not conceive the murders of girls as femicide. There you have to tell them: girls are women too. There is a resistance to accredit the criminal type in general and with girls it happens when they are not considered within the category of women ”, adds Garrido.
Thus, the invisibility of child feminicide leads to what Tania Ramírez, an activist for children’s rights, calls “institutionalized adult-centeredness”. This adult-centered gaze causes that girls, boys and adolescents are not recognized as subjects of rights.
For this reason, Yuritzi Castañeda, general director of prevention and attention to violence, invites that child feminicides and other previous violence be viewed from the “intersectionality” perspective. “Yes, it has to be seen as gender violence, but it has to be seen as a specific violence suffered by girls due to their age and from these different aspects so that it can be addressed correctly, because obviously the actions that serve to care for adult women who suffer gender violence are not the same that serve to care for girls and adolescents ”.
When it comes to gender violence, the official says that the Secretariat for Women works in the prevention and care of minors when they are children of women victims of violence. But there is also the Office of the Attorney for the Defense of Children and Adolescents: “They have specialized personnel with a childhood perspective that allows us to give better attention to the cases of children and adolescents of any type of violence that may exist, whether of their parents or anyone. Above all, what the attorney general’s office does is absorb this exercise of legal representation to guarantee their rights ”.
For her part, Belén Sanz Luque, representative of UN Women in Mexico, mentions that “ending violence against girls and adolescents requires comprehensive policies that place their rights at the center of the public agenda, which must include strengthening the capacity of the institutions to prevent, investigate, punish and repair femicidal violence; improve research with a gender perspective through the collection, analysis and dissemination of data; ensure that all forms of violence against girls and adolescents are criminalized and that their right of access to justice is guaranteed ”.
Sanz adds that, from the Spotlight Initiative – an alliance between the UN, the Government of Mexico, the European Union, civil society and the private sector – “one of the priorities has been to strengthen legislation on child femicide and rights of girls, boys and adolescents in a situation of orphans due to femicide, not only from a criminal perspective, but also comprehensively. “