The Center for Women's Studies of Honduras (CEMH) is demanding that the government fund a commission to investigate the country’s rampant and unaddressed femicides which the Juan Orlando Hernandez (JOH) administration pledged it would do.
The Inter-Sessional Commission, formed in 2016 by the JOH presidency and meant to investigate the high rate of femicides in the country, is woefully underfunded, says the Center for Women's Studies of Honduras (CEMH).
Since the commission was created two years ago Congress has only allotted approximately US$832,000 to the committee that the government had pledged to fund with about US$9.77 million.
"The commission has only had three meetings. It was mandated to investigate these cases with other state institutions, (but) to our surprise Congress only approved US$832,000 of the 200 million lempiras (US$9.77 million) requested by the public prosecutor,” said Suyapa Martínez, from the CEMH.
Feminist organizations say they hope that the Fernandez administration and Congress reexamine their commitment to solving the country’s femicide epidemic.
"The (state’s) security strategy is to attack organized crime and drug trafficking. Prevention, education and comprehensive policies are not being funded,” says Cristina Alvarado of the Visage Movement. She added that these tactics are allowing violence to grow.
According to a Honduran Statistics of Forensic Medicine report, between January and June of this year 141 women have been violently murdered, and of them, 81 were minors. In 2017, 388 women were killed, mainly at the hands of their partners. Between May 2014 and May of this year, 2,020 women have been killed — 34 percent of all women's’ murders since 2002 totaling 6,000. Over 95 percent of all these femicides in Honduras have gone unpunished.
Over the past few years, the level of violence and torture of female victims has been increasing. Over the weekend the body of 39-year-old Berta Lidia Ortez Lanza was discovered in an abandoned house in Choluteca where authorities found her body decapitated and without arms. Suspects were taken into custody on Sept. 17 regarding her murder.
Martinez told national media that the murders are becoming as cruel and torturous as those of 2010. “The fury has returned. The territorial control of the groups of organized crime affect women," said Martinez adding that it’s still unclear if husbands or partners hire gangs to kill the women.
"Women are currency in this war. Their deaths have to do with revenge, harassment, and actions against third parties. Many die for being relatives of people who are involved in illegal situations," explained Martinez.
Autopsies of the female victims show signs of direct blows with forceful objects. Some are killed by their partners, but it’s common that they are killed by organized crime members.
Another case involved 15-year-old Kelin Jessenia Perez who was murdered by alleged gang members. The family feared retaliation so did not allow the body to be autopsied.
"Violence against women is an unsustainable reality. This is a serious indicator of social decomposition. This has been an issue of interest for authorities and … civil society, but we see that the situation does not change," said Julissa Villanueva, director of Honduran Forensic Medicine.
Sociologist Leticia Salomon says that the why and where of these murders must also be looked at. "You must identify under what circumstances (the women) die, in which geographical areas and under what circumstances. That will shed new light on whether or not they were killed for being women or because they have been involved in activities that have been under men’s power," said the sociologist.