Report on Mexico produced by the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women under article 8 of the Optional Protocol to the Convention, and reply from the Government of Mexico
Date: 27th Jan 2005

This report on Mexico outlines the numerous cases of violence committed against women in recent years in both the Ciudad Juarez area of the Chihuahua State and in the Chihuahua State more generally. The report chronicles an apparently systematic pattern of murder, abduction, and sexual assault targeting women in the area, particularly those who are young, poor, and either students or workers in the maquila industry. It was recognised that though precise data regarding the numbers of victims over the years is unavailable, all can agree that the numbers are substantial enough to warrant close scrutiny and wholesale reform.

The report details experiences within Ciudad Juarez, a city of 1.5 million settled on the US border and within the State of Chihuahua. In recent years, the social and economic conditions of the city have given rise to certain organised criminal behaviours that have particularly victimised women, and that have been fed and exacerbated by a culture that has been characterized by gender-based discrimination. The problem of violence against women was identified as rising alongside the development of maquilas that have provided employment opportunities for younger women without providing comparable opportunities for the men of society. This dynamic worsened an already poor set of gender relations in the region, and was identified as a possible contributing factor to the violence that has emerged and been allowed to flourish largely with impunity.

Efforts taken by the organs of government, both at the local and the federal level, were noted but the report emphasises that these efforts have not necessarily made the positive impact hoped for. Notably, there is a vital need for a holistic and systematic treatment of the problem of gender-based discrimination, rather than a post hoc approach that engages criminal activity only after it has been committed, and one that fails to appreciate the cultural mechanisms that propel this sort of gender-based violence on such a massive scale.

The report expresses concern at the government’s inability to curtail the violence. Fed by the negligence and insensitivity of officials imbued with the same sort of prejudices that have contributed to these incidents, and at the fact that, in addition to numerous cases of incompetence in conducting proper investigations, some officials have levied public decrees of fault directed towards the victims themselves. The report identified as particularly troubling the high percentages of such crimes that have contained an element of sexual violence and the near total impunity awarded to perpetrators.

The report found that Mexico had failed to live up to its commitments under articles 1, 2, 5, 6, and 15 of CEDAW and made specific recommendations to the Mexican State that Mexico: (1) comply with all of the provisions of CEDAW; (2) strengthen coordination between all levels of government in implementing enforcement and preventative measures; (3) inject and incorporate an overarching gender perspective into all considerations; (4) maintain a close and transparent relationship with civil society organisations; (5) comprehensively investigate and punish all responsible for these acts of violence, including state officials who may have shown negligence or complicity; (6) implement protocols and procedures that allow for early warning and search mechanisms for women who go missing; (7) improve the quality of the various investigative entities, including an effort to make them autonomous and independent; (8) truly respect the relatives of victims, including the right of victims to nominate counsel to assist in any prosecution; (9) duly protect those working to resolve these cases; (10) consider working with the United States of America to adopt and implement a measure of coordination between the two states; (11) organise and promote programmes designed to improve equality between the sexes and help to eliminate discrimination against women.

In the State’s response, the Government of Mexico acknowledged the gravity of the situation and promised to make continued efforts at improvement. Though the Government admitted that the justice system is afflicted with some failings, it denied any accusation that the State is responsible for these violations of the basic rights of women, emphasising that gender prejudices are deeply rooted in certain corners of the Mexican culture and that efforts are being made to enlighten the population and remove these prejudices. The Government also emphasised that insufficient resources have often hindered law enforcement in the investigation and prosecution of these crimes.

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