St. Lawrence University
Torri Lonergan, St. Lawrence University Class of 2020
May 29, 2019


Like many women across the globe, Costa Rican women are currently engaged in an impassioned battle for gender equality.  One of the primary gender issues raised by Costa Rican feminists is the prevalence of femicide, or the killing of women as a result of their gender. Some victims of femicide are murdered by current or former romantic partners, while others are sexually assaulted and killed by complete strangers. Since 2007, 344 deaths have been classified as femicides in Costa Rica, including 24 in 2018 and seven in 2019, as of May 6.

By recognizing, recording, and highly publicizing femicides, Costa Rica has taken a progressive and proactive approach to ending femicide in comparison to many countries. For example, in the United States the federal government does not collect data regarding the prevalence of femicide, despite the fact that it’s a large problem here as well. Woman Count USA, a private femicide census run by Dawn Wilcox, identified over 1,700 cases of femicide in the United States in 2018, and the list is far from complete.

While femicide is much more commonly discussed in Costa Rica than in the United States, it isn’t always discussed in the most productive way. The prevalence of femicide in Costa Rica directly contradicts the country’s pura vida identity, and as a result some Costa Ricans attempt to shift the blame elsewhere. Pura vida, which directly translates to “pure life,” is an incredibly common Costa Rican expression. While it can mean countless things, on a national level it refers to the idea that Costa Rica is a relaxed, peaceful, happy, and carefree country. In many respects Costa Rica illustrates pura vida. The country has no military and no history of mass shooting, for example. However, Costa Rica is not pura vida when it comes to gender violence.  Rather than acknowledging the issue, some Costa Ricans blame the femicide crisis on Nicaraguan immigrants or on the victims themselves. In reality, the vast majority of femicides are committed by Costa Rican men, and regardless of what they were wearing, their sobriety, and what time of night it was, women should not be blamed for their own murders.

In addition to eliminating femicide, many Costa Rican women are also interested in ending sexual assault and domestic violence in general and in legalizing abortion. Because many Costa Ricans identify as Catholic or Evangelical, granting women access to safe and legal abortions is a long and difficult process.