Femicide Remains Rampant in Mexico
The Disappearances and Murders of Seven Women Epitomize the Femicide Epidemic in Mexico
“She may have gone with a man that was not her husband.” “She might have gone with her boyfriend.” “She just went to dance.” When family members reported the disappearances of seven women and girls in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, between 1995 and 2003, those were the responses offered by police who refused to act swiftly in investigating their whereabouts.
Six of those women were found murdered. The 24-day-old child that disappeared with her mother has never been found. The police response in all cases was defined by inaction, ambivalence, botched DNA tests, and unfollowed leads. Nobody has been charged for a single one of the murders.
Seventeen-year-old María Elena Chávez Caldera disappeared in 2000. Her body was discovered four months later, at which time police did not conduct an investigation. The condition of María Elena’s body made it impossible for her mother to identify her.
Olga Alicia Carrillo Pérez was 21 when she disappeared in 1995. Her body was found a month later. Authorities failed to search for her, and members of the Rebel Gang considered suspects in her murder were released.
When 17-year-old María Sagrario González Flores disappeared in April 1998, her mother notified police of her daughter’s disappearance, but police dismissed the report. When the state prosecutor finally agreed to take it, she reported María Sagrario’s disappearance to the police under an incorrect name. Her remains have still not been properly identified.
Silvia Elena Rivera Morales, 17, disappeared in July 1995. After extended police inaction, her body was found almost two months later. In 2009, a prosecutor ordered the arrest of three men who were already suspects in other women’s murders, including that of Olga Alicia Carrillo Pérez, but has failed to produce any evidence that the group is responsible for Silvia Elena’s death.
Brenda Berenice Rodríguez Bermúdez disappeared on her way to the corner store in 2003. Nine days later, she was found dead with her body showing signs of sexual violence. No investigation was launched before her body was found. A leading suspect with compelling evidence against him was released. Brenda was only 6 years old.
Why is this a Key Case?
Femicide—the murder of women because of their gender—is an epidemic in Mexico. A woman is killed every two and a half hours, and over 9,000 women have disappeared to date. RFK Human Rights’ case alleges that the inaction by the Mexican government—and the consequent impunity for the perpetrators—was on account of the victim’s gender and constitute violations of the victims’ right to life, freedom from violence, liberty and integrity, and judicial protection, and their families’ rights to be free from torture and inhumane treatment.
How is RFK Human Rights Supporting the Victims and Their Families?
On September 27, 2019, the organization, along with the Center for the Integral Development of Women A.C. (CEDIMAC), participated in a merits hearing on the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). The mother of one of the victims, María Sagrario, testified during the hearing.
What is the Status of the Case?
RFK Human Rights and CEDIMAC are waiting for the IACHR to issue a merits report in the case.
Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)
Silvia Elena Rivera Morales et al. (women and girls disappeared and killed in Ciudad Juárez) v. Mexico
Month/Year of filing
2003 and 2007 (RFKHR joined as co-counsel in 2015)
Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Rights and legal instruments alleged violated (OR found to have been violated)
Articles 1.1 (obligation to respect rights), 3 (right to juridical personality), 4 (right to life), 5 (right to humane treatment), 7 (personal liberty), 8 (right to a fair trial), 11 (right to privacy), 17 (rights of the family), 19 (rights of the child) 24 (right to equal protection), and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights;
Article 7 (to live free of violence) of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belém do Pará”
For More Perspective
CAMPAIGN—#JusticiaParaVicky: The historic case of Vicky Hernández et al. v. Honduras
In the midst of the June 2009 Honduran coup d’état, with the streets of San Pedro Sula closed to all but military and police forces, 26-year-old trans woman Vicky Hernández’s body was found with a gunshot wound to the head.
Vicky’s story—and the impunity the state has granted her killers—is all too familiar in Honduras. In the decade since Vicky’s extrajudicial execution, more than 300 LGBTQ+ people have been targeted and killed for their gender identity; of those, only 67 cases have been prosecuted, resulting in fewer than 20 convictions.
Vicky Hernández et al. v. Honduras, litigated by Red Lésbica Cattrachas and RFK Human Rights, was the first case involving lethal violence against an trans person to reach the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
On June 28, 2021, exactly 12 years after Vicky’s murder, the Court made a landmark ruling holding the government of Honduras accountable for her death and issued a series of reparations, including financial support for Vicky’s family, that set a legal precedent for LGBTQ+ rights throughout the region.
Silvia Elena Rivera et al. v. MexicoLearn More