A new study presented to the UN sustains that the Mexican government is an accomplice in violence against women in Mexico
During 2010 and 2011, more than 1,300 women were killed in Mexico and more than 3,000 went missing, according to statistics by the Observatorio Nacional del Feminicidio (National Observatory of Women’s Murders).
Only in Mexico City, there are more than 10,000 cases of domestic violence a year, taken care of in local hospitals and other healthcare facilities, in which a woman or a girl is the victim.
A new independent study conducted by seven non-profit organizations and presented at the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), blames the Mexican government for not complying with the organization’s guidelines and requirements.
At CEDAW, a panel of 23 independent experts addresses the issue of violence against women through reports received by participant nations, and assists them in implementing their treaty obligations to protect and promote women’s rights. The committee has been active since 1982.
But the panel is also open to analyzing and considering independent studies that address the issue, in contrast with the reports presented by government officials. This particular new independent study researched the impact that the war on drugs conducted by the Mexican government through its military forces has had on women, and the resulting illegal women and girls’ trafficking that surrounds the world of drug cartels.
According to the organizations signing the report, the Mexican government has not guaranteed easy access to justice for women who must overcome complex legal and procedural obstacles after they have been victims of discrimination and domestic violence.
The organizations sustain that violence against women has worsened instead of improving since 2005, due in part to the gap in job opportunities, the salary discrimination and social conflict resulting from the war on drugs, which in turn increases the gender gap and limits the opportunity for women to be independent.
The organizations also sustain that not only is discrimination blatant toward Mexican women but also their access to and fair treatment in the justice system is failing. Among 35 cases analyzed between 2003 and 2012 within the National Observatory of Women’s Murders initiative, multiple cases of discrimination among judges, use of stereotypes and lack of compliance with international standards in human rights were found.
The monitoring organization sustains that impunity and leniency in the way the justice system conducts these cases has increased the crime rate against women and girls in several states in Mexico, such as Chiapas (1485 women murdered between 200 and 2004) and Veracruz (1494 in the same period).
In Chiapas, for instance, which is ranked the seventh most violent state in Mexico, 48.2 percent of women 15 years and older have suffered some sort of violence in their family, from her spouse or boyfriend, from the community, the school, or through work, and 24.1 percent have suffered sexual abuse, sexual harassment or rape.
Especially in cases of rape, the report sustains, women’s testimony is not taken into consideration, and there are procedural flaws in the way the police investigation is conducted or in the way the victim is protected.
The “shadow report”, as called for being opposed to the government’s official statement, also identifies the lack of vigilance and monitoring mechanisms that comply with the 2007 Women’s General Access to a Violence-free Life Act.
Although programs and initiatives exist, the report says, many lack an effective system of evaluation and measurement, which would entail monitoring and follow up of results and the impact on the Mexican female population.
The report’s main goal is to obtain more drastic recommendations from the CEDAW that would force the Mexican government to take action.
National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) published statistics on domestic violence against women in Mexico to participate in the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women. The statistics are conservative, dealing with domestic violence and discrimination at work and not with the widespread insecurity women and girls live with on the streets of Mexico at the hands of criminal organizations, the military and the police.
Nevertheless, the INEGI statistics are very telling regarding the grave problem that this country is living with, while trying to protect women and girls at home and in the workplace. The INEGI, in partnership with the National Survey on the Dynamic of Domestic Relationships (ENDIREH-2011) interviewed 152,636 women, ages 15 years old and up, living in matrimony or partnership. Women in Mexico suffer discrimination in the workplace and violence at home. The economic crisis in Mexico, poverty, and lack of opportunities are all factors that undoubtedly affect the family, and especially women and children who are more vulnerable to violence. The INEGI reported that almost half of the women in Mexico have experienced different forms of violence, such as emotional (the most frequent), physical (battery), sexual violence, and discrimination at work. The study highlights that women suffer violence at least on one occasion at the hands of their partners or husbands during their life together (44.8%).
Women in Mexico marry very young. 30 in 100 women married or had a partner before 18 years old. 10% of the women who had previous marriages or partners suffered more serious violence at the hands of their partners. Only a quarter of these women reported their partners to the police. 26.6% of working women have suffered discrimination at work, and they are paid less than their male counterparts. 15.6% of the women interviewed were asked to take a pregnancy test in order to be hired or to continue working for their employer, while 3.4% have been fired, paid less, or were not retained in their current job as a result of pregnancy.
Briefly, the report mentions that in Sinaloa, a northern state of Mexico that has faced serious problems of drug cartel violence and confrontations with security forces, female homicides have increased from less than 1 in 2006, to 16.4 for every 100,000 in 2010.
Violence against women has a cultural, educational and a social background. Violence in Mexico is not only structural, caused by unjust social, educational, economic, and political systems that prevents the full potential of women, but also interpersonal, with family members and relations at work. Violence against women is institutional; for example, violence against women perpetrated in the justice system and by security forces. Violation of human rights against women, especially of women in poverty and indigenous women occur frequently in the prison system in Mexico.
In urban, and more frequently in rural areas, many Mexican families still educate women to stay in the home or they are given less opportunity to pursue an education, leaving fewer options for their development. Many men in Mexico have not been able to depart from their macho behavior and expect women to serve them. They feel threatened by women who have an education and are independent economically. They resort to violence against women as a way to show their superiority and their macho pride by controlling and manipulating women. Psychological, emotional and physical damage is inflicted when the partner attempts to blackmail a woman by using the wellbeing of her children or adultery as weapons. Some men believe that if a woman has had previous relationships with men she deserve less respect and is fair game for all manner of abuse. In some urban and rural communities in Mexico, women are treated as objects, where chastity and the defense of a man`s honor are more important than women's dignity and humanity.
Machismo is learned at home and perpetuated by mothers who give preferential treatment to their sons while their daughters are obligated to serve the men of the family and take care of their younger brothers and sisters, perpetuating stereotypes and behaviors that are deleterious for women and children. The lack of opportunities and economic empowerment pushes women to depend economically on their abusive partners perpetuating patterns of violence. Only through education, prevention of violence, and public awareness of the problem can women develop their full potential.
Mexico has a serious problem of impunity and lack of enforcement of the law to protect the rights of women, and to prevent violence. While Mexico has made reforms to protect women from discrimination at work and by providing women’s organizations to protect their rights, the criminal justice system in Mexico is dysfunctional and inefficient with impunity more the rule than the exception. Impunity is an incentive and the revolving door for violence and discrimination against women.
In Mexico, people do not trust the police. This is the reason that violence against women goes underreported. Corruption of the police and the violations of human rights against civilians by the security forces have eroded their credibility and deter women from denouncing their assailants. The Health Secretary of Mexico estimates that one rape occurs in Mexico every 4 minutes, approximately 120 thousand rapes every year. 65% of the rapes target girls and women aged 10 to 20 years. 70% of the rapes occur in their social and family surroundings. Some families at times blame the women for the rape. Thus, young women and girls go through the trauma of the sexual assault alone, without psychological and medical support.
The case of 16 year old, Rubí Escobedo, whose partner, Sergio Barraza Bocanegra, a violent drug cartel member, confessed to her killing in 2008, and was released by the incompetent judicial system, is just one of the many cases where violence against women in Mexico goes unpunished. Finally, because of the local and international public uproar, the justice system revisited this case, giving Barraza a sentence of 50 years in jail. However, Barraza remained at large, until he was killed last week in a confrontation with security forces. Rubí’s mother, Marisela Escobedo was assassinated in December, 2010, by a member of the drug cartel in connection with Barraza, while protesting for the inefficient criminal justice system and the indifference of the authorities that put the killer of her daughter out on the streets.
The war on drugs in Mexico, according to Human Rights Watch and International Amnesty (Mexico, Annual Report 2012), has created conditions of insecurity in Mexico, where women and girls are more vulnerable to violence. Violence against women is not only domestic, but is also perpetrated by some elements of the Mexican police, the army and criminal groups.
The insane war on drugs in Mexico is financed in part by the Merida Initiative, a US-Mexico agreement that gives economic resources ($450 million), and technical support to the Mexican government to combat organized crime. The U.S. government has given, during this administration, economic resources to Mexico despite a corrupt and inactive criminal justice system and the flagrant violations of human rights of civilians, perpetrated by the security forces confrontations with drug cartels.
More than 50,000 men, women and children, a majority civilian, not related with drug trafficking have been killed and 200 thousand have been displaced by the violent confrontations of security forces and drug cartels or displaced by the army from their homes and their properties. Yet, despite of the war on drugs policy’s failures and one of the greatest tragedies of widespread human rights violations in Mexico, the U.S., and Mexican governments stubbornly continue enforcing this policy. The target of drug dealers is to pass their drugs to their principal market, the United States. Regretfully, the battleground is Mexico; yet, the goal has to be to stop the distribution of drugs and the voracious consumption of drugs in the United States.
The U.S. Congress and the Bush and Obama administrations failed to create policies whose target should be to prevent the consumption of drugs in the United States, find the people responsible of distributing drugs on American soil, secure the border and enforce the law. Even, when cartels have been combated, others arise. Smaller drug cartels are creating more violence, insecurity and crime in the streets of Mexico and US-Mexico border, such as kidnappings and human trafficking of children and women for prostitution to finance their operations.
The Washington Post cited Teresa Ulloa, the regional director of the Coalition Against Trafficking in Women and Girls in Latin America and the Caribbean, who said that human trafficking "is growing because of poverty, because the cartels have gotten involved and because no one tells them no." Ulloa added: “We are fighting so that their lives and their bodies are not merchandise.”As long as the insatiable consumption of drugs continue in the U.S., the illegal businesses of drug cartels and the violence against American citizens in the border, and Mexicans in all the Mexican territory is likely to continue.
According to International Amnesty Mexican authorities have failed to provide justice, and to investigate the cases of hundreds of women and girls assassinated since 1993 in Ciudad Juarez, a border crossing city in the state of Chihuahua and the main battleground of drug cartels and the military. The Mexican government and the different governments of the State of Chihuahua have failed to prevent crime and improve the safety of women and girls. The Governor of Chihuahua César Duarte Jáquez said that the cases of Marisela Escobedo and her daughter Rubí were closed. Yet, the international outrage for how the cases of Rubí and her mother Marisela were handle and for the hundreds of women killed in Ciudad Juarez whose cases were not investigated and punished denying justice to their relatives persists.