25-year-old Shanquella Robinson was killed while on vacation in Mexico with people she knew.
Prosecutors are investigating her death as femicide — or a gender-based homicide.
The United States does not differentiate femicide from homicide.
The death of 25-year-old Shanquella Robinson on October 29, while she was on vacation with six others in Mexico, stunned the US.
Robinson, who previously attended Winston-Salem State University, an HBCU in North Carolina, was only in San José del Cabo, Mexico, for a day before losing her life.
The people she went to Mexico with, whose names have not officially been released, claimed she died of alcohol poisoning. But, in early November, videos surfaced on the internet of her being beaten while she was naked. A voice in the background can be heard saying, "Quella, can you at least fight back?"
Her death is being investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation and prosecutors in Mexico, who have put out an arrest warrant for femicide, or gender-based homicide, CNN reported.
What is femicide?
"Femicide differs from other forms of murder because it is the gender-related killing of a woman only because she is a woman," Ivana Milovanović, a Serbian judge, explained to UN Women.
"This indicates that the root causes of femicide differ from other types of murder and are related to the general position of women in the society, discrimination against women, gender roles, unequal distribution of power between men and women, habitual gender stereotypes, prejudices and violence against women."
The vast majority of countries do not differentiate between femicide and homicide — and the US is one of those countries. In an effort to curb gender-based violence, activists across the globe — including in Canada and Latin American countries — are pushing governments to recognize femicide as a crime apart from homicide.
Female homicide in Mexico can be considered femicide when there is "evidence of sexual violence prior to the victim's death; a sentimental, affective or trusting relationship with the perpetrator; and the victim's body being displayed in public," according to the Vision of Humanity Organization website.
According to the World Health Organization, "most cases of femicide are committed by partners or ex-partners, and involve ongoing abuse in the home, threats or intimidation, sexual violence or situations where women have less power or fewer resources than their partner."
It's unclear what exactly prompted the attorney general in Baja California Sur to investigate Robinson's death as femicide.
Daniel de la Rosa Anaya, the attorney general for the state of Baja California Sur, said the fight "wasn't a quarrel, but instead a direct aggression."
"It's about two Americans, the victim and the culprit," he added.
If investigators find that Robinson's death does not fit into the femicide category, it will then be re-categorized as a homicide, according to The Daily Beast.
While femicide is acknowledged in Mexico, the country still struggles with gender-based violence. In 2021, at least 10 women were killed daily, according to Amnesty International in 2021.
"If you commit a crime of femicide, there's really not that much of a chance for you to get convicted for it. And that's one of the reasons why we see that rates are still very, very high," Beatriz García Nice, the project lead for Wilson Center's initiative on gender-based violence, told CNN.
"She had a kind heart. She loved life and loved people," Robinson's mother, Salamondra, told The Washington Post.
Salamondra said that the false claim of Robinson having alcohol poisoning was eyebrow-raising. "Even though a month has passed, I don't know anything about how my daughter died," she added.
"There's a whole lot of unanswered questions in my mind about her death," Robinson's father, Bernard, told the Post. "I just want justice for my daughter. She was my only child."
The FBI declined to provide further comment to Insider since the investigation is ongoing. The attorney general in Baja California Sur, Mexico, and the family of Robinson did not immediately respond to Insider's request for comment.
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