07/19/14 (written by akearns) — The United Nations’ Special Rapporteur on Violence against Women participated in an unofficial visit to Mexico on July 9 and 10, 2014. Special Investigator Rashida Manjoo attended several conferences with members of Mexico’s Supreme Court (Suprema Corte de Justicia Nacional, SCJN), women’s rights organizations, and gender equality advocacy groups, as well as with female survivors of violence. During her meeting with the Supreme Court, Manjoo addressed states’ failures to prevent violence against women worldwide. Manjoo, who was named to her role by the UN Council on Human Rights in 2009, explained that states should be held responsible for violence against women when authorities fail to hold those responsible accountable. She acknowledged that this type of violence, which is present all over the world, comes in many forms, varying from type of violence (i.e. femicide, sexual assault) to location of violence (i.e. domestic, workplace).
According to El Informador, Manjoo avoided specifically mentioning Mexico’s notorious failures to protect women from being the target of such violence, as her visit was unofficial. Mexico, however, has long been criticized for its unequal protections and treatment of women. A study published in 2013 by the Human Rights Department of Mexico’s Ministry of the Interior (Subsecretaría de Derechos Humanos de la Secretaría de Gobernación, SEGOB) and the National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence against Women (Comisión Nacional para Prevenir y Erradicar la Violencia Contra las Mujeres, Conavim) found that female homicides in Mexico have increased dramatically in recent years, particularly in nine states: Chiapas, Chihuahua, the Federal District (Distrito Federal, DF), Durango, Guerrero, Michoacán, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, and Sonora. Meanwhile, several cases of women’s rights abuses in Oaxaca were reported and investigated by Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, CNDH) in 2013 and 2014, raising concerns about the unequal protection not only of women in Mexico, but particularly that of indigenous women.
Nevertheless, Manjoo offered several unofficial recommendations for how to address violence against women. For one, she pointed out the necessity of governments worldwide to empower females “with the vision that we all are equal,” and also to recognize and address the disadvantages women face socially, culturally, economically, and politically. In order to bring needed change, she said, governments must push through legislation condemning violence against women, as well as implement programs to prevent it. However, as reported in El Financiero, Manjoo acknowledged that targeted violence would not stop unless governments and societies began rejecting violence as a way of life; a difficult change both in theory and in practice. Exemplifying how ingrained violence often can be in society, survivors of violence against women in the workplace shared their first-hand experiences during Manjoo’s meeting with the Supreme Court, many of who acknowledged that they did not report their crimes for fear of losing their jobs. This failure to report crimes in Mexico (known as the “cifra negra”) is rather common, as many fear or distrust authorities. According to a 2013 survey conducted by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía, INEGI), 92.1% of all crimes, including violence against women, go unreported, and 53.2% of respondents who reported crimes said “nothing happened” or “nothing was resolved” in their case.
“Estudio Nacional sobre las Fuentes, Orígenes y Factores que Producen y Reproducen la Violencia contra las Mujeres.” Comisión Nacional Para Prevenir y Erradicar La Violencia Contra Las Mujeres, Secretaría de Gobernación. 2012.