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About the Invisible Women in Mexico: Not Only Disappeared, but also Forgotten…

<Alma Burciaga Gonzalez, Project Manager, Edirisa UK in Kabale, Uganda>

Alma Burciaga GonzalezYears ago, in 2006, I had the chance to write a book regarding the disappearances and murders of women and girls in Juarez, one of the most violent areas in the northern part of Mexico. I was surprised as to how people lived there, how women lived fearing for their lives.

These days, with the so-called “war on drugs” strategy implemented by the Mexican Government, violence has spread all around the country resulting in the deaths and disappearances of thousands of people. From all of these occurrences, violence against women, specifically disappearances and murder, has dramatically increased.

Most of them have remained invisible given the general security crisis in the country and the tendency of state authorities limiting themselves to blame the victims for being in the wrong place at the wrong time, or even going so far as to assume those women and girls are members of criminal gangs.

The negative labelling of women and their families not only represents a heavy social burden but is also in itself another human rights violation caused by the lack of effective and gender based actions to provide security for women and girls in Mexico.

It was also in 2006, after the Juarez situation became world renowned, when the Mexican Government decided to issue a National Law for the Elimination of Violence Against Women. This law presented an opportunity for activists to push the State and force it to create accurate mechanisms to address the crisis in Juarez and the increasing number of disappearances and murders of girls and women in the rest of the country.

From that year on, some local governments issued their own laws on the matter and promised to create systems and policies that could provide a quick answer in case of missing women or violence against women in general. However, we have a crippled system with no financial resources and no interest by the governmental actors to make it work.

«The Cotton Fields», a place of cult for all those who struggle for the eradication of violence against women in Mexico. (Source: Cronica de Sociales)

On 10 December 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (hereafter «IaCHR») made a historic judgement where the Mexican State was condemned for the disappearance, murder and abuse of three women in Juarez Chihuahua, whose bodies were located in the so-called «Cotton Fields». The ruling by the IaCHR also demanded state responsibility for the abuses committed against their mothers and next of kin.

This case represents a cornerstone for human rights and women rights in mexico since it tackles the discrimination, impunity and the breach of the right to due diligence that Mexican women and their families have to face while accessing to justice.

Mexico shares a massive border with the United States. It is the main door for thousands of immigrants looking for new opportunities. It is also the main gate for drugs and trafficking of persons and weapons by transnational mafias. If women and girls were at risk before, now is even worse and the paths for redress are even further away.

There is no official data on how many people has disappeared during the last seven years and obviously there is no information disaggregated by sex. Mexican men and women have become immune to the daily news about people been killed or disappeared. Now it is one of the many issues going on day by day.

Was the Mexican Government aware of the implications of starting a “war” against such an endemic enemy? Who are they supposed to look for? What are the causes of violence in the country? What is the effect particularly for women and girls?

The security strategy combined with corruption, discrimination, poverty and impunity has only resulted in more invisible women towards the justice system. Some people even think that violence against women has decreased. Some people believe that these women who never came home belonged to a drug related mafia. It was not enough to issue laws, and it was not enough to see what was going on in Juarez years ago in order to do something and create a social justice strategy.

Sometimes I feel I have never left Juarez, sometimes I feel Juarez has just spread around the country as a whole.


Alma Burciaga has a Master’s degree (M.Phil.) in The Theory and Practice of Human Rights from the University of Oslo, and a Bachelor’s degree (B.A.) in International Relations from Monterrey Institute of Technology and Higher Education, Mexico. She currently works as Project Manager at Edirisa UK in Kabale, Uganda. With previous experience as human rights analyst both in governmental and non-governmental sectors, Alma is particularly interested in women’s rights, children’s rights and intersectional discrimination.

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