Domestic Violence in Mexico During COVID-19

Overview

06/16/20 (M MacGregor)- According to a survey by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía), or“INEGI”, 7 out of 10 women in Mexico have experienced violence at some point in their lives, and among those, almost half (43.9%) of women were abused by their boyfriend, husband, or partner. Additionally, according to INEGI, the states with the highest levels of domestic violence are the State of Mexico, Aguascalientes, Jalisco, and Queretaro. Domestic violence is defined by the United Nations as a pattern of behavior in any relationship that is used to gain or maintain control over an intimate partner and encompasses physical, sexual, emotional, economic, or psychological threats that influence another person. At the international and regional level, Mexico is part of various agreements that share the goal of eradicating violence against women. Some of these include the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW 1979), the InterAmerican Commission of Women, and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action (1995). Despite the country’s membership in these agreements, the current COVID-19 pandemic has shown the weaknesses in the Mexican government in protecting women from domestic violence and ensuring their safety.

Domestic Violence During COVID

According to Reuters, since the COVID-19 lockdown, women in Mexico have been fighting “another shadow pandemic”. There has been “an increase in reports of domestic violence, many of those psychological violence”, according to Blanca Aquino, director of the Municipal Institute for Women of Veracruz. Similarly, Maria Noel Baeza, the regional director for UN Women, believes that the lockdown is exacerbating violence against women by forcing them to stay in situations of confinement in which [women] are locked up with their abusers and have very limited outlets to escape violence. 

Before social distancing was implemented in the country, Expansión Política reported that the Mexican emergency number registered 21,727 domestic violence related calls during the month of February. According to El Universal, three weeks after the stay at home orders were issued, Mexican federal authorities estimated that violence against women had increased between 30 and 100%. Almost two months after the first case of COVID-19 in Mexico, the National Network of Shelters (la Red Nacional de Refugios)  observed an “increase of 5% in women’s admissions [to the shelters] and an increase of 60% in guidance via telephone calls, social networks, and email”. Additionally, women’s centers linked to the network are at “80% to 110% of their capacity, especially in entities such as Guanajuato, the State of Mexico, and Chiapas”. These cases of violence against women are expected to persist as the pandemic continues, as human rights specialists in an article by El Sol de Mexico are predicting domestic violence to grow by 92% during the quarantine period.

Government Response

At the national level, many lawyers and human rights activists have criticized the problematic remarks of current president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) as well as the Mexican government’s failure to release a comprehensive plan to tackle the spike in domestic abuse amid the COVID-19 emergency. According to Latino USA, AMLO stated in a press conference in May 2020 that “violence against women has not increased since the national lockdown” and that “there has been no increase in complaints from women”, despite statistical reports indicating otherwise. Jacqui Hunt, director of Equality Now, a non-governmental organization that aims to promote the rights of women and girls globally, told Independent, “the appalling increase in the number of women murdered and abused in Mexico since the start of 2020 should be seized upon as a watershed moment in which the government finally steps up to address the root causes of harm against women”. Hunt called for the Mexican government to “work closely alongside organizations which help women and girls and provide additional funding to make sure those locked up with their abusers can access safe housing and other specialist support”, as statistics collected by El Sol de Mexico estimate that “two-thirds of the female population in the country over the age of 15 will quarantine alongside a violent partner”.

A gender perspective to combat COVID-19

Secretary General of the United Nations Antonio Guterres called for measures to address a “shocking global upsurge in domestic violence against women and girls”, stating that “together, [the international community] can and will prevent violence everywhere, from war zones to people’s homes”. United Nations Women in particular has made a number of recommendations to the Mexican authorities in order to alleviate the conditions that women and girls have experienced during the lockdown. Some of these recommendations include: 

  • Raising awareness of the increased burden on female staff for extra care tasks against COVID-19.
  • Helping employers take into account the risks that their employees displacement will have, as well as ensuring their payments during the quarantine.
  • Protecting the workforce in manufacturing companies (maquiladoras) economically and through labor protection measures since women make up a large part of the workforce.
  • Procuring strategies to protect those affected by the sexual division of labor in areas such as education, social work, which are mostly composed of women.

“No estás sola, seguimos contigo” and “#ContingenciaSinViolencia”

On April 7th, the Mexican government in conjunction with the Citizens’ Council (Consejo Ciudadano) and the Women’s Secretariat (Secretaria de las Mujeres) launched the “No estas sola, seguimos contigo” (“You’re not alone, we are still with you”) initiative to address domestic violence during the quarantine. This program consists of several resources to help women report domestic violence and seek professional help. The resources include chat rooms in which victims can send video, audio, and photos, channels to Moon Centers, or Centro Lunas, which provide psychological and legal care for medium and high risk cases. 

In addition, the government and the National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women (CONAVIM) created a directory to publicize these resources as well as the National Shelter Network so that women can access safe spaces away from their abusers. The hashtag, #ContingencyWithoutViolence, or #ContingenciaSinViolencia was launched by the State of Mexico and has spread on social networks throughout the country. Despite these efforts to address violence against women, the National Shelter Network is lacking the budget and the space to operate effectively and this leads them to deal with double or triple contigency. Milenio reports that several organizations have argued that the “delay in the allocation of financial resources violates the shelters’ operation and rights of women to safety”. Wendy Figueroa, the director of the National Shelter Network, has demanded that the Mexican government “establish a budget, as well as evaluation and monitoring mechanisms that guarantee the permanent flow of resources allowing the shelters to work through the year without impediment”.

In conclusion, it is clear that COVID-19 has exacerbated the effects of domestic violence in Mexico, a country that already suffers from staggering statistics due to the normalization of gender based violence. The implications of the lockdown are widening gender inequalities and increasing violence against women. In order to address this crisis, the Mexican government must strengthen all mechanisms to combat domestic violence at the local, regional and national levels. Steps must be taken immediately because women’s lives depend on it.

Domestic Violence Resources

United States

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1-800-799-SAFE (7233)

Online Chat: https://www.thehotline.org/what-is-live-chat/

Safety planning and legal information: https://www.thehotline.org/help/path-to-safety/

Resources for victims and survivors by State: https://www.thehotline.org/resources/victims-and-survivors/

Mexico:

National Domestic Violence Hotline: 9-1-1

Shelter Network Directory: https://eldiadespues.mx/directorio-de-organizaciones/

Domestic Violence Hotlines by State:

Sources:

Bettinger-Lopez, Caroline. “A Double Pandemic: Domestic Violence in the Age of COVID-19.”  Council on Foreign Relations, 13 May 2020

Oppenheim, Maya. “Mexico sees almost 1,000 women murdered in three months as domestic abuse concerns rise amid coronavirus.” Independent. 28 April 2020. 

Machicao, Monica, Martinez, Ana Isabel, Ramos Miranda, Natalia, & Sigal, Lucila. “Another Pandemic: In Latin America, domestic abuse rises amid lockdown. Reuters. 27 April 2020.

Castellanos, Laura. “México abandona a las mujeres violentadas en esta contingencia.” Aristegui Noticias. 16 April 2020.  

Almazan, Jorge. “CdMx lanza programa para denunciar violencia familiar.” Milenio. 14 April 2020

Galvan, Melissa. “Otra contingencia: la violencia contra las mujeres va en aumento.” Expansión Política. 5 April 2020.

Noticias de las Naciones Unidas. “Ante el aumento de la violencia doméstica por el coronavirus, Guterres llama a la paz en los hogares.” Noticias ONU. 5 April 2020

Ortiz, Alexis. “Coronavirus en México. Estiman aumento de hasta 100% en violencia de género. El Universal. 4 April 2020.

Nava, Cecilia. “En cuarentena, violencia contra la mujer escalará 92%, prevén expertas.” El Sol de México. 26 March 2020. 

De la Peña, Angelica. “El Covid-19 y la perspectiva de género.” El Sol de México. 23 March 2020. 

United Nations Women: Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. “Paying attention to women’s needs and leadership will strengthen COVID-19 responses.” UN Women. 19 March 2020.

Seguridad de Estado de México. “Contingencia sin Violencia.” Twitter. 2020. 

Gobierno de la Ciudad de México: Secretaría de las Mujeres. “Lunas.” Gobierno de la Ciudad de México. 2020.

United Nations. “What is Domestic Abuse?” United Nations. 2020. 

Instituto Nacional de Estadística, Geografía e Informática (INEGI). “Encuesta Nacional sobre la Dinámica de las Relaciones en los Hogares (ENDIREH 2016).” INEGI. 18 August 2017.

Red Nacional de Refugios. “Red Nacional de Refugios A.C.” 3 November 2014.

United Nations Office of the High Commissioner (OHCHR). “Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women.” United Nations. 18 December 1979.

United Nations Women: Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women. “The Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action.” UN Women, September 1995.

 Comisión Nacional para Prevenir y Erradicar la Violencia Contra las Mujeres (CONAVIM). “Sistema Nacional de Prevencion, Atencion, Sancion, y Erradicacion de la Violencia Contra las Mujeres.” 

Latin American News Dispatch. “AMLO Denies Rise of Violence Against Women During Lockdown.” 

National Domestic Violence Hotline. “Get Help.” 

Organization of American States (OAS). “Inter-American Commission of Women”. OAS.

Veracruz Gobierno del Estado. “Instituto Veracruzano de las Mujeres.” IVM. 

OASIS Training Coordinator Janice Deaton Participates in Seminar in Collaboration with the UNAM

The Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México (UNAM) recently presented an online international seminar on the impact of home quarantines throughout the Americas on gender and domestic violence. The organizers invited two members of the OASIS team to present on gender violence in their countries: Janice Deaton, the Training Course Director at Justice in Mexico’s OASIS project, and Carmen Adriana Blanco Niño, an OASIS instructor from Barranquilla, Colombia. The seminar, “Perspectives in the Americas on Domestic Violence during COVID-19,” was held from April 20 through April 25, 2020, and was organized by UNAM professors Martha Malanche Gómez and Trilce Fabiola Ovilla Bueno.

Justice in Mexico’s collaboration with UNAM dates back to 2015 when UNAM hosted OASIS oral advocacy workshops. Trilce Ovilla Bueno was a participant in OASIS’s first trial skills workshop at UNAM, and in 2015, she participated in a study trip to San Diego and USD, where she and other outstanding OASIS participants from UNAM learned about the American justice system. Ms. Ovilla’s involvement with OASIS has continued since that time.

The Online Seminar

The seminar began with welcoming remarks from the Director of the Facultad de Derecho, Dr. Raúl Contreras Bustamante. Dr. Contreras was followed by UNAM Professor Marleke Ríos Nava, who gave the first presentation on an international overview of gender violence. She was followed by all-female presenters from Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, the United States, and Mexico, who discussed domestic and gender violence in their respective countries during the COVID 19 crisis.

Domestic Violence Around the World

Professor Ríos Nava provided an overview of gender violence around the world and explained the international regulation of women’s rights and gender violence. Professor Ríos argued the most important treaty in women’s rights is the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW), which has been signed but not ratified by the United States. Professor Ríos discussed the global rise in gender violence cases resulting from the COVID 19 pandemic and concluded by discussing various resources for victims of gender or domestic violence.

Gender Violence in Argentina

Dr. Adriana Beatriz Rodríguez discussed gender violence in Argentina. Dr. Rodríguez, who teaches social work at the Universidad Nacional de Cuyo, in Argentina, focused on the concerning factors brought on by the pandemic that tend to increase gender violence and domestic violence. She mentioned the home confinement and resultant inability to ask for help, as well as the other stressors brought on by the economic crisis surrounding the pandemic.

Domestic violence in Colombia

OASIS instructor Carmen Adriana Blanco Niño spoke on domestic violence in Colombia. Ms. Blanco has been a trial skills instructor with OASIS since its beginning in 2015 and is from the Universidad Libre de Barranquilla, Colombia.
Ms. Blanco likewise discussed the worrying conditions of confinement due to the virus, as well as the increase in alcohol consumption in Colombia during the pandemic. Ms. Blanco highlighted the correlation between heavy alcohol use and intimate partner violence. She provided statistics as well as resources for people suffering from gender violence.

Domestic violence in Paraguay

Dra. Nadia Czeranuik is from the Universidad Autónoma de Encarnación, Paraguay, where she teaches education and also teaches school to young children. Dr. Czeranuik addressed the problem of violence at the university level. There was also a discussion on the challenges when a teacher suspects a student is involved in gender violence. Dr. Czeranuik emphasized the importance of educating young children with appropriate gender values.

Domestic violence in Mexico

Dr. Elssie Núñez Carpizo, a law professor from UNAM, presented on gender violence in Mexico during COVID 19. Dr. Núñez, who specializes in law and sociology, concurred with the other speakers that the COVID 19 virus and the resulting safety measures have increased incidents of gender violence in Mexico. Dr. Núñez also provided resources for further learning.

Domestic violence in the United States

Ms. Deaton focused on Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the United States. She began by providing the results from the 2018 Thomas Reuters Foundation Perception Poll, which places the United States in the top ten most dangerous countries in the world according to global experts on women’s issues. Access the survey here. http://poll2018.trust.org/
Ms. Deaton then looked specifically at Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) in the United States. As she explained, the United States Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has declared Domestic Violence or Intimate Partner Violence a public health problem. According to the CDC, about 1 in 4 women and nearly 1 in 10 men have experienced contact sexual violence, physical violence, and/or stalking by an intimate partner during their lifetime and reported some form of IPV-related impact. Regarding non-physical violence, over 43 million women and 38 million men experienced psychological aggression by an intimate partner in their lifetime. Ms. Deaton commented on factors that increase the risk for perpetration and victimization of IPV, according to the CDC.

The CDC’s report can be found here: https://www.cdc.gov/violenceprevention/pdf/ipv-technicalpackages.pdf

Sexual Violence on University Campuses

Next, Ms. Deaton discussed the issue of sexual violence on American university campuses. In 2012 and 2019, the American Association of University Professors conducted surveys that showed a quarter of undergraduate women at the schools reported nonconsensual sexual contact.

The report can be found here: https://www.aau.edu/sites/default/files/AAU-Files/Key-Issues/Campus Safety/Revised%20Aggregate%20report%20%20and%20appendices%201-7_(01-16-2020_FINAL).pdf

Response to Sexual Assault and IPV in the United States

Ms. Deaton listed some of the recent public responses to sexual violence, including the #MeToo movement. This movement has highlighted the prevalence of sexual assault throughout the country and in 2017, five of the “Silence Breakers” leading the #MeToo movement were named Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year.” There have recently been several high-profile sexual assault trials where famous celebrities have been convicted.

Intimate Partner Violence During COVID 19

With this background, Ms. Deaton explained the United States is confronting many of the same pandemic-related challenges as Argentina, Colombia, Paraguay, and Mexico. That is, the statistics she presented showed an approximate 25% increase in reports of IPV since the quarantine or home confinement restrictions were imposed in mid to late-March, 2020. Ms. Deaton reported that there are resources for victims of IPV, however, the conditions of confinement make reporting difficult since victims cannot get away from their abusers. Ms. Deaton concluded by providing a list of resources for more information.

Conclusion

UNAM presented a very interesting international seminar on a compelling subject: gender violence and the impact of COVID 19. Over 180 participants attended the week-long online seminar, from various Latin American countries as well as Spain. The all-female cast of presenters are experts in law or sociology and gave similar perspectives of a problem that is all too common in each country.

Works Cited

Anderson, Nick, et al. “Survey finds evidence of widespread sexual violence at 33 universities.” Washington Post. October 15, 2019.

The world’s most dangerous countries for women.” Thomas Reuters Foundation. 2018.

Lumborg, Bjorn, and Michelle A. Williams. “The Cost of Domestic Violence is Astonishing.” The Washington Post. February 22, 2018.

Filipovic, Jill. “The Silence Breakers: Time Magazine’s Person of the Year.” Time. December, 2017

Campus Sexual Assault: Suggested Policies and Procedures.” American Association of University Professors. October, 2012.