Violence against women in Mexico prompts UN gender expert to voice concern

2 March 2005

With violence against women rife throughout Mexico, including murders, forced prostitution, sexual assaults, domestic violence and gender-based discrimination, a senior United Nations expert has voiced concern over the criminal justice system in addressing such crimes.

“Impunity for sexual violence against women is extensive and perpetrators of such crimes are rarely brought to justice,” the Special Rapporteur of the UN Commission on Human Rights on violence against women, its causes and consequences, Yakin Ertürk, said in a statement at the end of a weeklong visit.

“In the case of conviction, sentences are lenient and allegations that testimonies are sometimes obtained under torture overshadow these positive efforts. The victims’ distrust in the justice system and the lack of protection for women who report that they have been victims of violence also contribute to the high rate of impunity,” she added.

She commended Mexico for ratifying most international human rights instruments and welcoming numerous Special Rapporteurs on fact-finding missions and noted that most of the authorities and representatives from civil society recognize the problems related to high levels of violence against women in society at large, including within indigenous communities and migrant populations.

She also welcomed a number of steps taken to address the problem such as mechanisms to provide better protection and prevention of the occurrence of violence, including telephone hotlines and the building of shelters, and called for the establishment of such shelters by law in every state with adequate legal and financial backing from municipal, state and federal governments.

But, she said, “gender-based discrimination results in ill-treatment of women and girls, impedes their development and curtails their access to services. In this regard, the high rate of maternal mortality and deaths due to illegal abortion are particularly alarming.”

Ms. Ertürk said she had received “disturbing reports” that violence against indigenous women was often dismissed or justified within the context of cultural specificity. “While it is important to promote cultural diversity, this should not contravene women’s human rights,” she added.

On violence in Ciudad Juarez in Chihuahua State, where the human rights non-governmental organization (NGO) Amnesty International USA reports that over 370 women have been murdered, at least 137 of them after being sexually assaulted, since 1993, Ms. Ertürk welcomed recent federal and state efforts to install a transparent approach to the investigations.

“It is however important that these efforts are not limited to the murder incidents in Ciudad Juarez but expanded to include cases of murders, disappearances and other forms of violence in Chihuahua City and in the whole state,” she added. “Indeed, it is now time to move from commitments to achieving concrete results.”

During her visit from 20 to 26 February, Ms. Ertürk met with representatives of federal, state and municipal authorities, NGOs, and victims and families of victims of violence against women.


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