2005 report on Mexico by CEDAW and reply from the government of Mexico | UN CEDAW
Gender-based discrimination and violence—the situation in Ciudad Juarez
General context and evolution of the situation
22. Ciudad Juárez lies in the northern part of the State of Chihuahua, on the border with the United States of America. With a current population of 1.5 million (including the floating population), it is the largest centre in the State of Chihuahua (Mexico’s “Big State”), accounting for 40 per cent of the State’s overall population. It includes an industrial sector that has seen dizzying growth, especially over the last decade, due to the growth of the maquila industry, which has brought an increase in the flow of migrants from other parts of Mexico, compounded by the presence of foreign migrants. Regarded as an “open door” to employment prospects and better opportunities, Cuidad Juárez is also an “open door” to illegal immigration and drug trafficking.
23. The accelerated population growth has not been accompanied by the creation of public services needed to respond to the basic needs of this population, such as health and education, housing, and sanitation and lighting infrastructures. This has helped create serious situations of destitution and poverty, accompanied by tensions within individual families and within society as a whole. During a visit to the city’s western district, the delegation was able to witness the extreme poverty of the local families; most of those households are headed by women and live in extreme destitution. Furthermore, the delegation was informed by various sources that in Ciudad Juárez there is a marked difference between social classes, with the existence of a minority of wealthy, powerful families, who own the land on which the marginal maquilas and urban districts are located, making structural change difficult. The overall situation has led to a range of criminal behaviours, including organized crime, drug trafficking, trafficking in women, undocumented migration, money-laundering, pornography, procuring, and the exploitation of prostitution.
25. In addition, the situation created by the establishment of the maquilas and the creation of jobs mainly for women, without the creation of enough alternatives for men, has changed the traditional dynamic of relations between the sexes, which was characterized by gender inequality. This gives rise to a situation of conflict towards the women — especially the youngest — employed in the maquilas. This social change in women’s roles has not been accompanied by a change in traditionally patriarchal attitudes and mentalities, and thus the stereotyped view of men’s and women’s social roles has been perpetuated.
26. Within this context, a culture of impunity has taken root which facilitates and encourages terrible violations of human rights. Violence against women has also taken root, and has developed specific characteristics marked by hatred and misogyny. There have been widespread kidnappings, disappearances, rapes, mutilations and murders, especially over the past decade.
31. Finally, in 2002, in response to requests made by numerous individuals and organizations of civil society to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and its Special Rapporteur on Women’s Rights, the Federal Government invited her to visit the country — a visit that took place in February of that year. The following year, IACHR adopted and published a well-documented report, which presented an overall picture of the situation.
International commitments in the field of women's rights
49. The promotion and protection of human rights is one of the obligations which have been actively assumed by the current Government. Mexico has signed and ratified the principal international human rights instruments, including the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and its Optional Protocol; the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the Convention on the Rights of the Child; and, in the specific area of women’s rights, the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women. It is also bound by relevant regional instruments.
73. It is impossible even to guess how many women have actually disappeared in Ciudad Juárez during the past decade; the current estimate varies from the 44 acknowledged by the State authorities to the 400 mentioned by NGOs and the 4,500 reported by the National Human Rights Commission.
74. The Government maintains that most cases do not really involve disappearances since a high percentage of the women working and living in Ciudad Juárez are from other parts of the country. Thus, they stay for a while and then leave; many go to the United States, leave with their boyfriends, run away after serious disagreements with their parents or flee from domestic violence. In addition, disappearance is not considered a crime in Mexico.
75. For these reasons, the authorities do not immediately investigate the cases which are reported and do not consider themselves obligated to act on reports of abduction; instead, they tell the disappeared persons’ families to look for them and to make inquiries; days pass before an investigation is opened. In reality, according to civil society organizations and the victims’ families, nothing is done and essential time, during which lives could be saved, is lost since there is evidence that the girls always remain in their killers’ hands for several days before they are murdered.