In an effort to spread awareness of a vast and largely overlooked issue that is focused on Honduran women, feminist sociologist Neesa Medina spoke at an event titled “Deportation and Forced Migration: The View from Honduras” in Park Shops on Oct. 17. The event was co-sponsored by Interdisciplinary Studies and the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, and organized by the nonprofit Witness For Peace Southeast.
Medina currently works amid the thick of the problems brought upon women as a security and gender analyst at the Center for Women’s Rights in Tegucigalpa, Honduras. The presentation was meant to provide an answer as to why so many Central American women are seeking safety in the U.S and highlight the important role that the U.S has played in this issue.
“We do investigations nationwide,” Medina said. “We do not work regularly with the government. We don’t take funding from the [Honduran] government or the U.S government. We have never done it before because we believe it is our obligation to be independent from the government, especially when you’re fighting against policies that go beyond national interest.”
The Center for Women’s Rights participates in advocacy for women in Honduras to protect and provide care for them in the face of violence targeted toward them from men. They work to gain support from the United Nations, human rights and feminist organizations to fight misogynistic policies and create new ones that benefit women. Such topics that they work with include labor rights that concern women and sexual and reproductive rights.
“It is politically correct to be involved and advocating against violence against women, but not for women’s sexual and reproductive rights,” Medina said.
During her speech, Medina described the troublesome climate of being a female in Honduras for students by pointing out that Honduras is one of six countries where abortion is completely illegal. As a result, maternal mortality rate there is high. Women that attempt to get already unsafe abortion procedures and get caught by authorities can be imprisoned for up to eight years. Contraceptives have also been criminalized for the past eight years.
The shocking statistics indicate that a woman is killed every 16 hours and there is a rape committed every three hours in Honduras, and that only one out of six victims come forward to report it. This is a brave feat in itself, because corrupt police often alert the rapists of the accusation, allowing for those rapists the opportunity to inflict further violence on the victims or even murder them.
Medina said that femicide is the biggest problem because, under corrupt law enforcement, men can easily get away with the murder of women.
“People don’t need to exact numbers to know that this is the reality of most,” Medina said. “Violence is such a part of what we are now as a society, that violence determines how you dress in the morning, how you move around the city, what you expect every day, even how much you can drink. Violence restricts each time more who you are and what you can do. Violence is not just having a scar on you, violence usually looks like this: constantly being worried, all the time, for you and your loved ones, day and night.”
In 2012, Honduras had the highest murder rate in the world at around 90 murders per 100,000 people.
“Violent murder is announced to you on the news like stock options,” Medina said. “It’s a murder of rate of 90, next year 10 points up, next year 5 points down. That’s how it’s announced to you.”
Medina asked students in the audience if they knew what the murder rate was in Syria that year to show the stark contrast between them. According to Medina, Syria is less deadly than Honduras with only 4.2 murders per 100,000 people in 2012.
Madison Earp, a third-year studying communication, shared the effect of Medina’s story and testimony.
“I thought Neesa Medina’s words and story were powerful and inspiring,” Earp said. “She is doing great work to bring these issues to light.”
“We are defending life. That is the core of our work,” said Medina.
Medina said that the reason the U.S. population did not hear more about this was correlated to the fact that the U.S has no oil or large capital based in Honduras. Medina spent the rest of her presentation detailing the beliefs that the U.S-backed militarization of Honduras has contributed to the violence against women.
“Militarization is that notion that it is only through guns that you can achieve peace,” Medina said. “That is a distorted, sordid kind of notion, but it is one that has been financially backed up [by the U.S.] for many years.”
Medina said the spreading of lethal weapons has allowed for violence against women and other groups to be facilitated. According to Medina, the population of Honduras is only 8 million, but there are approximately 1.5 million guns in ownership, and it is men that that mostly carry these.
“There’s a high chance that if your aggressor is a man, he is carrying a gun,” Medina said. “Or three, because it is legal to carry up to three guns.”
Medina said that most of these weapons are made in the U.S., and the violence in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras is inevitably linked to the U.S. The militarization of Central America that has been allowed and supported by the U.S. was originally done under the guise to stop the spread of communist movements, but this has become a free pass to militarization. Medina held that militarization means control of territory, social movements and people, and that it does not solve violence, injustice or discrimination.
Medina said that, though there are more men being killed than women in Honduras statistically, the issue lies in that women are not killing women. Men are doing the killing and they are getting away with it.
“Honduran women are amazing. They are strong, they are life-driven,” Medina said. “Many of them have no choice but to come here and many of them are also organizing within the country, and it is no coincidence that many of the social movements in Honduras are led by women.”