Mexico Finds It’s Not Easy to End Violence Against Women

Franco Ordonez, McClatchy Newspapers, May 13, 2008

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Every day thousands of Mexican women suffer physical and psychological abuse at the hands of their spouses, despite a federal law passed over a year ago to protect them. Nearly one-third of the country’s 31 states still haven’t adopted the law, which requires Mexican law enforcement to punish acts of violence against women. Even where the law has been adopted, it’s not being applied, say legislators and activists.

That’s because, despite an official push to move beyond the cliche image of macho, Mexico is still very much a man’s world when it comes to violence against women.

Mexico City’s Commission on Human Rights recently reported that complaints by women against Mexico City law enforcement agencies for failing to respond to complaints increased more than 12 percent after the law’s passage.

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But progress is hard to come by in a country where just a few years ago the punishment for killing a cow in some states was greater than for killing a woman.

A rapist in Mexico can still escape punishment in 21 states by claiming he was seeking to satisfy an erotic fantasy. He can escape punishment in 19 states if he later marries the victim.

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Contreras [Marisela Contreras Julian, president of the Commission on Fairness and Gender in Mexico’s] lower house of Congress.said women who report crimes are turned away or persuaded not to file charges.

“They say, ‘You’re going to forgive your husband, aren’t you?’ ” she said. “It’s the culture. . . . And some of these men are abusers themselves. Therefore, they look for a way to justify the actions.”

Six out of 10 Mexican women have suffered some form of violence inflicted by their spouses or partners, according to government studies. In 2006, more than 80 percent of women who were murdered were killed in their own homes.

The National Institute for Women in Mexico reports that twice as many Mexican women suffer abuse than the worldwide average.

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