What is femicide? Shanquella Robinson’s death in Mexico treated as such

Bruno Cooke November 25, 2022
What is femicide? Shanquella Robinson’s death in Mexico treated as such
Photo by CLAUDIO CRUZ/AFP via Getty Images

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Investigations have been ongoing since the death in Cabo, Mexico, of Shanquella Robinson, a braider and business owner from Charlotte, North Carolina. An arrest warrant has now been issued for the crime of femicide – but what does the term mean?

ABC News reports a prosecutor confirmed the issuance of an arrest warrant on Wednesday (November 23, 2022). 

“This case is fully clarified,” local prosecutor Daniel de la Rosa Anaya said. “We even have a court order, there is an arrest warrant issued for the crime of femicide.”

De la Rosa Anaya didn’t name any names but, to better understand the meaning of the arrest warrant, it pays to understand the precise meaning of the word “femicide.”

Studying Geography – Photograph of Mexico on retro globe. Downloaded from Getty Images Creative.

What is ‘femicide’? Arrest warrant issued after Shanquella Robinson’s death in Mexico

Simply put, femicide – or feminicide – is the murder of women because they are women. Inherent to its meaning is the fact of the victim’s gender. There are, however, multiple definitions. Exactly what it means can depend on context.

For example, feminist author Diana E H Russell first defined the term in 1976 as “the killing of females by males because they are female.” The phrase had come up much earlier, in 1801, but Russell was the first to grapple earnestly with it.

The European Institute For Gender Equality adds that femicide can take many forms, including intimate partner violence; honour killings; dowry-related killings of women; and female infanticide and gender-based foeticide.

Some definitions, according to Women’s Aid, also include all murders of women or girls. 

What does it mean that Shanquella Robinson’s death is being treated as femicide?

“There is an arrest warrant issued for the crime of femicide,” Baja California Sur local prosecutor Daniel de la Rosa Anaya said, as quoted by ABC News, “to the detriment of the victim and against an alleged perpetrator, a friend of hers who is the direct aggressor.”

De la Rosa explained further: “Actually it wasn’t a quarrel but instead a direct aggression. We are carrying out all the pertinent procedures such as the Interpol alert and the request for extradition to the United States of America. It’s about two Americans, the victim and the culprit.”

The meaning of the word “femicide” in the context of Shanquella Robinson’s death in Mexico is, therefore, according to prosecutor de la Rosa Anaya, that she died as a result of “direct aggression” rather than following a “quarrel.”

TikTok video upload from Jan 18, 2022 | TikTok user its.quella (Shanquella Robinson)

For Shanquella’s mother, Salamondra Robinson, the femicide ruling means a lot. She told ABC News it’s what she had been “waiting for.”

“That’s what we have been waiting for,” she said. “For someone to finally be held accountable and arrested. I just can’t wait for justice to be served.”

What are femicide statistics like for Mexico as a nation?

In 2010, the United Nations published a report on violence against women. It found Mexico had a “relatively high” level of violence against women.

In 2017, Mexico’s own National Institute Of Statistics and Geography found about two-thirds of all women aged 15 or above had experienced some kind of violence in their lives.

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UN Women, UNiTE To End Violence Against Women, and the Office Of The United Nations High Commissioner For Human Rights all use the following definition for the meaning of femicide: “The violent death of women for reasons of gender.”

In 2016, Mexico had a rate of 4.6 femicides per 100,000 women; in 2019, the Mexican government recorded more than 1,000 incidents of femicide, a 10 per cent increase from the previous year. 

What was Shanquella’s cause of death?

There are many parts to an investigation. That Shanquella Robinson’s death in Mexico is being treated as femicide is a significant step from a legal perspective.

But it’s also significant that recent reports reveal her death certificate lists “severe spinal cord injury and atlas luxation” as her cause of death.

Photo by CLAUDIO CRUZ/AFP via Getty Images

In short, atlas luxation refers to a situation where the top vertebra in an individual’s spine is not where it should be. Luxation has to do with dislodging, while the atlas is the name of the uppermost cervical vertebra.

ABC News reported yesterday that Mexican authorities had revealed something else about her death. Before authorities arrived, the outlet reports, Robinson “received care from a medical professional for several hours.”

The medical professional at the scene reportedly told Robinson’s friends to take her to a hospital.

If you or someone you know is dealing with domestic abuse, you can call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1−800−799−7233. You can also find more information, resources, and support at their website. For the UK, you can visit the Refuge website here, or Women’s Aid.

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Bruno is a novelist, amateur screenwriter and journalist with interests in digital media, storytelling, film and politics. He’s lived in France, China, Sri Lanka and the Philippines, but returned to the UK for a degree (and because of the pandemic) in 2020. His articles have appeared in Groundviews, Forge Press and The Friday Poem, and most are readable on Medium or onurbicycle.com.