Hiding Under the Bed Is Not the Answer

Institutionalized Misogyny: Two Women Tortured and Publicly Shamed by Public Prosecutor in Ciudad Juárez

Two women from  Ciudad Juárez in the northern state of Chihuahua, were arrested and charged with provoking the abortion of one of the women’s fetus of five months gestation earlier this month. Both women do not have the resources to pay their own legal defense (they earn 700 pesos -3 pounds fifty in UK money, 42 dollars in US money a week as factory hands)  and were assigned public defense barristers. In every stage of their trial their human rights have been violated and their dignity trampled on. Both women allege that they were tortured by police authorities in Juárez: local media reports that one attended her trial in a wheelchair due to the physical and sexual violence she has suffered. Yet, at their trial their lawyers presented no arguments to defend them from the charges. As a result they were found guilty on the basis of the confessions they had made to the prosecutors and have been provisionally released. Sadly, the manner in which they have been treated is unsurprising in the context of Mexico’s inefficient and corrupt justice system. Evidence and confessions are routinely obtained via torture as the UN High Commissioner who recently visited Mexico was moved to note. As I have had cause to mention on this blog, Mexican state authorities tend to pursue charges of abortion with a commitment rarely seen in crimes against women. However, in the case of the two women from Juárez, the public prosecutor has also violated their human rights by exposing the women to public shaming and ridicule. After they were charged they were presented to the press, where details about their lives were revealed. It appears that one woman supplemented her income via the reading of tarot cards and the like. As a result, the local -extremely conservative- press has dedicated itself to publishing sensationalist stories about the “witch who told [her friend] to have an abortion” and “abortion induced via witchcraft“. Juárez remains one of the areas in Mexico in which women are regularly murdered and “disappeared” and where the indifference of the same police authorities who have pursued this case with such zeal have meant that very few of these murders and disappearances have actually been resolved or even adequately investigated. If the humiliation and torture of the women was not proof enough of Ciudad Juárez’s police and prosecutors’ institutionalized misogyny, the comparison in the treatment given to these cases only serves to underline the women-hating practices that inform everyday law enforcement in this part of Mexico. Source: Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida (GIRE), Puestas en la picota“, El Universal Blogs, 10 June 2015.

Filed under: Human Rights in Mexico, 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, , , , , , ,

Norma Andrade, Activist who Works to Find Missing and Kidnapped Women, Attacked for Second Time

Yesterday at about 9am, Norma Esther Andrade, one of the cofounders of the charity Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (“May Our Daughters Return Home”), was attacked by a man with a knife at her home in Mexico City. She is currently in hospital in a serious condition. This is the second time Andrade has been attacked. On 2 December 2011, she was shot repeatedly outside her home in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua. She was later discharged from hospital after a couple of days because death threats were made to those treating her. Andrade subsequently moved to Mexico City for her own safety and was supposed to be under police protection at the time of this second attack.

Norma Andrade cofounded Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa in 2001 after her daughter, Lilia Alejandra García Andrade, was kidnapped in Ciudad Juárez. Her body was later found in a field, strangled and with signs of having been severely tortured. The aim of the organization is to bring the situation in Juárez and Chihuahua to the attention of the world and to campaign for improvements to Mexico’s justice system to ensure that those responsible for these types of crimes are punished. (For more details on the murder of women in Chihuahua see my post here. For a discussion of femicide in a Mexican context see another post here).

Andrade and the other founders of Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa have received death threats since 2002. In 2008 the InterAmerican Commission of Human Rights directed the Mexican government to provide protection for Andrade and three other members of her organization. However, in September last year they were warned to leave Juárez immediately or be killed. Andrade was attacked in December and now, for a second time, in Mexico City. Under these circumstances, Amnesty International has issued a statement indicating that they believe her life to be in immediate danger.

There is currently a petition circulating on Twitter which asks the Mexican President, Felipe Calderón, to ensure that Norma Andrade receives the protection she requires. If the Mexican state is incapable of finding those responsible for her daughter’s murder, it is the least it can do to protect her from suffering the same fate. As I have occasion to mention in other posts, too many activists have already been killed for daring to search for their daughters. It has to stop. Not one more.

Filed under: Human Rights in Mexico, Violence Against Women, , , , , , , ,

TWO HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVISTS MURDERED IN TWO WEEKS IN CHIHUAHUA, MEXICO

Marisela Escobedo Ortiz’s daughter, Rubí Marisol Frayre Escobedo, was 16 when she disappeared from the house in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua in August 2008. From that moment on, Ms. Escobedo Ortiz worked tirelessly to find her daughter, who she believed dead, and to bring her murderer to justice. Thanks to her own investigations and the pressure she put on the authorities in Chihuahua, Ms. Frayre Escobedo’s boyfriend, Sergio Rafael Barraza Bocanegra, was arrested as a suspect and prosecuted for this crime in 2009. With his cooperation, the remains fo the murdered teenager were found and returned to her mother. Despite this, and although Barraza Bocanegra also confessed to the crime, he was absolved and released on 30 April 2010. Ms. Escobedo Ortiz did not give up her fight for justice, and largely thanks to her campaign, a second court revoked the original sentence and convicted Barraza Bocanegra for the murder of Ms. Fraye Escobedo. Barraza Bocanegra was nolonger in custody by this time and had fled to the state of Zacatecas. Due to a lack of cooperation between the different state authorities, nothing was done to arrest Barraza Bocanegra, so Ms Escobedo Ortiz tracked him down of her own accord and attempted to have him arrested. She visited the Procuradores de Justicia (Heads of the Prosecuting Services) in Chihuahua and Zacatecas and in July 2010 she travelled to Mexico City to speak to both President Felipe Calderón and the Procurador General de Justicia Federal (The Head of the Federal Prosecution Service), but both declined to receive her. On 3 December she set up a permanent protest in the city of Chihuahua declaring  “No me voy a mover de aquí hasta que detengan al asesino de mi hija” (I’m not leaving until my daughter’s murderer is arrested”) [1] She also denounced that she was subject to death threats from members of Barreza Bocanegra’s family. On 17 December 2010 she was murdered in front of Government Palace in Chihuahua City. Later, it transpired that her daughter’s murderer was also thought to be implicated in this crime.

Susana Chávez was a poet and human rights activist from Ciudad Juárez who worked with groups that protested against femicides in Chihuahua. Among other things she coined the phrase, “Ni una muerta más” (Not one more [female] death), which has been used in innumerable protests. She used her blog “Primera tormenta” (First storm) to publicise her poetry and activism. On 6 January 2011 she herself was murdered herself after going into the city centre with friends. Postmortum her hand was cut off.

Two female deaths in three weeks in Chihuahua is sadly not newsworthy. However, the fact that both murder victims were actively participated in the defence of human rights and the fight against femicide in Ciudad Juárez, has bought the state of Chihuahua to the attention of Mexico’s national media. Amnesty International and other human rights groups have published condemnations of the situation, and candle-lit protests have been organized for the victims in cities around Mexico. As a result, it has been politically imperative for the governor of the state, César Duarte, to be seen to be doing something. Unfortunately, so far it does not appear that he intends to address the root issues of the problem; in particular, the failures of the justice system and Prosecution Service in Chihuahua to adequately investigate and prosecute the murder of women in Ciudad Juárez and Chihuahua State as a whole. Rather the idea appears to be to look for scapegoats.

In the case of Marisela Escobedo Ortiz, the judges that originally absolved Barrera Bocanegra have been suspended and are under investigation. No mention has been made of an investigation to look into to how the PGEC (Procuraduría General del Estado de Chihuahua) handled the investigation, or why, after Barrera Bocanegra was convicted, these authorities did nothing to arrest him even when they were informed of his whereabouts by Ms. Escobedo Ortiz. Neither has he addressed the question of why the state authorities failed to provide Ms. Escobedo Ortiz with adequate protection, when they were aware of the death threats against her.

In the case of Susana Chávez, the investigating officers deny that her murder had anything to do with her political activism. The state Fiscal Attorney claims that Ms. Chávez met three adolescent boys in a bar in the centre of Ciudad Juárez and decided to go back with them to their house to drink. According to the three boys, now under arrest, Ms. Chávez pretended to be a police officer and threatened to denounce them for being gang member. As a result they took her into the shower and smothered her. This story might be true, but seems very far-fetched. Ms. Chávez was 36, not 16. She was a political activist and defender of women’s human rights in the city which is most famous for its terrible record of femicide, not a naive factory worker. It is hard not to suspect that the story has been concocted and the boys arrested to ensure the case is concluded as soon as possible.

[1] For more details on Marisela Escobedo Ortiz’s campaign see http://www.cadhac.org/derechos_humanos/amnistia-internacional-condena-el-asesinato-de-la-activista-que-buscaba-justicia-para-su-hija/ and http://justiciaparanuestrashijas.blogspot.com/2010_12_19_archive.html

Filed under: Uncategorized, Violence Against Women, , , , , , , ,

FEMINICIDIO IN MEXICO. KILLING WOMEN FOR BEING FEMALE

UPDATE 18 FEBRUARY 2011: a more detailed definition of feminicidio can be found in this post

When I first came to Mexico in 1999, one of the only feminist issues I was aware of (such was my vast ignorance at the time) was the question of large numbers of women being tortured and murdered in the border town of Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua [1] by what appeared to be organised groups of assailants, possibly linked to the city’s drug cartels. It was a subject that had made it into the media in the UK, albeit in small amounts, mostly due to ghoulish speculations concerning the possible motives for the murders and who might be the perpetrators. This was a phenomenon that gave rise to the use of the word “feminicido” by feminist groups, appropriating, translating and adapting the English word “femicide” that had itself been adopted by feminist authors, especially, Diana E. Russell [2] to describe the murder of women “simply for being women”. What was, and unfortunately still is, startling about this phenomenon was the lack of disposition on the part of the police and investigating authorities (called “Ministerio Público” or Public Ministry in Mexico) to look into these crimes and bring the murderers to justice. As I have mentioned in passing in a previous post, relatives of three victims of femicide in Ciudad Juárez, Esmeralda Herrera Monreal, Laura Berenice Ramos Monárrez and Claudia Yvette González, took their cases to the Inter American Court of Human Rights, where on the 10 December 2010, judges ruled that the Mexican judicial authorities had not done sufficient to protect the human rights of these women, whose bodies were found mutilated and abandoned in a place known locally as the Cotton Field (Campo Algodonero), and condemned the same institutions for not making proper investigations into their deaths [3].

In the last ten years the word feminicido has become a much used term by feminist and women’s rights groups to denounce the murder of women all over the Republic, not just the systemic kidnapping, torture and murder of women by organised groups. Results of this generalization have been both positive and negative. On the positive side, the adoption of this term has enabled women’s groups to publicise Mexico’s shocking rates of female murders and campaign for a more adequate response to the problem by the police and judicial authorities. This had led to the creation in 2007 of the Office of the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Women and People Trafficking (Fiscalía Especial para los Delitos de Violencia contra las Mujeres y Trata de Personas or Fevimtra). On the negative, the generalised employment of the term simply as a shorthand way of referring to the murder of a women, threatens to undermine this very battle, as over-use can generate over-familiarity and even to the questioning of the validity of the term. For example, State Prosecutors (Procuradores Estatales) routinely attempt to claim that women who die at the hands of their partners are not victims of femicide but domestic violence; a claim that can only hold water if the public is unsure of exactly what the definition of femicide actually is. Victims of domestic violence, according to the definition provided by Russell are most clearly killed as a result of their gender and their spouses’ attempts to control them. As I reported last week, Ángeles López García, the director of the Centro de Derechos Humanos Victoria Diez (Human Right Centre Victoria Diez) in the state of Guanajuato, alleges that it is common for the investigating authorities there to deny that a women’s murder counts as a feminicidio, but rather to claim that their deaths resulted from a consequence of the victim’s personal circumstances: they had an abusive partner or their jobs were high risk, or that they were in involved with drug gangs [4].

Aside from the quibble over the use of the term feminicidio, the figures available showing how many females are murder victims in Mexico are horrifying. As I have mentioned in other posts, between 1999 and 2005, 6, 000 women and girls have been murdered in the states of México, Veracruz, Chiapas, Guerrero, the Federal District, Chihuahua, Oaxaca, Sonora, Baja California and Morelos. This works out at three women
murdered every day in the Republic as a whole [5]. In the state of Mexico (in the centre of the Republic) the figure is one woman murdered every day. Equally disturbing is the fact that the prosecution of this type of crime is erratic. In the state of Mexico, only 35% of murders were convicted between 2000 and 2005; in 20% of cases an arrest warrant has been issued, but no one has been arrested; and, in the other 45% of cases the investigation is still ongoing [6]. In the case of the Campo Algodonero women, reports this week indicate that the Mexican state has done very little to comply with the Inter American Court’s ruling beyond publishing the ruling on its websites. The federal government alleges it is not liable to pay the damages that the Court has indicated, and authorities in the State of Chihuahua have promised to pay only half the sum stipulated. Meanwhile, half-hearted attempts have been made to reopen the cases in Chihuahua with little success [7].

Paternalist and misogynist attitudes seem to be at the root of the authorities’ lack of interest in pursuing investigations into the assassination of women. The National Congress’s Special Commission for Femicide, noted last month that the state of Guanajuato shows more dedication in prosecuting women accused of procuring abortion than men accused of murdering women [8]. As I have stated above, the Procurador of this state has implied that the lifestyles and jobs of a women are used to imply that their murders are not sufficiently important to warrant the vigorous pursuit of the assailant. The women’s groups who help the victims’ families in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua also denounce a similar attitude on the part of the authorities who should be investigating the feminicidos there [3]. In short, the idea still prevails that women of low income, who work in a bar or strip club or a maquiladora (factory) or have the misfortunate to have a violent father or husband, are somehow to blame for their own deaths.

All this leads to me to end with an invitation. The Unifem campaign Say NOUNiTE to End Violence against Women which seeks to end violence against women and girls is circulating a petition on its website in favour of women being included in peace-keeping measures and against sexual violence against women in war. They are going to hand the petition to the UN next week. The link to the petition is on the right hand side of my blog page. Sign please. As Mexico drifts closer and closer to a war-like situation such matters are in the interest of Mexican women.

[ADDITION 26 JANUARY 2011: FOR MORE INFORMATION ON THIS SUBJECT YOU CAN SEE MY LATER POSTS HERE, HERE, HERE AND HERE.]

 

[1] Trawling the internet I have only found articles dating from 2002, although I do remember reading about the issue before going to Mexico in 1999. See for example: http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2002/mar/25/gender.uk; and http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2003/nov/02/mexico

[2] See Diana E. Russell and Roberta A. Harmes, Femicide: A Global Perspective, New York, Teachers’ College Press, 2001; A translation this text entitled Feminicidio: Una perspective global, with an introduction by Mexican academic Marcela Legarde y de los Ríos was published by the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México en 2006. Available (in fragments) at http://books.google.com.mx

[3] See, http://www.campoalgodonero.org.mx/

[4] http://www.eluniversal.com.mx/notas/711565.html?awesm=fbshare.me_ATqfU

[5] http://www.cimacnoticias.com/site/10091302-CONTEXTO-Estado-inc.44116.0.html. A good study of the violence perpetrated against women in Mexico available on-line is Violencia contra la mujer en México, ed. Teresa Fernández de Juan, México, Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, 2004. See: http://www.mujereshoy.com/imagenes/3640_a_MEXICO_Violencia_Mujer%2019%20MARZO.pdf

[6] http://www.cimacnoticias.com/site/10091301-REPORTAJE-Cuanto-ma.44114.0.html

[7] http://www.jornada.unam.mx/2010/10/11/index.php?section=politica&article=023n1pol; and http://www.cimacnoticias.com/site/10101508-Ni-se-cumple-senten.44676.0.html

[8] http://www.cimacnoticias.com/site/10092907-En-Guanajuato-se-ca.44424.0.htmlhttp://www.cimacnoticias.com/site/10092907-En-Guanajuato-se-ca.44424.0.html

Filed under: Feminism, Human Rights in Mexico, Violence Against Women, , , , , , , ,

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