"Here in Honduras, women aren’t worth anything," said Teresa Muñoz, mother of murdered Miss Honduras beauty pageant queen Maria Jose Alvarado.
Femicide rates in Honduras are on the rise, according to a new report by the New York Times, sparking growing concern over women's health and safety in the Central American country.
Since 2016, one woman is murdered every 16 hours in Honduras, the country's Center for Women’s Rights told the newspaper.
Crimes against women in Honduras have dramatically spiked since the 2009 right-wing military coup that removed democratically-elected president Manuel Zelaya. A 2011 report by Oxfam Honduras and a Honduran non-governmental organization, the Tribunal of Women Against Femicide, said that women are dying primarily because of gun crime, political instability and the "systematic indifference" of the police.
On November 13, 2014, for example, 19-year-old Maraa Jose Alvarado and her 23-year-old sister Sofia Trinidad disappeared after going to a party held by 32-year-old Plutarco Ruiz, Trinidad's boyfriend. Their dead bodies were found a week later buried in a riverbank in Santa Barbara, Honduras.
At the time, the authorities concluded that Ruiz murdered both sisters after a heated argument with Trinidad. Alvarado, who had recently won the Miss Honduras beauty pageant, was scheduled to take part in the Miss World contest in London just a few days after she disappeared.
Talking with ABC's Nightline, Teresa Muñoz, the mother of the two victims, said police would not have even investigated the murders if it weren't for her daughter’s fame.
“He shot her 12 times in the back,” said Muñoz. “Because of his machismo this happened. Here in Honduras, women aren’t worth anything.”
According to the U.S. government statistics, 82 percent of female Honduran asylum seekers had “credible fear of persecution or violence.”
Outside of war zones, Honduras has one of the highest-recorded murder rates in the world, with gender-related violence being rampant.
Between 2008 and 2010, there were 1,110 reported cases of femicide, yet only 211 made it to court. Only 4.2 percent of these cases resulted in a conviction. In 2014, the United Nations reported that 95 percent of sexual violence and femicide cases in Honduras were never investigated at all.
The violence in countries like Honduras has propelled a large number of women and children towards the southern border of the U.S., which the United Nations call an “invisible refugee crisis.” Since 2008, the number of asylum seekers from Honduras and neighboring El Salvador and Guatemala has increased by 500 percent. And for many women, it's not just about escaping poverty. It's also a matter of escaping rape and death.
Honduran activist Neesa Medina attributed the violence against women to “machismo” gang culture that runs rampant. Medina told ABC's Nightline, "Men can do anything they want to women in Honduras.”