Violence against Women in Mexico

By Deborah Van Hoewyk

No one really cares

Rosa Diana Suárez Torres, a business administration student in her early twenties, spent the afternoon of New Year’s Eve in 2010 with her friends. Her boyfriend, Gilberto Campos García, called her to find out what she had been doing without him. She agreed to meet him in a park to discuss it. When her body was found, her face had been smashed purple and she had been stabbed 65 times. Gilberto fled. Authorities lost the evidence. Earlier complaints to authorities of Atizapán de Zaragoza, in the state of Mexico, had been dismissed. Only because Rosa Diana’s father José Diego Suárez Padilla unceasingly pursued the authorities, was Gilberto ever found and brought in. He would not admit to the crime of femicide, so he was not prosecuted. He was never questioned about earlier instances of abuse.

This is just an ordinary story in Mexico—violence against women is painfully ordinary, and for the most part, ignored by authorities. Mexico ranks # 20 in the world for actual “femicide,” and there’s no way to count the non-fatal beatings, drunken assaults, stabbings, rape, the list goes on.

The War on Drugs makes it worse

It has increased as drug trafficking has intensified, growing even worse since the official War on Drugs began in 2006. Now the army, the cartels, vigilantes, and the police are pitted against each other, and the death toll is officially at 60,000 and is probably much higher. While many of these deaths are of drug traffickers, high and low, most are not. Traffickers’ targets include women, and their tools are abduction, rape, and murder.

The most likely cause is that the cartels, under pressure from the War on Drugs, need to ensure that they rule their territory with an iron hand. Cartels have also moved from drug to human trafficking, forcing abducted women into prostitution. News analysis—severely limited by violence against reporters who dare comment on the drug trade or government corruption—ties the increase in violence in general, and against women, especially young women, in particular, to an atmosphere of impunity; if there is scant prosecution, there are no consequences.

In Ecatepec, outside Mexico City, there’s a new “ecological reserve” that used to be an informal garbage dump. In 2006, in between the piles of garbage and the canal alongside, the bodies of teenage girls started to appear. So many, it was called the “women’s dumping ground.”   The bodies just appear somewhere else now.

In Ciudad Juárez, on the U.S.-Mexico border across from El Paso, bodies of women began appearing 25 years ago, with hundreds of women missing or found dead in the first ten years. The violence lessened, but never stopped. By 2010, the second “wave” had started, stronger than the first—304 women are known to have been killed that year, while the total from 1993 to 2003 had been 340. This time around, though, there is even less prosecution.

In 2009, current president Enrique Peña-Nieto signed a “Law of Access for Women to a Life Free of Violence.”   He promised the state would “implement actions and integral measures for the prevention, attention, sanction and eradication of all violence, and by transforming the political, social, economic, and cultural conditions that drive and reproduce gender violence.”

Not working yet.

Recent global prevalence figures indicate that 35% of women worldwide have experienced either intimate partner violence or non-partner sexual violence in their lifetime.

On average, 30% of women who have been in a relationship report that they have experienced some form of physical or sexual violence by their partner.

Globally, as many as 38% of murders of women are committed by an intimate partner.

Risk factors for being a perpetrator include low education, exposure to child maltreatment or witnessing violence in the family, harmful use of alcohol, attitudes accepting of violence and gender inequality.

Risk factors for being a victim of intimate partner and sexual violence include low education, witnessing violence between parents, exposure to abuse during childhood and attitudes accepting violence and gender inequality.

Source: World Health Organization

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