An average of ten women and girls are murdered in Mexico every day. Often husbands or other family members are responsible for the crime, but violence by criminal organizations is also increasing. The country is currently experiencing a new high point in the murderous attacks in the middle of the corona pandemic. Ana María Hernández Cárdenas deals with these crimes every day. She is the head of the civil society organization Consorcio, which campaigns for women's rights and against patriarchal violence in the state of Oaxaca in southern Mexico.

ZEIT ONLINE: Ms. Hernández, according to a recent government report, April has been the month with the most women and girls murdered since these crimes were specifically recorded. How do you explain that?

Ana María Hernández Cárdenas: It has to do with the pandemic. Anti-virus measures protect women in two ways: They are exposed to their potential attackers 24 hours a day because they have to stay at home continuously. And they cannot contact the relevant authorities if they are threatened. These points of contact are of little help in ordinary times, but now they are often not staffed at all.

Ana María Hernández Cárdenas © private

But the trend is not new: this violence has been at a very high level for a long time. The perpetrators act completely uninhibited, both in terms of the number of acts and the cruelty.

ZEIT ONLINE: Who are the culprits?

Hernández: 25 percent of violent attacks on women and girls in Mexico take place in their own family. Four out of ten women are murdered at home - many of their husbands. But many also fall victim to organized crime: they are kidnapped to work as drug couriers or prostitutes and killed when the criminals can no longer exploit them. Some are killed to punish the men of a rival cartel. Others die because they refuse to pay protection money or because they get in the way of criminal business.

Emergency numbers have been set up. But our experience is that you don't care about those affected.

Security agencies and the judiciary barely follow these acts, so the killing goes on and on. The number of female murder victims was already immense at the beginning of the year. Overall, it has doubled compared to 2015. A total of 337 murders of women were registered in April, but the authorities classified only 70 of them as feminicides, i.e., for sex-specific reasons. It has to do with the way it is investigated. We assume that the number of feminicides is much higher.

ZEIT ONLINE: So that women have to stay at home because of the pandemic is only one reason for the increase in violence?

Hernández: Yes, but a very important one. Emergency hotline calls increased 56 percent over the same period last year. This shows us that women and girls are currently particularly exposed to the dangers of domestic violence. The tensions they have to endure are increasing. This is not officially recognized and there are no effective mechanisms to deal with it.

ZEIT ONLINE: What are the authorities doing to protect women in this particular situation?

Hernández: Emergency numbers have been set up. But our experience is that you don't care about those affected. The calls are often not accepted at all or the calls for help are not taken seriously. There is also far too little trained staff. Refuges for women exist in some regions. However, the budget for these shelters has been reduced, although they are often overcrowded. You can't protect those affected.