Sunday, December 5, 2010

Blog 5: Femicide as a Whole
The killing of women is a significant problem in Juarez and Chihuahua City, Mexico.  Women have been disappearing for more than ten years and they continue to occur.  In Mexico, there is a mandatory 72 hours waiting period before a family can report their children missing, making the notification process all the more difficult.  Mothers however, are no longer waiting before taking action.  Mothers are proactive after they became suspicious that their daughters are missing.  They have learned to move quickly as they have no choice.  They go on one-woman public relations campaigns to help publicize their missing daughters.  Mothers call the radios, use the Internet to bring awareness, and post posters all over town. 
            Mothers have gone to the media and documenters to express their frustration and disappointment with the authorities.  Journalists travel to Juarez for answers on why these disappearances are occurring.  One journalist said, “This is not a place you walk into lightly, there are no white people hanging out around these areas”. A journalist asked three people from Juarez to accompany him and act as his guide and they refused.  One of the individuals said “To be with you is a death sentence.”  This year, three Mexican Journalists have been murdered.    
Juarez, which is located just across the border from El Paso, Texas, has a homicide rate for women that far exceeds the Mexican national average and is three times that of the comparable sized city of Tijuana.    El Paso on the other hand has one of the lowest crime rates in the United States, while Juarez is a lawless wasteland where some of Mexico’s most notorious and violent drug gangs exist.   
Determining the motives on why women are being murdered, raped, and tortured is an on-going mystery.  The murders could be linked to domestic violence or prostitution.  Some have speculated that the women have been murdered for their organs on the black market.  Another theory is that they are occurring as part of an initiation ceremony for new members into one of Mexico’s drugs cartels or gangs. Perhaps these murders are going on because no seems to care about these women other then their family members.  The authorities pretend that they are investigated, but probably aren’t doing anything important and don’t give a shit about these families.  The women are young, vulnerable, poor, and easy prey for these dirt bags that only want a quick fix.  Unfortunately, to this day, these crimes continue to occur in Juarez and Chihuahua.   
Femicide is most prevalent in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City Chihuahua, but it also occurs in other states at a lower rate (Veracruz, Michoacan, Oaxaca, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon).  Femicide occurs all around the world.  There are women being murdered in the Middle East who are considered to be inferior to men. In Guatemala, which has one of the highest murder rates in Latin America, women continue to face constant violence and murder threats.  Figures show that on average, 17 people are murdered there every day!
My hope for this blog is to bring awareness to this issue.  Women in the United States should be leading the effort internationally to ensure women around the world receive justice regardless of their ethnicity or religion. 

Prieto-Carron, Marina. "No More Killings! Women Respond to Femicides in Central America" Gender and Development Vol 15, No. 1, March 2007. 
Russel, Diana E.H., ed. "Femicide in Global Perspective (Athene Series)". New York: Teachers College P, 2001.
"Femicide, The Politics of Killing Women". New York: Twayne, Maxwell Macmillan Canada, Maxwell  Macmillian International, 1992.    
Blog 4: Women’s Rights Organizations

“It is satisfying to see them return to their activities and recapture their self-confidence, to remember their ambitions and desires. When you see this then you realize that this group is existing for a reason, because if it weren’t here, many more lives would probably be lost” –Esther Chavez Cano

In February 1999, a group of feminist activists in Ciudad Juarez established the city’s first sexual assault center, Casa Amiga: Centro de Crisis.  They were able to do this after successfully educating the locals against the perception that women in Juarez were cheap, promiscuous, and not worth the time and effort of investigators.  This sexual assault center became important because it gave women in Juarez a safe refuge from domestic violence, incest, and rape.  This crisis center became Juarez’ first and only rape crisis and sexual assault center.  There is a paid staff of three, four volunteer psychologists, and a handful of volunteers, who have dedicated their time and attended to hundreds of calls on rape, incest, and assault.  Staff help provide refuge from violence, therapy, legal counsel, and medical attention to victims.    
            The center struggles financially and has no operating budget.  Sometimes they do not have enough funds for salary or to pay their phone bill.  The funds that have arrived come from a variety of local and international sources, including funds from the Global Fund for Women for computers and staff training.  Staff and volunteers involved in this project have raised money and renovated a house that has been donated specifically for the Casa Amiga. 
            In response to Mexican authorities’ neglect and disregard for the many recommendations offered by national and international human rights organizations, mothers of the victims have formed non-profit organizations themselves.  Their missions are recovering the bodies of their daughters and seeking just punishment for those responsible for the murders.  Three of the most significant organizations  are: Justice For Our Daughters, Our Daughters Return Home, and Voices Without Echo.  
Justice for Our Daughters was formed in 2002 in Chihuahua City, Chihuahua Mexico, just south of Juarez.  It is a group that consists of family members of  victims,  legal advocates, and supporters.  They struggle for justice and human rights and want to bring awareness to the needs of Mexico’s growing population of young, vulnerable, working women.  They demand an end to stigmatizing women who need to work outside their homes to support themselves and their families.  The group demands the creation of new laws to promote public safety, proper legal management of missing person’s cases, and scientifically accurate identification of human remains.  They also demand that any representative of state authority who does not abide by the law and fulfill their duty to uphold the law and protect the right of Mexican citizens should be held accountable and punished.
             Our Daughters Return Home consists of mothers, family members, and friends of the victims who want to raise awareness of the situation and put pressure on the Mexican Government to focus and properly pay attention to these unsolved cases. 
            Voices Without Echo, was founded in 1998 and demands that reports of missing women be taken more seriously and acted upon more quickly by the police. The group also challenges the mayor, city and state law enforcement and government to better protect women in Juarez.  They are known for painting pink crosses on black telephone polls around Juarez to bring awareness to the issue. 

Unfortunately, Ciudad Juarez has outpaced Mexico City as the country’s murder capital with the murder rate of men and women increasing over the last five years.  While the murder rate of women is significantly less than men, it is noticeably higher than statistics reveal for female homicides per capita in any other major city in Mexico or in the United States!   These centers bring hope that change is possible in Mexico.  

Wright, Melissa W: "A Manifesto against Femicide". Geography and Women's Studies, The Penn State University.
Prieto-Carron, Marina. "No more killings! Women respond to Femicides in Central America" Gender and Development Vol. 15, No 1. March 2007.
Mora, Sergio de la. Gender Terrorism on the U.S. Mexican Border: Murder, Women, and Justice in Lourdes Portillo's Senorita Extraviada.  University of California. 2001.
Valdez, Diana Washington. The Killing Fields Harvest of Women. Washington D.C. Peace at the Border, 2006.
Fragraso, Julia M. " Serial Sexual Femicide in Cuidad Juarez: 1993-2001." Debate Feminista 25 (2002).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Blog #3: Factors

Please watch this video on Dual Injustice: Femicide and Torture in Ciudad Juarez:

Ciudad Juarez, Mexico has been portrayed as an area plagued with drug cartels, political and police corruption, prostitution, and migrant-smuggling rings as well as a rapidly ballooning population.  Much of this population was due to the Macquiladora Factories being built in this region.  Very rapidly, female factory workers in search of better opportunities began migrating to the city and these factories looking for cheap labor with much eager to employ them.  Over time, Juarez became a city with much activity and a bustling nightlife.  Unfortunately, many of these women started disappearing and being murdered. 

Most of these murdered women in Juarez were from the lower levels of society.  They were young, poor, and vulnerable and ultimately were more likely to be attacked.  Due to the nature of their work, women were often held and forced to work overtime.  As a result, this often meant walking long distances alone at night. 

Corruption, laziness, irresponsibility of investigations, and apathy of investigators can be blamed for why murders continue to occur.  In Mexico, homicide is a state crime and therefore falls under the jurisdiction of the state police.  Local authorities are not responsible for investigating crimes; however they are often the first to arrive at the site of a murder and can affect how well the crime scene is preserved.  They have disgracefully failed in investigating the murders of women and collecting and preserving key evidence, such as clothing, fibers, fluids, and even the victims’ remains. They have mixed up DNA tests, destroyed important evidence, and have allegedly returned some young women’s remains to the wrong families.  There are groups of volunteers that organize searches in the desert areas and they discover bodies and evidence left behind by authorities.  Authorities have ignored important leads, and have incorrectly identified victims, or failed to identify them at all.  This is all to be blamed on the judicial system and injustice that is occurring there.       

Authorities have carried out arrests simply to reduce public concerns over the murders.  Many detainees have been tortured into providing false confessions.  Methods of torture include beatings, electric shocks, simulated executions, suffocation, and deprivation of food and water.   This behavior by authorities reflects a desire to scapegoat convenient suspects. 

Since homicide is a state crime in Mexico, the federal authorities do not become involved and investigate unless the murders are directly linked to federal crimes such as weapons or drug trafficking, or if the murders were committed specifically for the purpose to commit a federal crime.  When a federal crime occurs and authorities become involved, they have encountered resistance from the state police.  State Authorities have refused to share evidence, autopsy reports, witness information, and other any other information that may help authorities investigate the murders.


Washington Office on Latin America: Crying Out for Justice: Murders of Women in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. March 2005.  
Nathan, Debbie: The Juarez Murders. Amnesty International Magazine.
Fregreso, Rosa Linda. "Mexican encounters: the making of social identities on the borderlands. University of California, Berkeley, 2003.
NACLA Report on the Americas. Combating Impunity and Femicide in Ciudad Juarez. May/June 2008.  

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Blog #2: The Dead Women of Juarez

Please watch video on Juarez Mothers Fight Femicide:

Over the last twenty years, bodies of girls and women began appearing in the desert on the outskirts of Cuidad Juarez, Mexico, a city of 1.4 million just across the border from El Paso, Texas.  Many of these women were raped, beaten, mutilated, and tortured.  This was the beginning of an epidemic of brutal rapes and murders aimed at Juarez’s, young, poor, women.  To date, more than 400 women have been murdered in the cities of Juarez and Chihuahua.  More frightening, there have been over 4,000 registered complaints of women who have disappeared.  In Spanish, this phenomenon is called “Feminicide.”  These victims of feminicide, predominately young women between the ages of 12 through 22 would after a day of going to school or work disappear.  They would later be found murdered and buried in shallow graves in the desert or at construction sites around the city.  Many of these young women were maquiladora workers.

Ciudad Juarez is a city known for its pollution, drug cartels, and violence. Maquillador Factories began opening and operating in Juarez over the years and have lured thousands of women throughout Mexico in the hopes of financial and social independence. The maquiladora workers usually come from small villages and rural areas, and move to Juarez in search of work. Many of these women have worked in family economies, including working on a farm, taking in laundry, or making and selling tortillas. Others have worked for wages in agriculture or as domestics, and some have taken up maquila piecework before migrating to Juarez. They all share the same desire to escape poverty and this helps motivate their decision to move to Juarez.  Many of the workers of the maquiladors live in the outskirts of the city in makeshift houses constructed from cement, cardboard boxes and live without electricity and running water.  Each day women have to walk through the rural dark dirt roads and take company buses that transport them to work. Despite the harshness of life in Juarez, the young women keep coming at the rate of forty to sixty thousand a year. They seek jobs in these factories, which pay higher wages than anywhere else in Mexico. The chance to have an independent life also attracts these women to the city to work in the maquilladors.

These murders flourish in a city where everyone knows that you can kill a woman without consequence.  Many cases have not been adequately investigated and are unsolved.  Few have been punished for these horrendous crimes, denying justice to the victim’s family members.  The combination of poor investigation techniques, flaws in the judicial system, and the use of torture to extract a confession, has contributed to the murders in these areas.  The families of the victims are denied justice that they deserve.

Mexico has ratified International Instruments and domestic legislation on torture, but sadly this practice plays a key role in the criminal justice system.  It is systematically used as an investigative tool and is the basis of numerous unfair convictions.  As a result, the guilty remain unpunished.  Hundreds of families will only see justice when Mexico seriously investigates and punishes those who are responsible for the murders of these women and fully investigates the disappearances of many more women.    

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Introduction: Blog Post#1           September 16th, 2010

Femicide refers to the intentional killing of women and girls.  Violence against women is a worldwide problem that denies them of their dignity, equality, development, and peace.  The violence against women both violates the freedom of women of their human rights and fundamental freedom.   

Femicide occurs throughout the world and includes Iran, Afghanistan, Costa Rica, Guatemala, Mexico, and Congo. While the crime rate have generally been on the rise in these countries in recent years, the murder rate of women has gone up at a rate almost twice as much as men.  Women are being violently murdered often-following rape and sexual mutilation.   

These countries contain a culture that devalues and discriminates against women.  Many of these women and their families have given up on authorities for protection, and have fled their homes to the United States or other countries for refuge.  Over the years, authorities alleged negligence and poor handling of the investigations has left most cases of murdered women unresolved and casts a serious doubt on the few convictions.  The use of allege torture to fabricate culprits indicate that authorities in these countries use tainted evidence, rather than properly investigating the murders.  Although many of these countries have ratified international treaties and have domestic legislation on torture, reports have shown that these practices of injustices against innocent persons have played a key role in the criminal justice system and is the basis of numerous unfair convictions.  

Hundreds of women and their families will continue to see femicide occur unless authorities and the criminal justice system seriously investigate and punish the individuals who are responsible for disappearances, tortures, and murders.  The unfairness and elimination of torture as an investigatory tool should also be abolished in all countries.

Femicide is an important and problematic issue that should be mentioned more often by the media and the public.  Women should have the same opportunity as men, and should not live in fear.  It is important to be aware that many women in other countries do not have the rights or freedoms that women have in the United States. I hope that in this blog I can bring knowledge and awareness to this problematic and complicated issue.