Family violence against girls rising in Mexico - UNICEF

By Oscar Lopez

MEXICO CITY, July 11 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Violence against girls in Mexico by members of their own family has increased sharply in recent years, rising by nearly a third from 2010 to 2014 alone, a UNICEF report said on Thursday.

Girls suffer far more violence, rape, harassment and abuse at home than boys in Mexico, said Christian Skoog, a representative for UNICEF, the United Nations's children's agency, in Mexico.

UNICEF's report on violence against Mexican children found some 18,000 girls had suffered family abuse in 2010, but by 2014 the number jumped to about 24,000.

About one in five girls ages 15 to 17 - almost 700,000 young women - experienced some form of family violence in 2015, the report said.

"The situation of violence is alarming," Skoog told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

In Mexico, a conservative Catholic country where machismo reigns and traditional concepts of gender are deeply entrenched, violence against women and girls is an ongoing problem.

More than 1,100 women were murdered in Mexico from January through May this year, according to government figures, with nearly 370 killed by men because of their gender.

Skoog said changing cultural attitudes was essential to combat the rising tide of gender-based violence.

"In a more equal society with less gender differences, gender violence decreases," he said. “We can reduce (violence) a lot if we change these cultural patterns."

Impunity, he added, is also an ongoing problem.

According to REDIM, a collective of children’s advocacy groups, 99 percent of crimes against children investigated by the state do not result in a sentence.

The result is an incentive "to do whatever you want with a boy or a girl, and nothing is going to happen,” said Juan Martín Perez Garcia, REDIM's executive director.

UNICEF said the most common form of abuse was emotional, followed by physical and financial abuse, while almost 2% of young girls suffered some form of sexual violence in the family.

It also said about 60% of the more than 5,000 children missing in Mexico were girls or young women.

Violence in Mexico, where more than 200,000 people have been murdered in cartel-fueled violence since former President Felipe Calderon set out to tackle drug trafficking in 2006, often impacts children and girls in particular.

UNICEF found nearly 1,500 children were killed in 2017, compared to just over 1,100 the previous year - an average of four each day.

"We're in the middle of a human rights crisis," said Perez Garcia.

(Reporting by Oscar Lopez, Editing by Chris Michaud