Hiding Under the Bed Is Not the Answer

Death Threats Against Prominent Journalist and Human Rights Activist in Mexico

Photo copyright European Press Photo Agency

This week the Mexican office of Amnesty International emitted a statement in support of the Mexican journalist, Lydia Cacho. It reported that Cacho, who is based in the state of Quintana Roo, had received death threats via email and telephone in June and that AI feared for her safety. On its webpage the organisation called on its supporters to take urgent action to support Cacho and demand that the Mexican government take steps to protect her as well as to undertake an investigation into the threats. There is a petition to this effect drawn up by the Lydia Cacho Foundation in Spain and currently circulating via the social media; it can be signed here.

Lydia Cacho has specialised in writing and campaigning in favour of women. In 2000 she founded a women’s shelter (Centro Integral de Atención de las Mujeres) in Cancun and is cofounder of the Mexican national network of women’s shelters (Red Nacional de refugios para mujeres que viven de violencia). During her writing career she has founded an edited the magazine Esta boca es mía: apuntes de equidad y género (“This is my mouth: notes on equality and gender”) and has written a number of books dealing with themes of sexual violence against women and children. Her most recent publication Esclavas del poder
(Ed. Grijalbo, 2010) was based on her interviews with women and girls who had been trafficked and forced into prostitution.

The worries about the safety of Cacho are well founded. As I have reason to document on this blog before now, to defend human rights –especially those of women- in Mexico is a dangerous occupation. According the Mexican National Commission for Human Rights, at least 70 journalists have been murdered in Mexico since 2000. Moreover, Cacho has been a target of intimidation before; in fact, so much so that the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights ordered the Mexican government to take steps to protect her in 2008. In 2005 Cacho published the book Los demonios del Edén: el poder detrás de la pornografía infantil (Ed. Grijalbo) which detailed how a ring of child pornographers and paedophiles were protected by key figures in Mexican politics and business in the states of Puebla and Quintana Roo. Following the publication of this book, the governor of the State of Puebla, Mario Marín and other figures in his government organised a campaign against her which resulted in her brief imprisonment in 2006. Although the case made against her could not stand and she was eventually freed; no action was taken against Marín. On her release, Cacho filed charges against governor, district attorney and a judge for corruption and attempted rape in prison. She took the case to Mexico’s Supreme Court, but again, without success (for information in English on this see here.)

The death threats against Cacho are evidently designed to intimidate and silence her. But she is a courageous woman who continues to speak out in favour of the rights of women and children. For that she is deserving of admiration and support, so please take up Amnesty’s appeal to speak out in her favour or sign the petition on-line.

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


On 4 November, members of the group Pacto por la Vida y Libertad y los Derechos de las Mujeres (Pact for Life, Liberty and Women’s Rights) highlighted the prosecution of 30 women –including two girls of 12 and 16 years of age respectively– by the judicial authorities in the state of Puebla, Mexico for the “crime of abortion”. In a meeting with the Puebla State Government’s representative in Mexico City they demanded that these proceedings be stopped. According to data collected by this group and the Red por los Derechos Sexuales y Reproductivos (Sexual and Reproductive Rights Network, or DDSER) in Puebla, nine women have been convicted of this offence and are awaiting sentencing, while the cases of the remaining 21 women are still in their investigative phrase. Due to the fact that the authorities have refused to disclose the circumstances in which these abortions occurred and the state of the case against the women, the activists are still unsure whether the prosecution is seeking punitive or non punitive sentences in these matters.

Natali Hernández Arias, a DDSER representative from Puebla, indicated that these prosecutions seemed to derive from the new legislation passed by the state authorities in March 2009 which introduced the “protection of life from the moment of conception until natural death”. She also called attention to the fact that in the period in which these prosecutions had begun (March 2009 to April 2010) there is no record of any investigation or prosecution into crimes of sexual violence in Puebla. As was the case in Guanajuato (see my blog post from September “Women imprisoned for miscarrying in Mexico”), all of the women being prosecuted originate from municipalities with the highest levels of social marginalisation and poverty in the state, where access to education, health care and justice is scarce. Also like the case of the women imprisoned in Guanajuato, at least one of those accused claims that she is being prosecuted for suffering a spontaneous miscarriage.





Filed under: Women's Right to Choose, , , , , ,

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