BOGOTA (TrustLaw) – Killings of women are spreading across Mexico, and the government must do more to protect women from growing violence and discrimination, rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday.
At least 34,000 women were murdered in Mexico between 1985 and 2009. In 2010 alone, 2,418 women were killed, Amnesty said, citing figures from the United Nations and local rights groups in a briefing for a U.N. committe on eliminating discrimination against women.
“The state of women’s rights in Mexico is alarming,” Rupert Knox, Amnesty’s Mexico researcher told TrustLaw. “In recent years there’s been not only an escalation in killings of women but a continuing routine lack of effective investigations and justice.”
Since 2007 Mexico has approved a number of laws and set up institutions to safeguard women from discrimination and violence, but they are not being used effectively, Knox added.
“Measures tend to be passed, but actually putting resources and political will behind the laws is lacking,” he said.
NOT JUST CIUDAD JUAREZ
The border city of Ciudad Juarez has long been known as a hotspot for femicide - defined as gender-related violent murder of a woman by a man.
In 2010, 320 women were murdered there, according to local rights organisations.
“The surge in cases of killings and abductions in Ciudad Juarez and the inadequate response of the state authorities strongly suggests that the pattern of gender-based killings and negligence by officials responsible for protection and investigation persists,” Amnesty’s report stated.
Across the northern state of Chihuahua, where Ciudad Juarez is located, there has been a sharp rise in the number of women murdered since 2008, the report said, with more than 130 women killed in the first six months of this year.
And the problem is spreading. “The killings of women have widened to include other states,” Knox said.
Local rights groups told Amnesty that because of high levels of drug-fuelled crime in Ciudad Juarez, over-stretched local authorities have focused on tackling general violence in recent years, leaving fewer resources and officials to investigate gender-based abductions and killings.
Sexual violence and rape remain widespread across Mexico. In 2009, there were 14,829 complaints of rape lodged with public prosecutors’ offices, according to the report.
“The country has high levels of rape and very low prosecution rates,” said Knox.
In one notorious case cited in the report, some 26 women were arrested at protests in the town of San Salvador Atenco near Mexico City in 2006. Many were subjected to physical and sexual violence by Mexican police, it said.
Since then, nine of the women have taken their case to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights to seek justice.
In Mexico, many cases of violence against women are not properly investigated by police or the judicial authorities,and there is a routine failure to conduct full autopsies, the report said.
“There are no repercussions for police who frequently fail to investigate violent crimes against women. Officials are rarely held accountable,” Knox said.
“Institutionally, violence against women in the home, and in the community, is still treated as a lesser offense,” he added.
Worse still, the onus is often placed on the abused woman themselves to provide evidence and two witnesses for an investigation to start – which is extremely difficult, Knox noted.
The report also highlights the violence faced by thousands of female migrants, mostly from Central America, who cross the border into Mexico every year to reach the United States in search of a better life.
“The migrants face a perilous journey at risk of abuses by police, migration officials and security forces, but most of all from criminal gangs who have increasingly targeted migrants for kidnapping, extortion, trafficking and murder,” the report said.
Despite the scale of the problem, hopes are not high that Mexico’s newly elected president, Enrique Pena Nieto, who takes power in December, will make tackling gender-based violence a priority.
“There’s no evidence whatsoever of the new president, when he was the governor of Mexico state, combating violence against women. His track record is not strong, to put it mildly,” Knox said.