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This map illustrates the landscape of femicide across Latin America and the Caribbean, showing the region's diverse efforts in implementing policies to combat violence against women. Despite having the right policies in place, many countries see their femicide rates stay the same, or even increase.

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Law criminalizing femicide ({{ currentCountry?.stats?.femicideLawYear }})
Is femicide included in the penal code?
Law passed in {{ currentCountry?.stats?.femicideLawYear }}
No Law criminalizing femicide
Is femicide included in the penal code?
Law against domestic violence
Is domestic violence included in the penal code?
No Law against domestic violence
Is domestic violence included in the penal code?
Public database on femicide
Does the government publish up-to-date data on femicides?
No Public database on femicide
Does the government publish up-to-date data on femicides?
Protective measures
restraining orders, child support, etc.
No Protective measures
restraining orders, child support, etc.
Ratified CEDAW
International treaty to eliminate violence against women (1979)
No Ratified CEDAW
International treaty to eliminate violence against women (1979)
Ratified Belém do Pará
Regional treaty to eliminate violence against women (1994)
No Ratified Belém do Pará
Regional treaty to eliminate violence against women (1994)
Conducted survey on violence against women since 2016
Did the government conduct a survey on violence against women in recent years?
Survey conducted in {{ currentCountry?.stats?.surveyYear }}
No survey conducted on violence against women since 2016
Did the government conduct a survey on violence against women in recent years?
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2021 femicide rate
per 100,000 women (2021)
Slight Decrease
No Change
Slight Increase
Sharp Increase
Sharp Decrease
No Data Available
Change in femicide rate from 2017 to 2021
A special report on gender violence
15 Years After Latin America's First Femicide Law, the Killings Continue
On the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, this five-part series looks at how governments in the region struggle to rein in the bloodshed – and the many ways women fight for survival.
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BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA – Sofía Rodríguez’s father killed her mother, Noemí Cristina Rodríguez, in May 2019. When a Buenos Aires police officer emptied the purse she was carrying at the time, the first item to fall out was a restraining order. “It didn’t help her at all having that paper in there. She carried it like a shield. To her it was as if having it there meant nothing would happen to her,” Rodríguez says. Her mother had filed police reports against her aggressor three times before, and the document ordered him to maintain a set distance from her.

Since 2009, Argentina has had one of the region’s most advanced laws against gender-based violence, which includes an array of protections. Some, like panic buttons and cellphone applications, allow those in danger to notify security forces immediately. And more recently, the country has introduced dual GPS monitoring devices, in which the aggressor wears a tracking device on the ankle and the accuser receives either a handheld or bracelet sensor. When the aggressor gets too close, both the accuser and the authorities are automatically notified that the aggressor violated the restraining order.

But these measures were not enough to protect Melissa Julieta Kumber, a police officer whose ex-partner, also a police officer, killed her in 2019. Kumber had reported him previously and gotten a judge to issue a restraining order, but it wasn’t enough, says her mother, Claudia Vallejos. “It didn’t work, and I believe the only measure that might save a woman from femicide is that when the woman files the report, they arrest [the aggressor] and do a full investigation.”

The number of women murdered in Argentina yearly has remained essentially the same since 2008, the earliest year for which data is available. This situation is not unique to Argentina; it’s true across most of Latin America and the Caribbean, where legislation addressing gender violence is widespread.

Costa Rica became the first country to criminalize femicide, a term coined in the 1970s by British author and feminist Diana Russell. She defined it as “the killing of females by males because they are female”. Since then, 18 other countries have since adopted the classification.

Out of those 18 countries, 13 have implemented comprehensive laws to curb gender-based violence. These laws contain preventive measures, education initiatives and reparations to support the families affected by such violence. Among them is Mexico, where femicides have seen an increase. In 2021, in the span of one year, more than 1,000 women were murdered for gender-related reasons, marking a troubling trend.

And in the Caribbean, which has been much slower to pass laws to address femicide, domestic violence rates are some of the highest in the region.

So, does this imply that the laws, along with the protection and prevention measures, just aren't working?

Alejandra Valdés Barrientos, coordinator of the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean at the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, says the question is complex. “Going against culture means a difficult legislative fight,” she says. “It is very difficult to change and eradicate femicide because of the conditions under which it occurs, which is a perpetuation … of patriarchal, discriminatory and violent cultural patterns and the predominance of a culture of privilege for men.”

Barrientos adds that, even if these countries introduced changes in their penal codes, many lack comprehensive legislation to adequately address prevention, such as regulation of media portrayal of women, or the adoption of educational programs in schools. “We can continue running large media campaigns once a year,” she says, “but we must take permanent actions to train men and women to produce changes.”

Still, she recognizes that even a change to the penal code does have significant effects on society and the judicial system: It allows authorities to investigate crimes from a gender-based perspective and helps both the state and NGOs to collect data on such crimes, she said.

Another crucial challenge in supporting laws against gender-based violence is instituting reparations for the relatives of a person who dies by femicide, Valdés Barrientos says.

Argentina pioneered this approach with the 2018 Brisa Law, which established the government’s responsibility in supporting the relatives of murdered women, dictating the amount of reparations, and when and how it is to be provided.

For Rodríguez, only immediate arrests will help women like her mother. “My feeling is that there is no cure for what happened to me. It just quiets down a little and then resurfaces sometimes,” she says.

The femicide rate in Guatemala has nearly halved since 2013 when the government began collecting data.

In Puerto Rico, over half of the requests for protection orders for domestic violence are denied

For over a year, Neisha, 25, was abused by her partner of five years. He scrutinized her cellphone constantly, forcing her to provide explanations each time she left the home; jealous outbursts became a daily occurrence. She lived in a spiral of violence, and it was only getting worse.

Three years ago, Neisha — who prefers to be identified only by her first name for security reasons — came to believe her life was at risk and decided to report her case. She went to the nearest police station with photos for evidence and was sent to police headquarters, a higher-ranking department, to give testimony.

“I wanted to forget everything, [but] I had to look at him [her aggressor]. I had to explain how everything happened — in front of that person,” she says of the process. It took three months for the state to issue a restraining order, which Neisha considered fast.

When a woman seeks a protection order in Puerto Rico, judges carefully review the evidence presented to assess the risk to her life. They have the authority to grant a temporary protection order for up to 20 days. During this period, both parties are summoned to attend a final hearing, during which a decision is made whether or not to issue a final protection order, the legal term used in Puerto Rico for a long-term restraining order.

Most women in Puerto Rico aren’t as lucky as Neisha. Last year, over 8,000 women requested protection orders – and less than half received a final one.

According to Madeline Bermúdez, head of the Oficina de la Procuradora de las Mujeres, a government agency, protection orders are denied when judges “determine that there insufficient elements” to grant one, she says. Because women who experience violence are often distraught, Bermúdez continues, they “may not be able to relate some of the facts or state her situation clearly”.

“Unfortunately,” Bermúdez concludes, “the judicial criteria has many times failed us”.

The frequent denial of these requests can mean that people who have been assaulted are forced to return to the same situation, says Lisdel Flores, director of Hogar Ruth, an organization that provides shelter and services for women who have experienced violence. “There is no point in amending the law if there is no coordinated response,” she points out.

Neisha’s protection order remained in effect for six months, but her aggressor’s behavior did not stop. He followed her to work, he wrote to her, and he harassed her on social media. She feared for her life. She didn’t leave her house for a month, not even to work. As her finances began to suffer, so did her emotional well-being.

“It is literally a piece of paper,” she says of the protection order. “It’s not like [the police] are watching to make sure [the aggressor] isn’t nearby or anything like that. … The responsibility fell on me.”

In 2021, after an increase of domestic and gender-based violence cases, Puerto Rico created the Protection Order Processing Operations Center, an agency asked with centralizing protection order requests electronically and following up on issued orders. The operations center reports that, since 2022, the processing time for protection orders has been less than two days.

Neisha requested that her protection order be extended for six more months, and her aggressor eventually left her alone. She feels empowered for having left the relationship, but still wonders whether the protection order saved her life.

Mexico's femicide rate nearly tripled between 2015 and 2021, though it's still less than the regional average.

In Mexico, schools lack education on gender violence

Of Mexico’s 32 states, 24 have implemented a state of alert specifically addressing violence against women, in accordance with the 2007 General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence. The state of alert requires authorities to carry out preventive, security and judicial actions to end violence against women. One of the mandated actions the program requires is the establishment of ongoing programs focused on sexuality and gender-based violence prevention in middle and high schools.

Herminia Morales, a primary school teacher with 37 years of classroom experience in the state of Chiapas — where 25 women died by femicide between January and September this year — says there are still no awareness programs for staff at the school where she works. “It’s in the laws. Decrees come and go, but that’s all they are: decrees. And there is no training,” Morales says. “I can’t give you [exact] percentages, but from what I can see, I think about 10% of teachers have some kind of awareness about gender issues.”

While the state of alert decrees have served as a key mechanism for ensuring authorities to comply with the law, too much of the focus is on sanctions, says Ana Yeli Pérez Garrido, a legal adviser with Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional del Feminicidio, an organization that advocates for justice for women who have died as a result of femicide, and director of the organization Justicia Pro Persona, which promotes gender equality. “We are not preventing femicide. That has not been our strategy, nor that of the authorities. … Investments have not been made in educating society.”

In Mexico, nearly three women were killed every day due to femicide in 2021. In Brazil, five women were killed every day in 2021.

Yesenia Molina, a teacher and the principal of Telesecundaria Leona Vicario, an education center in San Cristóbal de Las Casas, says that, in 2019, her school received the Violentómetro, an educational kit developed by Mexico’s Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, a government agency that promotes gender equality. The kit consists of informational materials from the government to help identify levels of domestic violence. “They even gave us some cards; a little packet came. But either way, if you don’t take the initiative to read it, nothing will happen.”

Molina says teachers listen to their female students recount stories of violence on a regular basis. “One [girl] was left without a uniform and school materials because her brother set fire to the house,” she says. “Another was threatened for helping a woman who had been abused to file a report.”

In response, she and the rest of the school’s teaching staff began to develop a small-scale project involving workshops and audiovisual content for the students’ parents. “We run it every Friday, like a mini film-discussion group,” she says.

There is little support for the program to continue, however. “No one told us [to do it], and there is no training, so we’ve gone a very little bit at a time,” Molina says. “As the school principal, it’s hard on me. But this is how I think it could work here.”


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Editorial team

Lucila Pellettieri, Coraly Cruz Mejías, Marissa Revilla, Verlande Cadet
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