|Young residents of the Bordo Gavión, a riverside slum community in San Pedro Sula. Women and girls in the barrios live in constant fear of sexual attack and a violent death.|
The windowless room in downtown San Pedro Sula, Honduras’s second city, bustles with activity as more than a dozen women take their seats at a long oak table. Water bottles are distributed and the electric fan switched to full blast to alleviate the oppressive summer heat creeping through the half-open door.
As the chatter dies out, Dicsa Bulnes clears her throat, introduces herself and begins to speak.
“As a woman I feel trapped. I am a prisoner in my own home, there’s nowhere for me to go. I have no freedom.”
Bulnes, who is from the marginalised Afro-Caribbean Garífuna community, pauses for a moment to take a sip of water before she continues.
“My partner nearly killed me. He still sends me threatening messages on my mobile attacking me. I’ve tried reporting him but the authorities won’t do anything. It feels like they are forcing women to buy their own coffins, to return to the attacker and suffer through the violence.”
The forum has called a meeting in its small San Pedro Sula office so a female journalist from a safe western country can hear about the daily battles endured by the women of this small central American nation.
Aside from having one of the highest murder rates in the world – a national homicide rate of 79 per 100,000 – Honduras is rapidly becoming one of the most dangerous places on Earth for women.
Over the past decade, this nation of just over eight million people has witnessed a sharp increase in domestic and sexual violence and gender-based murder, a phenomenon known as femicide.
According to the University Institute for Democracy, Peace and Security in Honduras, 531 women were murdered in 2014, the majority of these aged between 15 and 24. Although this number was slightly lower than that of the previous year – there were 636 recorded murders of women in 2013 – the lack of accountability for this violation of a woman’s most basic human right has normalised the concept of femicide.
Between 2005 and 2013 the number of violent deaths of women increased by 263.4 per cent.
Carolina Sierra, spokeswoman for Foro de Mujeres por la Vida, says any attempts made to improve women’s rights before the 2009 military coup, which ousted reformist president Manuel Zelaya, were erased by the current administration.
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