Femicides in Puerto Rico and Pakistan
What is Femicide?
Femicide is defined as a sex-based hate crime, and “the intentional killing of girls and women because they are female.” The Instagram account Impact described it best as “The murdering of women rooted in gendered and patriarchal power structures which push for female subservience.”
Femicide in Puerto Rico
On April 28th, Andrea Ruiz’s burned and disfigured body was found on the side of a road in Cayey, Puerto Rico. Her ex-boyfriend, Miguel Ocasio, whom she had filed complaints against in court for harassing, stalking, and threatening her, pleaded guilty to her murder. The court refused to issue a protection order against Ocasio, even though she described the emotional abuse and persecution she faced at his hands. The judge also saw “no reason” to arrest Ocasio, who would then kill Ruiz, just a month later. On March 1st, Keishla Rodríguez was found floating on the San José Lagoon in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She was killed by Puerto Rican boxer Félix Verdejo, who she had known for the majority of her life, after she told him she was pregnant with his child.
The killings of Rodríguez and Ruiz have prompted protests and calls, urging the government to reform a system that has done almost nothing to address gender violence. Pedro Pierluisi, the Puerto Rican governor, signed an executive order in January declaring a state of emergency due to a tremendous increase in gender violence. One woman is killed every seven days, and at least 60 women were killed last year, a 62 percent increase in femicides compared to the previous year. A record number of seven femicides were reported in April 2021, and The Observatorio de Equidad de Género estimates that there have been at least 21 femicides in Puerto Rico since the beginning of 2021.
Femicides in Pakistan
27-year-old Noor Mukadam, the daughter of Pakistan’s former ambassador to South Korea, was brutally shot and beheaded on July 20th by her partner, Zahir Jafer. Violence against women is shockingly prevalent in Pakistan and has been a terrifying issue for many years. In 2014, Farzana Parveen was killed by a group of 12 male family members, including her father, for refusing a marriage proposal. In 2016, Khanzadi Lashari was killed by her husband on their wedding night for “not being a virgin,” and in 2017, Roshan Bibi was mercilessly murdered by her husband for serving him a cold plate of dinner. Just this July, 9 women were killed all over Pakistan, many in the name of “honor.”
Pakistan ranks as the sixth most dangerous country in the world for women and is currently witnessing a rapid increase in violence against women. According to White Ribbon Pakistan, between 2004 and 2016, 4,734 women faced sexual violence, over 15,000 cases of honor crimes were registered, and 5,500 women were kidnapped. Further, between 2011 and 2017, there were 51,241 reported cases of violence against women, but only 2.5% of offenders were convicted. Many blame a culture of impunity for the spike in violence against women. Yasmin Lehri, a former lawmaker, mentioned “A man who stabbed a young female lawyer more than 12 times was recently released by the court. What message does it send to the perpetrators of violence against women?”
Mukhtar Mai, a women's rights activist, and a 2002 gang rape survivor, believes "Those who commit violence against women are not afraid of legal consequences.” She also revealed that for most Pakistani men, beating a woman is not even a form of violence, as Pakistani society is still entrenched in feudal and tribal customs. Yasmin Lehri believes that Khan's government hasn't done anything to protect women, but continues to have an anti-woman attitude that encourages misogyny and violence against women.
Ways to Help
Both in Puerto Rico and Pakistan, the government’s inaction has only contributed to the number of femicides in these areas. However, some steps are slowly being taken. Puerto Rican Governor Pedro Pierluisi declared a state of emergency over the violence and allowed for more resources to be allocated to fight gender-based violence, the appointment of a special government representative on the issue, and new programs to integrate women into the labor market. The chief justice of Pakistan also announced that 1,000 new courts would be set up to deal with cases of violence against women. Mukhtaran Mai believes one way to alleviate the violence and killings is to set up facilities such as women police stations in villages and rural areas, which is where the bulk of the violence occurs. Farzana Bai also believes that the government “must help educate women in rural areas, empowering them economically and raising their representation in the legislature.”
Although the governments are taking small steps, people from all over the world must come together and be driving factors for change. One way to help is to sign international petitions to put pressure on the governments. One petition to sign in the justice for Noor Mukadam Petition, which advocates for punishment for Noor’s killer:
Another way to help is by donating to, or hosting an event for the global ENOUGH campaign, which is a 28 country initiative to end violence against girls and women. The campaign, which is sponsored by Oxfam, is expanding to Puerto Rico and will host workshops for youth that focus on violence prevention, and the campaign will support a gender-based violence hotline that will provide immediate assistance to callers.
The Spotlight Initiative is a partnership between the EU and UN that is dedicated to eliminating all forms of violence against girls and women, globally. In 2020, they provided 651,958 females with gender-based violence services, helped sign and strengthen 84 laws and policies in 17 countries, and educated 879,138 men and boys on positive masculinity, respectful relationships, and nonviolent conflict resolution. There are a few different ways to get involved with Spotlights, such as taking a survey to help them design more initiatives and reach more people across the globe, or by spreading their #WithHer hashtag on social media
@Impact (on Instagram)
Research Coordinator - Sachi Gosal
Editor and Graphics - Vaishnavi Bhojane