Last week, a Mexican court made a unanimous decision to convict five men of eleven femicides, or gender-driven killing.
The men were sentenced to a total of 697 years in prison, the longest-ever given sentence for femicide, and are also to pay 9 million pesos, roughly $550,000. The ruling is being called a “megajuicio,” or mega-judgement, by the Mexican press.
The abductions and killings took place in Juárez, a border city in Mexico, beginning in 2008. The women were forced into prostitution and drug dealing until they were no longer considered useful. Then they were murdered.
Judges in the case believe that the women were vulnerable because of their lower socio-economic status. Their poverty made them easy targets, allowing them to be taken advantage of by a local drug cartel that had ties to the sex-trafficking market.
Women’s rights groups believe that this case is a milestone, as advocacy groups were able to work alongside Mexican police over the course of the investigation, limiting potential corruption. In past investigations of violence against women in Juárez, authorities have been accused of corruption, planting evidence, and torturing suspects.
“Violence against women in Mexico typically resembles only the tip of an iceberg with more systemic and complex problems lurking below the surface,” said Rashida Manjoo, UN special rapporteur on violence against women, reflecting on deep-seated gender-based violence in the country. Between 2007 and 2013, the number of women murdered in Mexico skyrocketed. According to government data, the country averaged 4.4 murders per 100,000 women, which is double the global average. In some parts of the country, the rate is even higher, at 10.1 to 12.8 murders per 100,000 women.
In Mexico, less than ten percent of homicides end in convictions, making this case stand out even further. The National Citizen Femicide Observatory estimates that almost 4,000 women were murdered in Mexico between 2012 and 2013. Only 16 percent of these cases were investigated as femicides.
Approximately 20 other murders are suspected to be linked to the same crime ring. Five other people will be tried in connection to the crime ring.
Media Resources: Latin Times 7/20/15; Al Jazeera America 7/29/15; JASS 7/23/14; Fronteras 7/20/15