As femicide rates spike, mother of murdered beauty queen says ‘women aren’t worth anything’ in Honduras

Maria Jose Alvarado (R), Miss Honduras World, whose body and her sister’s were found on November 19, 2014 one week after both siblings had been abducted. 

In 2014, 95 % of sexual violence and femicide cases were never investigated at all – and Maria Jose Alvarado’s mother says her daughter’s murder was only investigated because of her fame.  On November 13, 2014, 19-year-old María José Alvarado and her 23-year-old sister, Sofia Trinidad, disappeared after a party at the home of Trinidad’s boyfriend Plutarco Ruiz. After a week-long manhunt, their bodies were found buried in a riverbank in Santa Barbara, Honduras. According to authorities, Ruiz, then 32, was the likely perpetrator. They said he shot Trinidad during a jealous argument and then murdered her sister to conceal the crime. María José had recently won the Miss Honduras beauty pageant, and was scheduled to make her first-ever plane ride to the Miss World competition in London just a few days after her disappearance.

In Honduras, a country with one of the highest murder rates in the world outside a war zone, gender-motivated violence has been running rampant. As Honduras continues to suffer a crisis of gender violence with one woman killed every 16 hours, international organizations launched a campaign against violence against women in the Central American country Wednesday to combat the rampant problem. Under the banner, “I am a woman and living without violence is my right,” the new campaign launched by the International Organization for Migration and the U.N. Population Fund with support of the Honduran government aims to reduce shocking rates of violence against women by raising awareness. In Honduras, the rate of violent killings of women increased by over 260 percent between 2005 and 2013. In 2014 alone, at least 513 women were victims of femicide in Honduras, according to Cepal statistics. Honduras’ Center for Women’s Rights reports that one woman was killed every 16 hours in Honduras in 2015. According to the U.N., more women in Honduras are subject to “femicide” — the murder of a woman because of her gender — than anywhere else in the world. Along with being home to soaring rates of femicide, Honduras is also considered among the top 10 countries in the world with the highest rates of impunity. According to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, impunity has a particularly heavy impact on women and “perpetuates the social acceptance of the phenomenon of violence against women.”

Many Honduran feminists have called attention to structural causes of violence against women that demand deeper reforms to get to the root of the gender crisis. In the same period that femicide in Honduras has skyrocketed, the country also lived through a military coup that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya in 2009 and aggressively recharged neoliberal politics in the country. The coup ushered in a wave of grave human rights abuses, increased militarization, criminalization, and impunity. Neesa Medina (from the Honduras’ Centre for Women’s Rights) tells the ABC that reporting crimes and obtaining restraining orders often do little to prevent women from being attacked. “How powerful is a bullet? Is a bullet more powerful than a piece of paper? “We’re talking about women who have three, four, or five kids. So if you cannot assure her and her family to be safe, and the best you can do … is to show her a piece of paper, that’s almost like signing her death sentence right there.”

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Free Yourself Global 

At Transcendent Media Capital, we are a global media production company invested in effectuating social change. We partner with NGO’s, enterprises and filmmakers worldwide to create social or ecological products and campaigns that make a real and sustainable change for global issues. One of our current main projects is Free Yourself Global.  This campaign, “Free Yourself Global: Healing Families; Ending Domestic Violence”, is the first interactive global domestic violence campaign incorporating social media, web and podcast series, short films, feature film, a photo book and music benefit concerts. We are also building a fully animated and interactive digital platform to assist in transforming domestic violence worldwide. This campaign explores the enculturation of violence through families across the globe, and how does one, whether the abuser or the abused, interrupt the pattern of violence? Our initiative hopes to bring together all of the voices of the participants of domestic violence, so whether you are a recovering abuser, victim/survivor and/or professional who works to aid in this cause, we want to hear your story. You can share it with us on social media using the hashtag #FreeYourselfGlobal or anonymously here, via our website. 

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