From now on I shall be publishing the monthly press releases of Justicia para Nuestras Hijas (Justice For Our Daughters), an NGO based in Chihuahua City, Chihuahua. The organization is run by a group of parents whose daughters have gone missing or been killed in the state of Chihuahua. It was founded in 2002 and works to find those missing, while campaigning for the efficient investigation and prosecution of crimes of violence against women. The statements are available on their website; however, as I translate these documents, I thought that including them on my blog would aid their diffusion.
In this first post, I include releases I have on archive (October 2011 to January 2012). In subsequent posts I shall publish each statement as and when they are released.
PRESS RELEASE OCTOBER 2011
Chihuahua, Chihuahua State, Mexico 25 November 2011
What is “gender perspective”?
323 femicides between January and November 2011
219 women have disappeared between 1994 and 2011
Understanding “gender perspective” can help us comprehend how men can be violent to women. Violence that could be almost imperceptible ill-treatment, like ignoring her or “giving her the silent treatment” as it is called colloquially, or could be extreme as killing her.
“Gender perspective” is a position or point of view that allows us to see how men and women develop within society in a wide panorama.
Humans have been classified by their natural characteristics, like their sex, which refers to their male or female biology. However, it has often been assumed that the different and sometimes opposing ways in which men and women behave, feel and think are natural. That is to say that a man is expected to be independent, strong, dominant, aggressive and self-assured; he doesn’t get carried away by his emotions; he undertakes most of his activities in public, etc. Meeting those expectations would therefore confirm his masculine gender. In the case of the feminine gender it is expected that she will be dependent (on her father, brothers or partner), sensitive, submissive, caring and helpful and that she will undertake most of her activities in private (at home), etc. Even so, it has been shown that –independent of biological sex– humans have the capacity or can develop the ability to undertake activities apparently opposed to their sex. As a result, it has been claimed that gender roles, far from being natural, are socially constructed by the culture in which we live.
The arbitrary assignation of these gender roles and their rigid and inflexible application has given the male gender superiority over the female. As a result, it limits women to such an extent that it puts her at a disadvantage. Women are less capable of doing things, that’s to say, that have less power to control a situation and obviously, less power over themselves. An organization has been established in which gender-based differences are used to justify undervaluing women. She is placed in an unequal position, she is inferior and subordinate.
The above explains, then, the context of the discrimination in which the female gender has been historically placed. The figures relating to violence against women show this; in Chihuahua 8 out of 10 women have suffered some kind of violence (Institute for Women in Chiuhuahua, 2008). It is evident how physical, emotional and economic violence in private and in public is used to control and keep women under masculine hegemony.
Thus, using “gender perspective” allows us to make visible how the female gender has been historically -and still is today- in a position of inferiority. This position allows us to recognize that our biological differences should not justify inequality between genders, and stop us naturalizing and normalizing violence against women.
For this reason, gender perspective is important to permit us to avoid the types of violence that could end up with fatal consequences, like the murder of women.
The number of women murdered in the state of Chihuahua carries on rising: between January and November of this year, there have been 233 violent homicides of women, according to our daily study of newspapers. Moreover, 219 women have gone missing since 1994 to the present (FGECHI, 2011).
For more information telephone: +52 (614) 413-33-55
Web Page consulted:
FGECH, http://fiscalia.chihuahua.gob.mx/; Mujeres, niños y niñas extraviados; consulted on 15 November 2011
PRESS RELEASE DECEMBER 2011
What should you do if a woman or girl disappears?
There have been 342 femicides in Chihuahua state so far this year
There are 207 active reports of women and girls going missing so far in 2011
It is well known that in our state of Chihuahua the disappearance of women is everyday news. Since January this year there have been 207 reports of women going missing according to the Chihuahua State Prosecutor’s Office. It is for this reason that the actions taken during the first 24 hours that a woman or girl has gone missing –for example, not arrived home from school, work or a meeting after her workday is done– are crucial when looking for her. In this statement Justicia para Nuestras Hijas would like to make public a guide to taking action that could help the prompt localization of a lost loved one:
The first thing that you should do when a woman or girl has disappeared is go to place a report at the “Unidad Especializada de Personas Ausentes o Extraviadas” (Special Unit for Missing or Lost Persons), which is located between street 25 and Teófilo Borunda street in Chihuahua City, Chihuahua. Here you will deal with a functionary of the Prosecutor’s Office (known as the Ministerio Público or MP), who will make the report. The report should contain basic details, such as:
The full name of the missing person, their age, physical characteristics (hair, eye and skin color, complexion, height, etc.), as well as any distinguishing marks they might have, like a mole or a scar. Try to remember what the person was wearing the last time you saw her.
A photo of the missing person to leave with the Prosecutor’s Office for use in their report (this should be distributed immediately to bus stations, toll booths, airports etc.).
You should also say where the person was last seen and her cellular phone number, if she was carrying one. This last detail is very important, as it can be used to locate the missing person, as will be explained in step 4.
You must inform the Prosecutor’s Office about the people the missing person generally associated with, where she liked to go etc. If she is still at school, you should mention the school, the names of her teachers, classmates and friends. If she works, you should mention the names of her coworkers. In fact, you should try and give all the names, telephone numbers and addresses of the people she was with just before she went missing. You should ask the Prosecutor’s Office that these people be interviewed immediately. Any detail of her disappearance, however minor or vague it might seem, should be made known to the authorities, as they can be very important in helping localize the missing person.
This is what the initial report contains. The person who makes the report should be given a copy and it is important to note the folder number –which should be a two digit number- and the year in which the report is being made. It is also imperative to note the name of the functionary who took down the report and to immediately obtain an asignación de la unidad; that is to say, that the case be referred to a team of two ministerial police who will take charge of the investigation. You should be given their names and contact details, including the telephone number of the Prosecutor’s Office and the policemen’s extension numbers so you can get in touch with them). After this, these two agents should get in contact with the person making the report as soon as possible, in one or two hours at most. If this doesn’t happen you have the right to telephone them to ask them to take action to investigate the case.
As has already been mentioned, the cellular telephone number is very important as it can be used to find the missing person’s approximate location. In order for this to be done, you must insist that the cellular phones’ antenna is located. This information can ascertain the whereabouts of the person, or if she has already left town. Another thing you should ask for is that the persons’ cell phone records be analyzed right up until the day she went missing. This can provide valuable information about who she was in contact with and unknown numbers can be traced by the Police Investigation Unit to find out who they belong to. Once this information is known, it might be possible to find out who else the person was in contact with and establish a network of contacts which can help determine the direction of the investigation.
Another recourse you can ask for is the Alba Protocol, although this is not very well established in Chihuahua. This Protocol requires that all relevant bodies be put on alert to look for the missing person.
You should maintain uninterrupted dialogue with the investigative police. Make sure that you get documentary evidence of all that you ask for. This way you can keep track of what has or has not been done, demand that something is done, or complain if it was done badly.
It is thought that if these basic steps are followed between the first three or six hours that a person is missing, many women and young girls will be immediately found. This way many of the femicides, which often begin with the kidnapping of a woman or girl can be avoided. Sadly this year (up until 13 December) Justicia para Nuestras Hijas has already counted 342 violent murders of women in our State.
For more information, please contact: tel. +52 (614) 413-33-55
PRESS RELEASE JANUARY 2012
Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, Mexico 17 February 2012
In response to pression from Human Rights Organizations and a recommendation from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (Report 87/10: Case: Caso Paloma Angélica Escobar Ledezma and others) the Mexican government creates the Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Attention of Women Victims of Crimes Relating to Their Gender (Fiscalía Especializada en Atención a Mujeres Víctimas de Delito por Razones de Género)
17 February 2010. Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, Mexico. – As a consequence of several recommendations from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, on 7 February this year, the Special Prosecutor’s Office for the Attention of Women Victims of Crimes Relating to Gender (Fiscalía Especializada en Atención a Mujeres Víctimas de Delito por Razones de Género) was created. The recommendations came in a case presented to the Court by Justicia para Nuestras Hijas and other organizations in relation to Paloma Angélica Escobar Ledezma, who disappeared on 2 March 2002, and whose dead body was found 27 days later on the highway between Chihuahua City and Aldama.
Norma Ledezma, Paloma’s mother and coordinator of Justicia para Nuestras Hijas, stated that “the new prosecutor’s office faces the challenge of reducing the rates of impunity surrounding gender crimes and [must] resolve the –at least- 16 murders of women in the State of Chihuahua that our organization has documented during the first month of this year alone. Moreover, [it must resolve] the hundreds of femicides that have been registered in previous years, including that of my daughter.”
The Special Prosecutor’s Office principal remit is to investigate the cases of women who were murdered because of their gender (“femicide”); situations that attack women’s liberty and their sexuality; as well as domestic violence, amongst other things.
Justicia para Nuestras Hijas will monitor and closely follow the work of this new Prosecutor’s Office in order to analyze its efficiency in the light of the fact that violence against women remains alarming. During the first month of this year, a woman was murdered in State of Chihuahua every two days.
For more information contact: Tel. +52 (614) 413-33-55