A female has been bludgeoned to death in El Salvador, on average, at least every single day this year in what is a growing level of gender-based violence hard to comprehend.
It’s known as “femicide” – a term used to characterize a woman murdered by a man due to her gender. In 2017, the Institute of Legal Medicine reported that a woman was killed approximately every 18 hours – but analysts contend the figure is only rising.
According to an extensive TIME compilation released this week, 67 percent of Salvadoran women have been the victim of violence – ranging from sexual assault to partner violence to assaults by family members – but just a mere 6 percent report such abuses to police.
The U.N. reports that only 25 percent of those cases even make it court and only 7 percent end with a conviction.
Last month, the Organization of Salvadoran Women for Peace underscored that rates of sexual violence had jumped a third on the previous year, with more than 60 percent of the 4,304 cases recorded involving girls aged 12 to 17. In 2017, the number of documented cases was 3,290 – but most experts and activists believe that the recorded number is barely scratching the surface to just how prevalent such abuse on females is in El Salvador.
In an effort to reverse the upward trend of female targeting, the El Salvadoran government formed a team, the Women’s Coordination Unit, dedicated to combating the Central American country’s excessively high rate of female and minority violence.
Yet steep challenges for the authorities lie ahead. The country’s chief prosecutor Ana Graciela Sagastume told Reuters last week that women “are killed because they reject a gang member, they don’t want to be the girlfriend of a gang member.”
Experts stress the role the country’s gangs play in the gender-based rampage, with females routinely objectified and yanked into the mayhem as ornaments. Many cite the rising attack levels as the key marker as to why women are fleeing the small Central American country, heading towards the U.S. border.
Given the overall high rates of violence engulfing El Salvador, prosecutors are often strained for time and resources to compile effective cases.
Moreover, El Salvador is the only country in the world with a specific law – which was enacted in 2012 – to halt the burgeoning number of “femicide suicide” cases, in which it is crime to propel a female to take her own life by abusing them. It comes with a prison sentence of up to 50 years, but has proven challenging for prosecutors to prove that the death was spurred by contempt based on gender.
The United Nations in 2018 pointed toward El Salvador and Latin America as being the most violent region in the world for being female and vowed to take action.
Last year, there were 51 murders per 100,000 inhabitants – its murder rate in Latin America eclipsed only by fast-deteriorating Venezuela.