Mexico is not a homogenous country. Many well-educated women in the cities live in relative equality, while women in other parts of the country are controlled by written and unwritten rules that restrict their freedom of movement. There are national (federal) laws, but most of the legislation is state legislation and varies considerably among the 32 states (31 states and 1 federal district). Mexico is a country characterised by violence, largely due to the drug trade. Even though the violence mainly affects young men, many women are also killed and injured.
Population: 112.3 million (2010)
Religions: Christianity (Roman Catholic 88%)
Life expectancy: Men 73 years, women 78 years (2011)
Literacy rate: 93% (2010)
Income inequality: Gini coefficient 0.460 (2010) *
Ranking on the Transparency International list of Corruption Perceptions in 183 countries: 100 (2011) **
Ranking on the UNDP Human Development Index of 146 countries, taking gender equality into account: 79 (2011) ***
Maternal deaths: 51 deaths per 100,000 births.
Number of children/woman: 2.3 (2010)
Abortion legislation: Varies greatly from state to state. In Mexico City, a woman has the right to abortion until the 12th week of pregnancy, while in the states of Guanajuato and Querétaro abortion is punishable by 30 years’ imprisonment. ****
Law against rape within marriage: Yes
Violence against women in close relationships: Every third woman in Mexico is, or has been, subjected to violence in a close relationship.
* Gini coefficient:
An economic metric of inequality in a population, for example in income distribution. The Gini coefficient has a value of between 0 and 1, where 0 implies that the assets of all individuals are exactly the same (total equality) while 1 represents total inequality. The lower the Gini coefficient for income inequality, the greater the equality of distribution of salaries, profits, welfare benefits and other forms of compensation.
In 2011, Transparency International ranked 183 countries according to how widespread corruption was in the country. Position 1 on the list showed the country where corruption was least widespread, position 183 the greatest. Corruption within, for example, the police and justice systems has a marked influence on women’s lives.
Every year, the United Nations Development Programme, UNDP, measures human development in the world’s countries taking into account health, education and income, in the Human Development Index, HDI. In 2010 a new index was introduced: GII, Gender Inequality Index, which also takes gender equality into account. The countries are ranked from position 1 downwards.
**** Abortion legislation in Mexico:
Since 1997, women in Mexico City, home to 7 per cent of the country’s population, have had the right to abortion up to the 12th week of pregnancy. Women living in other states also have the right to have an abortion in Mexico City. In the state of Yucatán, abortion is legal on economic grounds if the woman already has three children.
In theory abortion is legal after rape, but in some states, such as Guanajuato, where it is punishable by 30 years’ imprisonment, it is not practically possible.
Grupo de Información en Reproducción Elegida, GIRE, has produced an overview of the legislation in the various states. It shows, among other things, that in some states neither a danger to the mother’s life nor severe abnormalities of the foetus are considered reasons for impunity for abortion.
Swedish Institute of International Affairs
National Institute of Statistics, Geography and Informatics
CIA World Factbook
Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation
Is there legislation in place which explicitly states that acts of violence committed against women by someone close to them which take place in private are against the law, and which imposes appropriate punishment on the perpetrator?
Violence in close relationships and rape within marriage are forbidden under federal law.
In addition, a law from 2007 instructs the states and the local authorities to prevent and combat violence against women.
The states have been unwilling to implement the new law.
Some states have not made rape within marriage a criminal offence and others only penalise rape in close relationships when the crime is repeated. In 14 states, a man who kills his wife or girlfriend will be given a reduced sentence if there is a motive of honour (“razon de honor”), for example if the woman was unfaithful. A man who murders his wife in the state of Tamaulipas can, for this reason, get away with just three days’ imprisonment.
Is there a functioning, non-corrupt police force and judiciary which can pass sentence and enforce punishment within a reasonable period of time?
In some places the courts have received training in how to deal with violence within the family, and in areas of the big cities the situation is slightly better than in more isolated towns in the countryside.
Corruption within the police force and the courts system is a huge problem. Many victims of violence do not tell the police because they do not think they will receive any help.
Organisations which work with women’s rights claim that of over one thousand cases of women who have been killed in the last three years, less than four per cent have led to a conviction.
Because there are different police forces (federal, state, local, traffic police and national special forces) some crimes fall between two stools.
Are there accessible and reliable statistics for the incidence of violence against women?
There are figures. Above all, there are women’s rights organisations and researchers who have been studying the problem for many years.
There is, however, no overall picture of the situation in Mexico. The states classify and count in different ways.
The figures are contradictory, because women’s murders (femicides) are defined in different ways. For example, in Ciudad Juarez there are generally agreed figures showing that 300 women were killed in 2010, but the authorities only count 21 of the crimes as gender-related violence or murder in a close relationship (femicide). The other murders are recorded as “ordinary” drugs-related murders, often without a police investigation. The women’s rights organisations are critical of the fact that so many murder cases are closed without an investigation of the motive.
Is it possible for women to support themselves and their children, for example after divorce?
Yes. It is generally acceptable for women to be in paid employment but the differences in salary are considerable.
Women are paid less than men. In some jobs a woman earns only half of what a man with a comparable job earns.
Are there shelters for women who want to leave a violent relationship?
In some cities there are women’s shelters which offer protection.
The state is opening more women’s shelters (although the majority are private).
Few women are aware that they can be given protection.
There are no women’s shelters in rural areas, and it is hard for the majority of abused women to leave their abuser, for economic and traditional reasons. Women are considered subordinate, and their duty is to obey – if they do not, the man has the right to use violence.
Has the government explicitly expressed the will to fight the violence by means of public debate and various forms of preventive work, for example in the schools, the legal system and the healthcare system?
A law on “women’s right to a life without violence” was introduced in 2007, to protect women and prevent violence. A special office of the public prosecutor was established to deal with crimes against women.
The Government has established several authorities to work with combating violence against women and trafficking, although the resources are limited. Work is underway to educate the judicial system about gender-related violence and gender roles.
The media, both in Mexico and internationally, are drawing attention to the murders of women, the so-called femicides.
The women’s movement in the areas most affected, such as Ciudad Juarez, is strong and active.
The law from 2007 has been criticised for being ineffective. The states have not demonstrated any will to implement the law.
Women’s rights activists are living increasingly dangerously in areas where the drugs cartels are powerful. Women who protest have been threatened, left the country and even killed.
Are there any programmes to prevent the abuser from relapsing into violence?
We have not been able to find any good examples of such programmes.
Does society take the view that women are subordinate to men?
Mexico is a country with a strong macho culture. The man is considered to be the undisputed head of the family, with the right to control. But it is not just the men who keep the gender roles alive; it is also the Mexican women. Despite being independent, many still find comfort in traditional gender roles, even though this is somewhat different in the cities.
In recent years Mexico has seen more women in leading positions in society.
Which direction is the fight to end the violence against women going in?
It is difficult to have an overview of the situation. Many people fear a backlash, given that the violence and women’s murders increased dramatically during the 2000s. At the same time, awareness of violence against women has increased, both among the population at large and within the authorities. The contrasts in the conditions under which Mexican women live are increasing between different regions. In the capital, Mexico City, for example, abortion is legal up to the 12th week of pregnancy, while in other states women who have an abortion are sent to prison.