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Mexico issues ‘gender alert’ to stop rampant killing of women

MEXICO CITY — "Woman’s body found dead, naked and burned." "Twelve-year-old girl goes missing selling sweets in the street." "Five women killed in 48 hours in Mexico state."

Those are just some of the macabre headlines making the rounds here in the last few months.

The United Nations has called the abduction and murder of women in Mexico a “pandemic.” Some organizations estimate six women are killed every day across the country.

Thousands of victims’ families have spent years demanding justice. This week, they got a new pledge from the authorities to finally do something to stop the problem.

The federal government on Tuesday issued its first-ever “gender alert.” It means that the authorities have to take “urgent action” to prevent the killing of women and to speed up investigations of hundreds of languishing, unsolved cases.

The alert applies to 11 municipalities in Mexico state, which borders the capital Mexico City and is one of the country’s worst offenders for violent killings of women. State Gov. Eruviel Avila asked the federal government to issue the mandate earlier this month, saying there was a “serious problem” in certain areas.

The announced alert is still vague. Specifics are expected to be decided later this week.

Nearly a thousand women were killed in Mexico state between 2011 and 2013. A further 1,200 girls and women were reported missing between 2011 and 2012 — half of them ages 10 to 17, according to the National Citizens Observatory on Femicides, a watchdog.

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President Enrique Peña Nieto was governor of Mexico state before he became the nation’s leader in 2012. The watchdog says 1,200 women were killed there during his watch, and the murder rate of women doubled during the second half of his term as governor.

Activists point to many reasons for the killings — prostitution rings, organized crime, and a macho culture that generates hate-crimes against women and girls. They’ve long argued that the official reaction to violent murders of women across Mexico has been indifference and impunity.

Maria de la Luz Estrada, who heads the citizens observatory, called Tuesday’s announcement “historic.”

“This is important because it’s the first time the government has ever announced the need for urgent action,” she told GlobalPost.

But Estrada was also cautious, pointing out that the urgent measures aren’t yet defined. Although security needs to be increased, she says the police themselves are often accused of perpetrating violent crimes, and the public no longer trusts them.

This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

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