The book Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas by Rosa-Linda Fregoso and Cynthia Bejarano looks into feminicidal violence as the violation of human rights, which targets women. The book includes the testimonies of four witnesses and essays by advocates and feminist researchers, who view feminicide as violence against women in America, especially in US-Mexico borderlines. Fregoso and Bejarano define feminicide as the murder of women and girls, established on a gender power structure; it is gender-based violence that implicates individuals and the state (5). It involves a systemic and widespread interpersonal violence that is deeply rooted in political, economic, social and cultural inequalities including essential power relations based on racial, class and sexual hierarchies. Feminicide, as a form of gender-based violence, is not only a tool of patriarchal control; it is also a tool of economic oppression and racism. This essay analyzes the violence underpinning feminicide and its implications across US-Mexico borderlines.
The emergence and dehumanisation of feminicidal violence and sexual degradation against women goes back to the era of state terrorism when the military terrorized the people torturing them, detaining them in death camps and carrying out extrajudicial killings. For women, the historical conditions led to social practices, which threatened the lives, liberties and integrity of women (Fregoso and Bejarano, xvi). Feminicide was tolerated by the society and got support from the states because they were complicit in the exclusion of women from power structures through the acceptance of discrimination, gender inequalities, lack of guarantees of women's rights and normalisation of gender violence. For example, similar to dehumanization practices in feminicidal violence, in other parts of Latin America, women were tortured under military regimes. This involved inhumane and degrading methods, such as sexual slavery, mutilation, gang rape and forced pregnancy, directed at female sexual identity. Men controlled the powerful structures of the society, and there was misogynist complicity between individuals carrying out any form of violence against women and the government because they enjoyed political and ideological conspiracy perpetuated by both assailants and the authorities (Fregoso and Bejarano, xxi). There was the absence of the democratic rule of law that protects women or upholds the law of female citizens. Thus, terrorizing women was a rigorous and impassioned analytical response to the increasing violence against women in Latin America.
Fregoso and Bejarano note that feminicide is part of an increasing rate of homicides, especially among women (7). Women are killed because they are women or because of their vulnerability (Fregoso and Bejarano 7). Feminicide majorly occur in intimate private settings. However, it can also occur anywhere. Female bodies are also mutilated and discarded in ways that bring the message of masculine power. Despite the increase in violence, Fregoso and Bejarano show that women are killed in particular places and ways because they are women and due to of societal involvement in misogyny. For example, in Violencia Feminicida: Violence Against Women and Mexicos Structural Crisis, Mercedes Olivera describes that neo-liberal economic policies put women in a social position that is more vulnerable (Fregoso and Bejarano 54). Even jobs provide little protection, and they are unregulated for female workers. Oliviera shows the increased number of women in jobs and the congregation of women wage earners who are part of the of the economy with unreliable and low incomes. Besides, the traditional division of labour involves the aggression of men and insecurity that result in murder, divorce and abandonment (Fregoso and Bejarano 54). The chapters by Rita Laura Segato and Julia Estela Monarrez Fragoso focus on womens bodies and how their bodies are used to depict women of low social value and dominated by male voices (Fregoso and Bejarano 88). Segato and Fragoso argue that there is a language of feminicide since it can be read as communicative acts. They tell us about the permanent reissuing of a second law whose judges and prosecutors acts as shadow authorities of the statepower over the life and death of those who live in that limit territory is represented and inscribed on the bodies of women as a document(Fregoso and Bejarano 88). Women are also seen as transitional subjects where their rights are violated whenever they migrate across the US-Mexico boarders. In Ciudadana X: Gender Violence and the Denationalization of Womens Rights in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico Alicia Schmidt Camacho describe that women have less protection when they are travelling across the border or migrate to other countries, thereby contributing to the high rate of femicide (Fregoso and Bejarano 329). In the United States, female immigrants are usually vulnerable to domestic violence due to their cultural differences, language barriers, and legal status. Besides, they may be held hostage and violated in their homes due to increased opportunity to make money for their children and families in their home countries. According to Fregoso and Bejarano Murderous people without morals, governed by corrupt forces, and better kept on the other side of the border (223) are tie women to economic liberalization which contributes to poverty and gender inequality in meaningful ways such as the increased number of women in maquila work (228). The chapter Paradoxes, Protests and the Mujeres de Negro of Northern Mexico by Wright analyses the participation of women in activist groups and the successes and paradoxes of such groups (Fregoso and Bejarano 329).
The failure of the authority to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of feminicide can be deduced in the book. Most officials with the responsibility to uphold law refuse or fail to undertake prosecutions or investigations causing impunity and denying justice and truth to victims and their families. Although violence against women is regarded as a criminal offence, violating women is not a crime. Most people, including those expected to give judgment on perpetrators of such violence, still hold on to that opinion. Therefore, violent men enjoy political and ideological complicity between assailants and authorities. In such a climate, the democratic rule of law relating to women does not exist. For example, in the essay Getting Away with Murder Chazaro, Casey and Ruhl, Guatemalan authorities failed to investigate and prosecute perpetrators of feminicide. Such impunity is based on sexual violence that happened in the 1980s Guatemalan armed conflict. Fregoso and Bejarano further imply that Guatemalan society still has laws and practices that continue to discriminate against women primarily in civil matters. Thus, the state complicity in gender violence is a problem that needs to be addressed in Guatemalan society. Fontenlas Feminicides in Mar del Plata also analyses feminicide in Argentina where there is complicity of authorities, particularly in prostitution and feminicide. Fontenla argues that judicial systems and the police do not give attention to cases of prostitution and feminicide because the police themselves facilitate prostitution through the collection of weekly pay to provide additional security, which leads to taking of bribes without guaranteeing the security of prostitutes.
The idea of violence against women is a common trend because the violent deaths of women are more compared to that of men. In the chapter on Feminicide in Costa Rica by Sagot and Carcedo Cabanas, they compare violent deaths for men and women. They show that most women are killed in intimate family settings compared to men. Sagot and Carcedo conclude that feminicide is rooted in the unequal power structure of society that gives women a subordinate position to menthe social structure of gender inequity allows men to exercise power over women. In turn, gender socialization enhances mens internalization of power relations over women and the construction of abusive and violent masculine identities. This is the foundation that buttresses and engenders feminicide (Fregoso and Bejarano 155).
In conclusion, Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas is one-of-a-kind book that shows the complexity of feminicide caused by the increase of violence in Latin America. The historical impunity for neoliberal economic policies, power relationships between women and men, sexual crimes and the complicity of many governments in feminicide are the significant reasons for injustices and violence directed to women particularly in Latin America. Such a crisis needs a call to action and a new kind of activism and knowledge. Thus, the book powerfully bring activists, human right lawyers and diverse voices of scholars together to help us understand the legal and structural norms that cause an increase murders and violence against women.
Fregoso, Rosa-Linda and Cynthia Bejarano. Terrorizing Women: Feminicide in the Americas. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2009.
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