Hiding Under the Bed Is Not the Answer

Mexico Before CEDAW: A Catalogue of Woes

The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination and Violence Against Women (or CEDAW) was established in 1982 and is composed of 23 experts on women’s issues. The objective of the committee is to watch over the situation of women in those countries that signed the 1979 Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women. Each country periodically presents a report to the committee which is then discussed by the committee. NGOs and human rights groups can also present a review of the situation to the committee. The committee then draws up recommendations based on this discussion.

This year the countries presenting reports to the CEDAW include the Bahamas, Bulgaria, Guayana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand and Samoa. Mexico’s report was presented and discussed this week. Various national and international NGOs also submitted evaluations to CEDAW, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, World Organization Against Torture, Mexico’s Commission for Human Rights, Justice for Our Daughters and Centre for Women’s Rights in Chiapas.

The papers submitted by human rights organizations make for depressing reading. In general they highlight a series of issues which make life for women in Mexico –especially poor and/or indigenous women– extremely fraught with danger. In the coming weeks I shall look into the issues in more detail. However, this week I want to provide a general overview.

Killing of women: In November 2011 a joint report by Mexico’s government and UNIFEM concluded that at least 34, 000 women had been murdered in Mexico between 1985-2009. It also demonstrated that there had been a marked fall in the murder rate amongst men after 2007, but that the equivalent rate for women had stayed the same. Murder rates for both sexes have increased dramatically since then, partly as a result of the insecurity and violence created by the crackdown on drug gangs. In 2010 it is estimated that there were 2, 418 murders of women and 23, 285 murders of men.

Amnesty notes that murders of women however are frequently undocumented and that there is a routine failure to conduct autopsies. It also points to the fact that the manner in which murders of women are documented make it impossible to determine the rate with which women murderers are arrested and prosecuted.

Amnesty also highlights the brutality in which women are murdered and concludes that violence against them is very frequently of a misogynistic nature:

“Women are three times more likely than men to die by the cruelest means, such as hanging, strangulation, drowning, immersion and knives. Women are also three times more likely to be murdered by poisoning or burns with chemicals or fire.”

Abuse of migrant women: Tens of thousands of irregular migrants from Central America cross Mexico each year on their way to the US. They are regularly targeted by criminal gangs for kidnapping, extortion, trafficking and murder often with the full complicity of the police. In 2011, the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights found that some 11, 000 migrants had been kidnapped. Amnesty estimated that at least six of every ten migrant women are sexually assaulted during their passage through Mexico.

Imprisonment of women: Approximately 5% of Mexico’s prison population is female. However only 13 out of 455 prisons, 2.8%, are exclusively female, the rest are mixed. In a study of 92 mixed prisons it was found that in 22 women’s dormitories were inside male facilities and the inmates used shared facilities.

Women form a disproportionate number of remand prisoners. The great majority of them are between 18 and 37, usually mothers and often single parents. More than 85% are first time offenders and 65% are accused of crimes related to drugs, usually relating to the possession of small amounts of prohibited sustances.

Women are often badly treated and tortured during their arrest and imprisonment. The World Organization Against Torture highlights the case of a group of 47 women arrested for protesting in town of San Salvador Atenco in Mexico State in 2006. 26 later made formal complaints after they were raped and sexually assaulted by the police who transported them to prison. The report highlights the Mexican “state’s lack of will” to prosecute those involved.

Sexual and Reproductive Rights: Human Rights Watch and Amnesty point to the difficulty women have to obtain contraception and legal abortion. They emphasize how constitutional reforms passed in numerous Mexican states which guarantee life from conception have had the “chilling effect” of reinforcing barriers to legal abortion. Moreover, they highlight the wide-spread practice of arresting women after miscarriage and still birth on charges of foeticide or infanticide.

Maternal Mortality Amongst Indigenous Women: The risk of maternal death amongst indigenous women is considerably higher than amongst no-indigenous women. This is the result of inadequate or inaccessible health care facilities, discriminatory practices towards indigenous women by health care professionals and a lack of translators.

As might be expected, the Mexican government’s statement to CEDAW tried to paint a rather different picture of life for women in Mexico. It highlighted the advances in education amongst girls, for example raising primary school attendance from 94% to 96% and secondary school attendance from 75% to 86%. It also made much of recent constitutional reforms by which Mexico adopted the UN’s declaration of human rights. It also talked of government reforms to widen health-care provision; it mentioned family planning policies in passing but did not address the issue of abortion. Finally, it recognized the “violence against women is one of the biggest challenges faced by the actual administration”. However, it asked the Committee to take into account the context of violence in which Mexico currently lives in assessing this situation.

An edited version of this article is available on e-feminist.

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Filed under: Feminism, Human Rights in Mexico, Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas, Maternal Health, Violence Against Women, Women's Right to Choose, , , , , , , , , , , ,

Heart-Breaking Report from Chihuahua, Mexico by the NGO Justice for Our Daughters

This post is a report I recently translated for the NGO Justicia para Nuestras Hijas (Justice For Our Daughters). It makes for sad reading. It also should be prefixed with a trigger warning.

INFORMATION ABOUT VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN IN THE STATE OF CHIHUAHUA

The following pages outline some statistics about murder, sexual violence and disappearances which show the violent reality in which the women of the state of Chihuahua live. The information is taken from official sources, newspaper investigations and non-governmental organizations.

Murders of Women

Between 1993 to 2011 at least 1, 776 women and children have been violently murdered in the state of Chihuahua [1]. According to the Mexican Institute of Geography and Statistics (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía or INEGI), this region probably has the highest murder rate in the world for women, with 34.73 murders for every 100, 000 women [2].

Since 2008, the state of Chihuahua has the highest murder rate for women in Mexico [3]. There have been multiple recommendations from international organisations that the Mexican State guarantee the victims’ access to justice; that it take steps to punish those responsible; and, that it prevent these murders continuing. Despite this, the number of women murdered in 2009, 2010 and 2011 are unprecedented in the state’s history. In only one year (2011), more women have been murdered that in the whole of the previous decade [4].

While the government suggests that the increase in murders may be linked to the war it is undertaking against the drug traffickers in the region, three aspects of these murders worry local organizations. Firstly, the huge increase in the number of these crimes; secondly, the fact that none of these murders have been properly investigated; and thirdly, the obvious pattern and similarity between the crimes which suggest that they are the results of people trafficking. In February 2012 at least three bodies were recovered from a field in Praxexis Guerrero, in the state of Chihuahua.

  • Andrea Guerrero Venzor, 15 year old. Reported missing on 19 August 2010.
  • Jessica Leticia Peña García, 17 years old. Reported missing on 16 June 2010.
  • Lizbeth Aviles García, 17 years old. Reported missing 22 April 2009 [5].

In the case of these three missing girls, their mothers filed the required missing persons report, but the authorities failed to undertake their obligation to activate the Alba protocol or use another form of immediate search for the women and girls reported missing. This contravenes the Inter-American Court of Human Right’s order in this respect. From the girls’ files it is clear that the authorities did not undertake the search immediately or thoroughly. Quite the opposite, it is clear that they minimized the facts and limited themselves to writing the missing persons reports. As a result, the girls’ mothers carried out the search. In the field, the authorities have found various other bones but have been unable or unwilling to identify them.

Sexual violence

In the last four years, military presence has increased in the northern border and with it, every day dangers to the population. No measures have been implemented to reduce these risks, mostly in terms of abuse and the violation of women’s human rights. In April 2008, as a response to the increase in violence caused by organized crime in the region, the national government set in motion Operation All Chihuahua (Operative Conjunto Chihuahua). This was a joint operation between the military, federal and state police. However, this did not help to quell the violence. Statistical evidence shows the relation between these types of mixed operations and the increase in murders in some regions of Mexico [6].

As part of these operations, the Federal Government sent 9, 000 federal police and soldiers to the state of Chihuahua. However, the state did not foresee the consequences for women of the military/police occupation. According to official data, between March 2009 and April 2010, there were 1, 017 reports of abuse against the police and soldiers in Ciudad Juarez; that is to say three per day. Nearly half of these (445) were filed by women.

Just like the murder rate, sexual violence has incremented considerably. In 2011 alone, 698 people reported being the victims of sexual violence in the State, 598 were women; the majority of which (399), were younger than 17 years old [7]. Chihuahua is among the states with the highest rate of rape in Mexico. Between 2007 and 2011, an average of 727 reports of sexual violence were made each year. That is to say, two per day [8]. This figure could easily be other as a large number of victims do not report this type of crime for fear of being victimized once more or because of the high rate of impunity,

Disappeared Women

The number of women and girls who have disappeared in the state of Chihuahua has increased considerably. Many of these women are probably victims of people traffickers.

According to official figures obtained by local organisations, in 2011 alone, at least 91 women were reported missing (and remain missing today). Of these, 50 went missing in Ciudad Juarez. The graph shoes the drastic increase in the number of women reported missing in the State of Chihuahua and in Ciudad Juarez between 1993 and 2011. Of these women, 60% are minors. Girls between 13 and 17 make up the majority of cases [9]. Local NGOs believe that the women could be victims of people traffickers, deprived of their liberty for prolonged periods, and sexually assaulted before being murdered.

National Institutions Established to Help Female Victims of Violence

The creation of the National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women (Comisión Nactional para Prevenir y Erradicar la Violencia Contra Mujeres or CONAVIM) and the Special Prosecutor’s Office for Crimes of Violence Against Women and People Trafficking (Fiscalía Especial para los Delitos de Violencia contra las Mujeres y Trata de Personas or FEVIMTRA), set up to help those affected by violence resulting from their gender has not led to better strategies to reduce violence against women or improve access to justice for victims of these crimes. The scant diffusion of these institutions’ objectives and the lack of control mechanisms implemented to evaluate their performance and effectiveness is very worrying. On a local level, Justicia para Nuestras Hijas, has successfully lobbied for the creation of a special prosecutor’s office to deal with victims of gendered violence and femicide. However, NGOs are concerned that not enough resources are assigned to this office and their staff are not properly trained.

Penal Justice System

The State of Chihuahua was the first to change over to the accusatory system (oral trial system like that of the US) in 2007. Various NGOs participated in the drawing up of new legislation dealing with gendered violence and the inclusion of a number of articles designed to protect women’s and victims’ rights. This wide-ranging and unprecedented participation meant that Chihuahua has one of the most advanced laws on the subject of women’s human rights in Latin America. However, NGOs are worried by recently proposed laws that would go against this legislation and whose proposers exclude them from their discussion.

[1] Information obtained by Justicia para Nuestras Hijas (JPNH) through freedom of information requests and a daily revision of newspaper articles.

[2] INEGI. Mortality Statistics, 2000-2010. Figures are preliminary for 2010. As a reference point, the World Health Organization indicates that South Africa has the highest female murder rate with an indicator of 8.8 murders per 100, 000.

[3] INEGI. Mortality Statistics, 2000-2010. Figures are preliminary for 2010.

[4] Between 1993 and 2003, between 260 and 370 women were murdered. Inter-American Court for Human Rights. González and others vs. Mexico (“Campo Algodonero” or Cotton Field Case). Sentence of 16 November 2009. C Series no. 205.

[5] The dates quoted were published by the Chief Prosecuting Officer of the State of Chihuahua (Fiscalía General de Justicia del Estado de Chihuahua) in January 2012.

[6] Source: Fernando Escalante, “Homicidios 2008-2009. La muerte tiene permiso,” Nexos, January 2011. (The operations began in 2007).

[7] Information provided by Chihuahua’s Chief Prosecuting Officer in response to a freedom of information request filed by JPNH on 8 February 2012 (folio 005352012).

[8] Source: Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública.

[9]Information provided by Chihuahua’s Chief Prosecuting Officer. This information is provided due to an order by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.


Filed under: Human Rights in Mexico, Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas, Violence Against Women, , , , , , ,

Press Release Justice for our Daughters, February 2012

Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, Mexico

8th March 2012

Release 03/12

For its immediate circulation

  • Figures show at least 56 women have been murdered in Chihuahua in 2012
  • Young girls’ disappearances show evidence of worrying similarities.

8th March 2012. Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, Mexico. – The organization Justicia para Nuestras Hijas has evidence that at least 56 women and girls have been murdered in Chihuahua State so far this year.

The NGO collates its evidence from the daily review of newspapers in order to build a true picture of the number of murders and disappearances in this state. They point out that this is a preliminarily figure and believe that this is very likely that more femicides have occurred. They still have not been allowed access to official databases and for that reason, they insist that the authorities present a monthly report giving an accurate account of how many murders of women are registered during this time period.

Among the murders logged by Justicia para Nuestras Hijas this month include those of four girls whose bodies were found in a field in Paxedis, near the town of Guerrero in Chihuahua State: Andrea Guerrero Venzor, 15, reported missing on 19 August 2010; Deysy Ramírez Muñoz, 16, reported missing on 22 July 2010; Jessica Leticia Peña García, 17, reported missing on 16 June 2010; and Lizbeth Aviles García, 17, reported missing on 22 April 2009.

This discovery shows how the murders of girls have a similar pattern and are generally preceded by their disappearance. The negligence shown by the authorities ten years ago again becomes apparent. It is particularly worrying that in the case of a number of women and girls who have been reported missing in the last few years, especially in 2009, 2010 and 2011, their disappearances show many similarities with those of the four girls murdered in Praxedis: a medium or low socioeconomic origins, aged between 13 and 19 and last seen in the northern part of the state, principally in Ciudad Juárez.

On this 8 March, the organization Justicia para Nuestras Hijas remembers the girls and women who have been murdered in Chihuahua State and whose aggressors remain without punishment. It also remembers the hundreds of those missing who cases have been neglected, despite the fact they could be in grave danger.

For more information, contact: Tel. +52 (614) 413-33-55

comunicacion@justiciaparanuestrashijas.org

www.justiciaparanuestrashijas.blogspot.com//Twt@JPNH01


Filed under: Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas, Violence Against Women, , , , , , ,

Justicia para Nuestras Hijas Press Releases (October 2011-January 2012)


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

psicología@justiciaparanuestrashijas.org

www.justiciaparanuestrashijas.blogspot.com//Twt
@JPNH01

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:

  1. 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:
    1. 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.
    2. 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.).
    3. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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

    internacional@justiciaparanuestrashijas.org

    www.justiciaparanuestrashijas.blogspot.com//Twt@JPNH01

    PRESS RELEASE JANUARY 2012

    Chihuahua City, Chihuahua, Mexico 17 February 2012

    Communication 02/12

  • 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

comunicacion@justiciaparanuestrashijas.org

www.justiciaparanuestrashijas.blogspot.com//Twt@JPNH01

Filed under: Human Rights in Mexico, Justicia Para Nuestras Hijas, Violence Against Women, , , , , , ,

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