Murders of women generate discussion for U.N. initiative

Femicide is a growing epidemic in Costa Rica said the director of Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres during a discussion Wednesday inside the Sala de Ex-presidentes at the Corte Suprema.

The panel titled “Violencia de Género y Crimen Organizado. Nuevos escenarios de la violencia contra las mujeres” was one of a series of events for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, celebrated today. The United Nations General Assembly made the worldwide initiative official in 1999. The date came from the assassination in 1960 of the three Mirabal sisters in the Dominican Republic, believed by many to be on the orders of former dictator Rafael Trujillo. They were political opponents.

The panel gathered speakers on the subject of violence based on gender and organized crimes. They were Katina Chavarría Valverde, sub-director of the Fuerza Publica; Eugenia Salazar Elizondo, prosecutor for the Delitos Sexuales y Violencia Doméstica; Rodrigo Salas Rojas, prosecutor for the Unidad de Crimen Organizado; Mishelle Mitchell Bernard, director of Noticias Radio Monumental-Radio Reloj; and Álvaro Campos, director of the Instituto Costarricense de Masculinidad, Pareja y Sexualidad. They concluded that the country has symptoms of an increase in femicide with the acceptance of prostitution and an influx in organized crime.

Women are now involved in organized crime and usually become a victim of organized crime, said Rojas. It is not enough that these women usually have to sleep with the entire gang to be a part of the organization, but if they mess up, they are brutally abused, raped and sometimes even killed, added Ms. Mitchell.

Rojas said that 10 percent of the women in prison are there because of their involvement with organized crime, mostly for drug trafficking. Costa Rica has not seen violence against women driven by organized crime like in Ciudad Juárez, México, he said, but there are four striking cases he recalled. There was the case of Ivannia Mora Rodríguez, a magazine journalist who was murdered by two hitmen in Curridabat in 2003, and a female lawyer killed in Desamparados. In 2001, two women and two children were kidnapped in San José and rescued by judicial police in Heredia. This year there was a woman who was kidnapped
and held captive for five days. The kidnappers asked for a $30,000 ransom, he said.

Since January until October there are 63 violent deaths of women here that are believed to be mainly because of their gender in Costa Rica, panelists said. Femicide is the killing of females because they are female by males, the speakers said.

“The violence against women has the same characteristic all over. It’s the same as in El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Honduras,” said Maureen Clarke, the executive director of the women’s institute “We’re trying to get to the conscience of people in the community, so women won’t be silent anymore.”

There were these statistics:

There are more than 16,200 reported incidents of rape of women between Jan 2001 and July 2011. Since 2007 until this year women have made more than 49,551 reports of abuse. And in Costa Rica one in three women are victims of physical violence. The numbers are smaller in Costa Rica compared to those in Guatemala where there are 3,414 reported female rape victims from January until October, according to the Instituto Nacional de Ciencias Forenses de Guatemala.

One of the resolutions to regress the epidemic was to re-educate men, said Campos. As director of the Instituto Costarricense de Masculinidad, Pareja y Sexualidad, he explained that the focus there is on teaching men a culture of peace and respect for life. He referred to the effort as ternurizar or tenderize.

“Men should be allies in eradication and prevention. There has to be changes in masculine mentality,” said Campos.

Many women are repeat victims of abuse.

Prosecutor Salazar said that many of the victims are the ones that put a halt to the investigation of their case. The process of the investigation is not immediate, it takes anywhere from weeks to months for the process to even begin, she said.

“By the time it starts these women are either back together with their abuser, have lost interest in the incident, disappeared or simply lost faith,” she said. “Time lost is evidence lost.”

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