The covid-19 pandemic reached each country at different times. In Latin America, the first infection arrived in Brazil on February 26, 2020. From that moment, the states of the region began one by one to decree quarantines. Some were mandatory; others were specific isolation measures, and others, like Nicaragua, did not impose any restriction.
The first Latin American country to go into quarantine was Uruguay – on March 13, 2020. After that, every day, more countries apply mobility restriction measures to reduce the impact of the virus on health systems. By April 2020, we were all locked at home and began a new journey as we watched life pass through our windows.
From the first days of social isolation, the national emergency lines and the lines set up to report gender-based violence cases started to receive calls. Women began to denounce the physical, psychological, and sexual violence -among others- that they suffered when they shared the same space with their abusers -relatives, partners- 24/7. Violence against women did not stop despite the global health crisis. Neither did femicides.
In Uruguay, on March 14, just one day after the quarantine decree, Zulema Silva Pintado was killed by her partner, who later took his own life. In the rest of Latin American countries, the stories are not different: in the first days of isolation, femicides occurred. The numbers, in most states, were up from the previous month.
Only from March to June 2020, according to data from governments and civil society organizations, 1,409 femicides had occurred in the 19 countries investigated: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Venezuela.
For this reason, the team of journalists of Violence During Quarantine decided to create a memorial for women victims of femicide during the first month of quarantine -which is different in each country investigated. A tribute to the women who have had their lives taken from them in the space that should be the safest: home.
The result of this investigation, in which we have worked for six months, documents 361 femicide cases, committed in 19 countries of Latin America and the Caribbean during the precise first month of the quarantine, or, as in the case of Nicaragua, from the first recorded infection to precisely a month after.
|Country||Exact month of quarantine|
|Argentina||March 20 – April 20, 2020|
|Bolivia||March 21 – April 22, 2020|
|Brazil||March 20 – April 20, 2020|
|Chile||March 18 – April 18, 2020|
|Colombia||March 25 – April 25, 2020|
|Costa Rica||There was no quarantine, but some restrictions from March 8 to April 8, 2020.|
|Cuba||March 24 – April 24, 2020|
|Ecuador||March 16, April 16, 2020|
|El Salvador||March 22 – April 22, 2020|
|Guatemala||April 1 – April 30, 2020|
|Honduras||March 15 – April 15, 2020|
|México||March 23 – April 23, 2020|
|Nicaragua||There was no quarantine. The first infection happened on March 18.|
|Paraguay||March 11- April 11, 2020|
|Perú||March 16 – April 16, 2020|
|Puerto Rico||March 15 – April 15, 2020|
|República Dominicana||March 19 – April 19, 2020|
|Uruguay||March 13 – April 13, 2020|
|Venezuela||March 17 – April 17, 2020|
We do not pretend to give a complete portrait of the femicides during the quarantine period in Latin America and the Caribbean. That would be a daunting task. The official figures and data and those collected by civil organizations are different. And although contrast becomes necessary, so is precision. However, our database -built with official data, data from civil and collective organizations, and press monitoring- offers a devastating panorama.
What did we find?
Mexico and Brazil are the countries that lead with the highest figures of femicides during the precise first month of quarantine. The first with 198 cases and the second with 48.
According to press monitoring – from March 21 to April 22, 2020 – 48 women were victims of femicide in Brazil. This figure contrasts with the State Security Secretariats’ data, which recorded 120 femicides in March and 115 in April; 235 femicide registries that cannot be accessed even through official requests for information.
The above shows that possibly more than 48 women were victims of femicide, of whom we still have no data.
In the case of Mexico, the reverse is true. The Executive Secretariat of the National Public Security System -the body in charge of collecting the crime incidence at the national level, which has information from the 32 state prosecutor’s offices- disclosed that 79 femicides occurred in March and 73 in April. These are 152 femicides for which the secretariat does not provide further disaggregated information. And it is a lower figure than that documented by civil society.
The figure of 152 femicides differs from the one obtained from an exhaustive review of the femicides database carried out by activist María Salguero since 2016, which obtains information from press monitoring. The Salguero database showed 262 violent deaths of women from March 23 to April 23, 2020, the first month of quarantine; 198 femicides resulted after a case-by-case review.
The situation in Brazil and Mexico is not very different from that of the rest of the countries.
The five countries where the most femicides occurred during the exact first month of quarantine are Mexico (198), Brazil (48), Argentina (28), Venezuela (19), and Colombia (15).
In most cases, the perpetrators were relatives, partners, or ex-partners. Various studies explain this phenomenon. According to an ECLAC indicator, in most Latin American countries, 2 out of 3 femicides occur in the context of relationships with a partner or ex-partner.
We know that our investigation is not finished yet. This memorial is an exercise of memory so that it becomes impossible to deny that these femicides occurred, that these deaths are not isolated events, but rather structural dynamics that affect women. There is still a lot of data to come. Therefore, we invite you to add to the construction of this memorial. Let us know about the cases that do not have a face here, so we can expand the information and build their life stories. Because each of these women is not just another number, and it is up to us to do this for those who are no longer here.