Outraged By Kidnapping of Nigerian Girls? 4 Other Incidents of Mass Violence Against Women You Should Know About
Demonstrators protest on May 14, 2014 in front of the Embassy of Nigeria in Washington, DC
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On April 14, Nigerian militant group Boko Haram fighters kidnapped 276 schoolgirls from the remote northeastern town of Chibok in Borno. As far as we know, 223 are still being held. Many Nigerians and international leaders criticized Nigerian President Goodluck Jonathan for taking almost three weeks to respond to the crisis. Journalists and writers all over the Internet also blasted the media for taking so long to respond to the horrific abductions. How could it be that the kidnapping of 276 girls was not the number-one story all over the world? Eventually, the world did erupt in outrage and the hashtag #BringBackOurGirls went viral. The hashtag #234WhiteGirls also surfaced to draw attention to the media's bias when it comes to coverage of violence against women of color.
The kidnappings bring up a whole slew of issues, and call into question how many other incidents the media has ignored. Here are four examples of systematic violence against women of color that didn't receive the media coverage they deserved.
1. Femicides of the women of Juárez. US media continues to wring its hands and obsess over the horrific acts of violence inflicted by Mexican drug cartels. Mexico's drug-related violence kills over 10,000 people a year. Many innocent people have died as cartels battle each other throughout the country.
What hasn't received sufficient coverage are the murders of women on the U.S. Mexico border. Since 1993, 1,400 women and girls have been killed in Juárez. According to an article published in November of last year, more female corpses were found dumped in the desert over the last three years than throughout the 1990s. Many of the women are raped and tortured before they're killed. In 2012, there were 18 femicides, the most in Juarez since 1997. Many victims are workers in maquiladoras, the foreign-owned factories along the border which flourished after the implementation of NAFTA. Though many of the factories are American-owned, these companies have not shown concern for the women who are killed traveling to and from work.
2. Murder and disappearance of Native Canadian women. Recently, Canada's government and indigenous people have had many conflicts over natural resources, land rights and autonomy. The indigenous rights organization Idle No More was created to protect their sovereignty, land, and water. In addition, in the past 30 years 1,200 aboriginal women have been murdered or have gone missing. Activists have been trying to draw attention to this issue for years now.
Many aboriginal women in Northern British Columbia disappeared along Highway 16, dubbed the "Highway of Tears” by many of the victims' families. Robert Pickton, the serial killer responsible for these murders, would pick up sex workers, kill them, and dispose of their bodies on his pig farm. Though some Vancouver police officers initially believed a serial killer was responsible, others insisted the women had just moved and did not want to be found. As a result, many of these cases were not thoroughly investigated.
In a report released this month, James Anaya, UN special rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, called out the Canadian government on its inefficient initiatives to improve the lives of the indigenous population. “The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and aboriginals claims remain persistently unresolved, indigenous women and girls remain vulnerable to abuse, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among indigenous peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels,” Anaya stated.
According to the report, aboriginal women make up only 4 percent of the population, but 16 percent of murdered women. Anaya is calling for a thorough and broad investigation.