Upon Learning The Femicide Rate In My Country

Reflections of a Salvadorian

Of General Concern | Claudia Rojas | March 30, 2016

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You’re checking the newsfeed, and start diving into an article about two young women who have been killed on a tourist trip. The suspects are men, but you don’t suspect this crime as part of a larger crime: femicide.

Right now, being outraged is more than you can take.

You’re outraged that people responded to the two women’s death with blame, like a woman begs to be beat up and dumped into a trash bag.upset-girl

This is you reading NPR’s article, “What Did You Expect? The Question That Women Are Sick Of Hearing.” You think, this is the stuff that makes up fiction, but this growing, world-wide, ridiculous violence against women is the real deal. You come across the following statistic: “El Salvador is the country with the highest femicide rate — 12 per 100,000 inhabitants. — followed by Jamaica (10.9), Guatemala (9.7) and South Africa (9.6).”

El Salvador, your birthplace, holds the highest femicide rate of the world.

At this point, the word sounds new to you. Femicide. And somehow, it sounds all too familiar. You’ve always known what femicide means. You know it has familial ties to words like machismo, patriarchy, and rape culture. It’s a word with origins in the early 19th century.

Femicide means the deliberate killing of women, and arises in any context in which her voice is absent, her body all too present.

Rape -tree-growth-of-femicide
Rape Tree at US Border (Latina Magazine)

You start thinking that women back home aren’t suffering the typical, desensitized violence you read from the comfort of America. The violence against women you’ve seen in telenovelas hits the mark.  You start to realize that for some people, crossing the border isn’t about the threat of violence. It’s about the survival of the womb. The survival of self-respect.


You are horrified to learn that Latino women crossing the border take contraception in anticipation of rape. You also make the connection to the Islamic State’s imposing birth control on women to create systematic rape.

Your stomach starts to churn. Your breathing. Slowing. How will you ever prove to your mother that every man isn’t a sexual pig? That a man who walks behind you in the parking lot isn’t carrying a knife? Isn’t trying to rape you, kill you?

“El Salvador is the country with the highest femicide rate — 12 per 100,000 inhabitants.” -NPR

How will you ever convince your mother to let your young sister fall in love? That this man may have dark skin, but his intentions won’t be dark. How will you ever convince your mother there are nice guys, really.

You want to think that America knows your Latino men better than you do.

Buenos Aires 2015 #NiUnaMenos Protest (Inter Press Service)

That Donald Trump guy is a genius. All Latino men are illegals. Latino men rape their women. Therefore, illegal Latino men are the end of the female race.

You stop.

Maybe the blame is on you, you and women for shutting up about the things that matter for too long. You’re angry at their silence because it contributes to 98% of rapists staying out of jail. Because in places like the UK, only one woman has thought of keeping track of the female deaths in her country. Women aren’t trying hard enough.

Scratch that. You don’t fully believe that, but you want to believe anything right now.

You want to believe that women’s lives matter.

To this college guy at Howard University. To this mother, Irinea Buendía, in Mexico. To the three black women who made #BlackLivesMatter trend and revolutionize. To the women protesting #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less) in Argentina.

women-powerWhile the death toll for women only seems to increase in some places, women’s lives do matter. One missing women or dead lady is a problem. Stay outraged. Their lives matter in honor of you and every woman who has ever felt not good enough, in honor of every man who has tried to teach her the beauty and worth he sees in her sweatpants, her bare skin.

You reinterpret Margaret Atwood’s “Pig Song,” and see that the pig is a man, standing in for a woman’s reality. You never want anyone to feel like

a greypink vegetable with slug
eyes, buttock
incarnate, spreading like a slow turnip,

a skin you stuff so you may feed
in your turn, a stinking wart
of flesh,

While you don’t know where to go from here, you know that violence and hate does not define you as a Salvadorian.

Not the seven year old self who first came to America. Not the college-age self still trying to understand why rape is modified with “allegedly.”

You know that your country is full of poets. Of flavor. Of landscape. Of strength. So you make a mental note of your country’s femicide rate and reset your faith in humanity.


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