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Governor Requests ‘Gender Alert’ in Mexican State Suffering Wave of Women Killings

Gov. Eruviel Avila's request for special protocols in the cases of women killings was met with muted approval from advocates. The issue is the subject of a recent VICE News documentary.

by Daniel Hernandez
Jul 10 2015, 10:35pm

Photo via Gobierno del Estado de Mexico

The governor of the state in Mexico suffering a wave of women killings has requested a "gender alert" for 11 municipalities where unknown figures of women and girls have been killed or kidnapped in recent years.

Governor Eruviel Avila of the State of Mexico on Thursday said he was requesting the alert to Mexico's interior ministry during an event with the Institute for Women.

The alert is a legal mechanism that prioritizes investigations and uses special protocols in homicide cases known as "femicides" for their extreme gender-rooted violence, including the rape and torture of victims.

"The gender alert will allow us to reinforce our public policies in favor of women," Avila said on Thursday. "While we are not the state with the highest index of crimes against women, our commitment to them is so strong, that even if just one case of femicide existed, we should be alert."

Violence against women and the unsolved disappearances of hundreds of girls in the State of Mexico in recent years is the subject of a recent VICE News documentary, "The Murdered Women of the State of Mexico."

Avila's request however was met with muted approval from advocates of women's rights and organizations monitoring gender violence in the State of Mexico, known also as Edomex.

They noted the request was not an automatic implementation of its rules — the interior ministry must put it into effect, and hasn't said when it will — and that the governor's words amounted to "not enough."

"This is a late reaction, it came five years too late," said Rodolfo Dominguez, a lawyer representing the parents of Mariana Lima Buendia, an emblematic femicide case that was at the center of a landmark ruling in Mexico's Supreme Court in May.

The governor and special agents in his government charged with solving women killings have for the most part brushed off the complains of advocates who have been demanding on a regular basis that Edomex implement a gender alert.

"It doesn't even have any real impact on the procedures," Dominguez added, regarding Avila's statements. "Instead what this is is finally an acknowledgement that there is a serious problem in this state."

Related: All Female Murders Must be Seen as Possible Femicides, Rules Mexico Supreme Court

Independent advocates and the Edomex government engage in a constant tug-of-war over the amount of cases that would be reclassified under a future "gender alert."

While 1,213 women were murdered in Edomex between 2011 and 2013, according to the National Institute for Statistics and Geography, or INEGI, an independent body known as the National Observatory for Femicides says up to 600 of those should be classified as femicides.

The state's attorney office only recognized 132 women as victims of this crime in those years.

Avila requested the gender alert be implemented in the populous Edomex municipalities that ring the border with Mexico City: Ecatepec, Nezahualcoyotl, Valle de Chalco, Tlalnepantla, Chimalhuacan, Naucalpan, Tultitlan, Ixtapaluca, Cuautitlan Izcalli and Chalco, as well as in the state capital of Toluca.

Avila also announced other measures intended to protect women in his state, which was most recently governed by current President Enrique Peña Nieto. Among these are the creation of a special attorney general's office for gender-related crimes, specialized justice centers to protect women, and a data source on violence against women in the state.

For Maria de la Luz Estrada, director of the National Citizen's Observatory on Femicide, the fact that Avila himself asked for the gender alert is an important step to tackle the problem.

"What we've seen with governor Eruviel Avila is not a request. It is the acknowledgement of the existence of structural and systematic gender violence that has worsened with disappearances and femicides," Estrada told news site SinEmbargo.

Related: The Femicide Crisis in the State of Mexico (Full Length)

Rafael Castillo contributed to this report. Follow Daniel Hernandez on Twitter: @longdrivesouth