"Machismo" in Honduras is one of the leading causes behind killings of women, United Nations human rights experts said Wednesday as they concluded their 14-day visit during which 13 women were murdered.
“[The women have been killed] in a very cruel way and very bloody and that is very worrying,” said Alda Facio international expert in gender and human rights in Latin America and a founding member of the Women's Caucus for Gender Justice at the International Criminal Court.
"Much more needs to be done to face all these challenges, which come from a macho society. We urge the Government to intensify its efforts to guarantee gender equality and women's rights and to put an immediate end to impunity."
Women in Honduras are killed with impunity, despite an amendment to the Criminal Code on homicide in 2013 that included femicide as a punishable offense up to 30 to 40 years imprisonment “in the case of men who have carried out killings motivated by hatred and disdain for women,” according to the U.N.’s Global Database on Violence against Women.
According to the U.N., a woman is killed every 18 hours in Honduras. Femicide is one of the leading causes of death in the country. Since 2015, gender-based killings have reportedly surpassed epidemic levels -- killing 12 out of every 100,000 residents.
According to the World Health Organization, 8.8 deaths per 100,000 residents is enough to be categorized as an epidemic.
Impunity levels are shockingly high as well. In 2014, only one percent of murders were investigated. “Violence against women occurs because other forms of discrimination are allowed to flourish,” a report by the Organization of the American States. “To address this violence it is necessary to also address the underlying discrimination factors that give rise to and exacerbate the violence.”
Conditions in Honduras, including political and economic instability, have led people to flee. Experts have stated that the ubiquity of violence against women, and impunity for those crimes have encouraged migration.
The comments by the United Nations officials come as thousands of people have joined the Central American Migrant Caravan, an exodus from Honduras and other Central American countries, which experts say is directly related to ubiquity of violence against women, and impunity for those crimes coupled with political and economic instability in those countries.
Between 2012 and 2014, the number of asylum seekers from Honduras fleeing to other countries has increased 1,153 percent, many of whom are women and children.
Two days prior to the U.N. experts’ statements on femicides in Honduras, migrants seeking asylum and entry into the U.S. from the Mexican port city of Tijuana were met with tear gas and rubber bullets at the border.
“I was scared, and I thought I was going to die with them because of the gas,” Said Honduran mother, Maria Meza. She added that that one of her children nearly fainted after a canister landed near him. “It wasn’t right, they know we are human beings, the same as them.”
A lawyer working with women asylum seekers in an I.C.E. facility in Texas, United States, told teleSUR that most of the women she worked with were fleeing from Honduras violence.
However, earlier this year former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions ruled that asylum seekers cannot claim domestic or gang violence as reasons for asylum.
The U.N. experts who have just completed their two-week visit to Honduras will present their final report to the organization's Human Rights Council June 2019.