The case of Shanquella Robinson, who died in October while staying at a Baja California Sur rental property, is being investigated in Mexico as femicide, a gender-motivated crime that has yet to be defined by U.S. legislation.
Robinson, 25, was on a trip with a group celebrating her friend’s birthday when she died during her stay in the Mexican state of Baja California Sur. Members of the group claimed the 25-year-old died of alcohol poisoning, but a video that widely circulated after her death shows Robinson being violently beaten by a woman in what appears to be the rental property they were staying in. An autopsy report also revealed that Robinson suffered from trauma to her neck at the time of her death.
Prosecutors in Mexicos are seeking to extradite one woman in the group as a suspect in Robinson’s case. Daniel de la Rosa, the attorney general for Baja California Sur, said last week that an arrest warrant was issued for femicide, which is defined as the “intentional murder of women because they are women,” according to CNN.
In the U.S., there is no differentiation between femicide and homicide in criminal law. Mexico, however, is among at least 16 countries that consider femicide a specific crime.
Femicides can fall into two categories: intimate, which refers to the killing of women by current or ex-partners, and non-intimate, a slaying in which women have had no intimate relationship with their killers. There could also be a history of violence and threats, or “if the victim was in community, for example, and if she was killed and her body was in public,” said Beatriz García Nice, who leads a gender-based violence initiative at the Wilson Center.
Alejandra Marquez, a professor at Michigan State University, said the “feminicidos” crisis in Mexico first garnered national attention in the 1990s when hundreds of women were killed near the border.
“There used to be this idea, especially in central Mexico, where it was like ‘women are getting killed over there at the border,’ but because it’s expanded all over the country, it’s sort of become this phenomenon that can no longer be ignored,” Marquez told CNN.
Though the U.S. doesn’t have legislation differentiating femicide from homicide, experts say killings targeting women are still happening across the nation.
“Femicides happen all the time in the US, and many famous murder cases that we all have in our consciousness are actually femicide, but we don’t put that label on them,” said Dabney P. Evans, director of Emory University’s Center for Humanitarian Emergencies. “As a society, we need to recognize that these are not one-off deaths. These are in fact, connected to patterns of masculine violence, and we need to think more closely about preventing that kind of violence.”
Yet, while there are laws in place against femicide in Mexico, “the main problem is the execution,” García Nice said, noting that nearly 95 percent of femicide cases in Mexico go unpunished.
“If you commit a crime of femicide, there’s really not that much of a chance for you to get convicted for it,” she said. “And that’s one of the reasons why we see that rates are still very, very high.”