Preface: This is my first day of guest-blogging and I am looking forward to it a lot. I have done it before @ Feministe but this time it will be for longer and I am thankful to Jill for this opportunity. I’m a university student in a south-western town in England called Bristol but my origins lie in Dar-es-Salaam, Tanzania. I hope you enjoy my posts!
I watched a program about MS-13 (Mara Salvatrucha), one of the largest gangs in the entire world that is predominately based in the US and Central America. The programme discussed many issues about at the scope of violence that is involved in some spheres of the gang and even went to El Salvador to discover how the gang is spreading its’ influence in central America.
What struck me the most of the whole programme was the lone female name who was mentioned. Her name was Brenda Paz. She was a gang member and in exchange for leniency after being caught by the police for trying to steal a car, she decided to become a police informer. Unfortunately, her death was ordered by MS-13 and her own friends stabbed her to death. Brenda Paz was in the 5th month of her pregnancy at just 17. (One of the killers was interviewed and was remorseful).
It is a tragic and sad story – the underlying question I have from this is do you think that gangs exist because it is society-at-large’s fault or do individuals essentially know what they are doing and effectively are marking themselves for life? According to this Reader’s Digest article, Paz was 12 when she dropped out of school and became part of the gang.
I wondered why she and many other young girls would be drawn into being in a gang. Is it the security, reputation…or the power of being affliated gangs?
Another story from the Reader’s Digest article hints at the female experience within a male-dominated gang:
At 14, she was “jumped in” by four older MS-13 members, who pounded her mercilessly for 13 seconds. When it was over, she felt like she finally belonged. “They’re like your brothers,” she says of her posse. “They take good care of you.”
In my opinion, the symbolism of her beating (besides the fact that it is an initiation ritual) has to do with male force being exerted over a female body, thus “crushing” the stereotypical view that a man should never hit a woman. Her gender and the image of her as a woman is punched and essentially given a K.O. Where does it leave her? Does it make her a “boy” like the rest of MS-13? I am not sure but I think it just goes to show not only how brutal initiation rites such as this are but how much people want to feel part of a group and be liked.
One of the more harrowing factors of gang initiation in MS-13 according to the RD article include “New female members may be “sexed in” — gang-raped by as many as half a dozen men.”
Another report noted that female gang members also feared violence and sexual abuse from members of their own gang, the study said. a 16-year-old told the interviewer of having to dance scantily clad on tables, make Playboy-type videos, perform oral sex in front of other gang members, and have sexual intercourse on demand.
Asked if it was humiliating, she replied: “It is, but it comes with the show.”
This article notes of the Spider Girl gang in Chile and how even though 2 members were heavily pregnant, they still continued one of their main activities of burglaring. The fact that they were pregnant is a trend that I have noticed while reading up on articles about girl members in gangs: many have/had children. Does that hint to a desire to create their own families and avenues for giving and receiving love or am I reading too much into it?
It looks like a losing battle. Gangs are a worldwide phenomenon, not unique to the Americas or Europe. They are spreading. What does everyone think?
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