Homicide deaths in Ciudad Juárez reached a three-year low in January, the lowest monthly tally since February 2019 according to the Attorney General of the State of Chihuahua.

The decreased overall homicide count comes amid increased attention to the deaths of women, with several recent brutal killings prompting outrage and protests in the streets of the northern Mexico city that frequently ranks among the highest for homicides in the world.

“It is notable that when (overall) homicides decrease, the percentage of victims who are women tends to increase,” Molly Molloy wrote in an email to the Frontera List, an email listserv she runs that disseminates border news. Molloy, a retired research librarian at New Mexico State University, has tracked homicide data in Juárez since 2008.

Among the 12 women killed in Juárez in January, four were found dismembered in trash bags along public roadways. Although officials said the killings were not gender-based, LGBTQ and women’s rights advocates disagreed and staged protests decrying the impunity that so often follows femicides — a term used to describe murders of women based on their gender.

“That (trend) sort of jumped out at me,” Molloy said of January’s homicide numbers. Out of 83 killed, 14% were women — “a relatively high percentage,” she said.

The number of homicides of women in Juárez tends to hover around 10% of total killings, Molloy said. In years of heightened violence, such as 2008 through 2010, the relative percentage of women killed decreased.

Mexico is seeing a similar trend nationwide: overall murders fell by 3.6% in 2021 compared to the previous year, while femicides increased by 2.7% according to government data.

Molloy said the gender trend of homicides in Juárez makes sense, because the overarching reasons men and women tend to be killed are different. She said there is a fairly constant level of murders of women through domestic violence, while ebbs and flows in cartel and gang violence can cause murders of men to fluctuate more dramatically. She clarified that that does not mean women do not die by cartel violence, but rather that there are broadly gendered murder trends. 

Men are far more likely both to perpetrate homicide and to die by homicide internationally, according to a United Nations global study on homicide, with men comprising approximately 90% of homicide perpetrators. Within the Americas, the homicide rate for men is eight times greater than the homicide rate for women, the same study found.

Workers from Juárez’s Medical Forensic Service place the body of a homicide victim into their van in 2020. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

Human rights organization Amnesty International released a September report that identified a consistent failure to investigate femicide by Mexican authorities. The high level of impunity is part of a broader trend, as nearly 95% of violent crimes in Mexico go unpunished according to a 2020 report by Mexican think tank México Evalúa

The true number of homicides in Ciudad Juárez could be greater for both women and men, considering the amount of disappearances that go unsolved, Molloy said.

“It’s almost impossible to know the accuracy of the murder statistics because of that,” she said.

Feature photo: A protester lights a candle outside of the Mexican Consulate on Jan. 22, where members and supporters of the LGBTQ community gathered to demand justice for the murders of a lesbian couple in Juárez. (Corrie Boudreaux/El Paso Matters)

René Kladzyk reports on wide-ranging issues impacting the lives of El Pasoans. She also performs music as Ziemba. René can be reached at rkladzyk@elpasomatters.org. Follow her on Twitter @ziembavision.