Honduran women have been seeking asylum because of gender violence for many years.
The women in Honduras have little say about what men do to them. For example, it didn’t matter that Maria Jose Alvarado had recently won the Miss Honduras crown. It didn’t matter that she was soon setting out to compete for the Miss World title, either. She was killed, shot 12 times in the back. Her mother, Teresa Muñoz, blamed her daughter’s violent death on the killer’s “machismo.”
The United Nations reported in 2014 that “rape was a serious and pervasive societal problem … [and that] rape continued to be underreported due to fear of stigma, retribution, and further violence.”
In the same report, the United Nations revealed that only 39 of the 383 reports of rape in the first nine months of 2014 even ended with a conviction. And the problem isn’t getting better.
Miss Honduras’s mom, Teresa Muñoz, described the situation in Honduras without statistics. “Men can do anything they want to women,” she said. “Here in Honduras, women aren’t worth anything.”
It isn’t just Teresa Muñoz saying this. An analyst with Honduras’ Center for Women’s Rights (CDM) agrees. Medina, the analyst, said virtually the same thing as Muñoz. “Men can do anything they want to women in Honduras … because we think that it’s common and it’s something that you can be expected of, living here.”
In Honduras, a woman is murdered every 16 hours, according the CDM. According to the United Nations, the country has the highest rate of femicide in the world.
Women who suffer sexual abuse are often too afraid to report it, fearing gang retribution or the retribution of their husbands. There are other matters that can make it complicated, too. For example, a woman whose family is part of a gang would likely never be able to interact with the police. Rather than having a state-protected right over one’s own body, the gang’s law becomes the enforced law.
There are also laws that are hurting the Honduran women; Trump’s executive order to cut the number of refugees accepted into the U.S. would not only affect Syrians.
The U.N. reports that the number of asylum seekers from areas like Honduras has risen by over 500 percent recently, with 82 percent of female asylum seekers claiming they had “credible fear of persecution or violence.” When 95 percent of reported sexual crimes against women go without conviction, many women don’t have a choice but to move to a country with different laws and different law enforcement.
Many people have begun to see refugees as threats to our own safety and not as people fleeing violence and seeking better lives. It’s important to always remember who is being saved, as the rate of unaccompanied girls and survivors of sexual violence arriving from Honduras continues to rise.
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