Women in El Salvador are scurrying to local salons to dye their hair dark after rumors began to spread across the Central American country that blondes and redheads who are not the girlfriends of gang members could be murdered.
Though gangs have issued a statement denying the rumor, women, who are reporting that the gossip is true, are taking precaution.
"You don't wait for clarifications," Maria Jose Estrada, a former blonde who lives on the outskirts of San Salvador, told the AP. "These people are crazy and they will kill you."
Claudia Castellanos, a beautician, added that her upscale salon has already serviced several women asking for a darker hair color.
The women say they are also banned from dressing in red and yellow clothing.
"Can you believe it? They've already attacked a woman on a bus for wearing yellow," Castellanos said.
According to the Daily Mail Online, El Salvador has experienced one of the most violent months since the end of the civil war in 1992. In May, the country with a population of just 6 million people reported 635 homicides, and that number is expected to increase for June.
Women are prime targets for brutal murders. El Salvador has the highest rate of femicide, killing women because of their gender, in the world, and the rate of these murders are sadly also growing. In 2000, El Salvador reported 200 femicides, and in 2011, that number reached 600.
The murders are so widespread that the New York Daily News reported in 2014 that residents have become inured to the deaths, with bloodied, lifeless female bodies on El Salvador’s streets causing little to no reaction.
To prove this point, performance artist Denisse Reyes pretended to be dead on a San Salvador sidewalk. Wrapped in plastic near a gutter, only Reyes’ feet, dirty and bound at the ankles, were visible. Dozens of pedestrians, just inches away from her, walked by Reyes, some glanced at her, while others talked on their cellphones.
When policemen showed up, no one took Reyes’ pulse or called for an ambulance. Her "death," her would-be murder, was the norm.
Many officials blame the increase in violence on the breakdown of a truce between the government and gangs in 2013.