Amid rash of violence against women, Mexico declares first-ever 'gender alert'

Activists on Wednesday hailed the Mexican federal government's first-ever "gender alert," declared for a central state in response to a high incidence of killings and disappearances of women.

The Interior Department alert covers 11 municipalities in the State of Mexico, outside the capital, and cites "systematic violence against women" and "an atmosphere of impunity and permissiveness" toward such crimes.

According to the report, more than 1,700 women were slain in the state between 2005 and 2014, and at least 4,281 women and girls disappeared. Most of the missing reappeared alive, but 1,554 have never been heard from again. The state has a population of over 15 million.

The "gender alert" triggers measures designed to spur investigation and prevention, though none have officially been announced.

The mechanism has been on the books since 2007, but until now social groups and activists had not succeeded in persuading authorities to use it.

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"This is something historic that will set precedents for this mechanism to be more agile, and for guarantees for women's life and access to justice," said Maria de la Luz Estrada of the National Citizens' Observatory on Femicide. "Now there has been a commitment. There is no turning back."

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