Women in Black March on Ciudad Juarez

Reposted from Frontera Norte/Sur Newsletter

November 16, 2009

Women’s/Human Rights News

Women in Black March on Ciudad Juarez

A caravan aimed at upholding women’s rights and stopping violence against
women in Ciudad Juarez and Mexico is headed to the US border. Organized by
Women in Black along with other women’s and human rights organizations,
the caravan set off from Mexico City on November 10.

Prominent Chihuahua City women’s activist Irma Campos Madrigal spoke to
about 100 people gathered in the Mexican capital as the Exodus for the
Life of Women prepared to embark on its journey.

“The great distance between Mexico City and the old Paso del Norte is
shorter than the breadth of impunity,” Campos said, “but never greater
than the demand for justice for women murdered in the city in which
(Benito Juarez), present here today, and the lay Republic, found refuge in
during the 19th century.”

The Exodus for the Life of Women promotes a 10-point program which calls
for finding missing women and clearing up murders, defending sexual and
reproductive rights, advancing gender equality in the political system,
demilitarizing the country, and ending military impunity in human rights
violations against civilians. Women in Black and its allies are urging
local legislatures in the states they pass through to codify femicide as a

On the long road north, the caravan has stopped in several cities to hold
public protests and document violence against women.

In the central Mexican city of Queretaro, caravan participants were
present in a  demonstration  demanding justice for Maria Fernanda Loranca
Aguilar, a 17-year-old local university student who was found murdered
with signs of sexual violence in late October. At the Autonomous
University of Queretaro, the caravaneers painted a mural that included the
names of Ciudad Juarez femicide victims.

Reached briefly while marching near the border of San Luis Potosi and
Aguascalientes, Chihuahua human rights lawyer Luz Castro told Frontera
NorteSur the caravan should reach Ciudad Juarez  on November 23, two days
prior to the celebration of the International Day for the Elimination of
Violence against Women.  In Ciudad Juarez, caravan organizers plan to
deliver a big bell constructed from keys collected over the years in
memory of femicide victims, Castro said.

In Aguascalientes, the marchers faced down local police reluctant to allow
the bell onto a section of the city’s main square, Plaza Patria. Gathered
in the city which was the scene of Mexico’s historic 1917 Constitutional
Convention, mothers of murdered and disappeared women recounted their
suffering and struggles.

“There is a lot of pain on this road,” said Norma Ledezma, mother of
16-year-old Paloma Angelica Escobar murdered in Chihuahua City back in
March 2003. “It is very tiresome, and our strength is extinguished,”
Ledezma said. “Nonetheless, the position of a mother is that I am going to
struggle until the end of my life to find the murderers of my daughter.”

Eva Arce, mother of Silvia Arce who disappeared in Ciudad Juarez in 1998,
also delivered a message of persistence and resistance. Arce pledged that
the mothers on the caravan will aid all mothers of victims in the states
visited by the caravan.

Surrounded by wooden pink crosses assembled on Plaza Patria, other
speakers addressed violence against women in Aguascalientes. As if
delivering a huge wake-up call to Mexico and the world, the bell lugged by
the caravan rang out after each presentation. The event concluded with the
singing of “Ni Una Mas,” the anthem of the Mexican anti-femicide movement.

As it nears the borderlands, the caravan will retrace the route of a
similar event in 2002, when Women in Black and others traveled from
Chihuahua City to Ciudad Juarez in protest of the femicides. Now, more
than seven years and hundreds of murders later, most crimes remain
unpunished and the killing of women in Ciudad Juarez is at an all-time

The Exodus for the Life of Women coincides with a flurry of activity
around the Mexico femicides on the international front. At a meeting in
Washington, D.C. earlier this month, representatives of Mexican human
rights groups requested that the Organization of American States’
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) once again send an
investigator to Ciudad Juarez.

In 2002, the IACHR visited Ciudad Juarez and issued a series of
recommendations to the Mexican government.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the European Parliament is expected to
review this week any progress that has been made since the elected body
passed a resolution two years ago calling on governments in Mexico and
Central America to protect women from violence and sanction the
perpetrators of femicide.

Also in November, all eyes are on Costa Rica, where the Inter-American
Court for Human Rights could render a historic decision holding the
Mexican state accountable for the slayings of Esmeralda Herrera Monreal,
Laura Berenice Ramos Monarrez and Claudia Ivette Gonzalez. The three young
women were found murdered in a Ciudad Juarez cotton field in 2001.

A recent report from Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission claimed
that the three levels of the Mexican government spent tens of millions of
dollars from 1993 to April 2009 in response to the women’s homicides.
According to the federal agency, the money went for special prosecutors,
new institutions and related expenses.

Despite the alphabet soup of agencies brought into the field, women’s
homicides have broken all records in Ciudad Juarez this year. Through
mid-November, more than 120 women were reported slain in the
violence-battered city. Unlike previous years, when gender and domestic
violence were clear motives in numerous killings, most of the crimes this
year appear to be connected to the ongoing narco-war between rival

However, gender violence and gangland rivalries could be merging in an
increasingly sadistic synergy. Late last week, for example, two young
women said to be in their late teens or early twenties were reportedly
tortured and possibly sexually assaulted before being dragged outside of a
house in the Senderos de San Isidro neighborhood where a party had been
underway and then set on fire. The house in which the party was held was
then torched in the fashionable style of warring gangs.

Because of indications of sex-related violence, the case was turned over
to the women’s homicide prosecutor. Earlier, in October, the body of a
beheaded woman was found on a Ciudad Juarez street. Four execution-style
slayings of young women also bloodied Chihuahua City in recent days.

Differing statistics from Mexico’s National Defense Ministry and the
Office of the Federal Attorney General report that somewhere between 3,726
and more than 4,000 women were slain in all of Mexico from December 2006
to October 2009. Domestic violence was blamed for the vast majority of the
killings, but there was a clear trend of organized criminal activity as
the culprit of crimes.

Some officials even attributed murders to human traffickers who killed
victims resisting sexual exploitation. Mexican states registering the
highest number of women’s murders were Mexico, Baja California, Chihuahua,
Guerrero, Tabasco, Veracruz, Chiapas, Jalisco, Tamaulipas, Michoacan, and
Sinaloa, in that order.

Notably, because of smaller overall populations, violence against women
was higher-than-average in the northern border states of Baja California,
Chihuahua and Tamaulipas.

In a new book, Ciudad Juarez sociologist Julia Monarrez Fragoso explores
the various causes and patterns of gender violence in her city. Among the
roots of violence, Monarrez contends, are an industrialization based on
existing gender and class discrimination, localized cultures of violence,
drug trafficking and organized crime and, above all, the lack of rule of

According to Monarrez, “The demands for justice by relatives, by organized
groups of women and feminists have not been heard by the State.”

Commenting on the Exodus for the Life of Women, Chihuahua state legislator
Victor Quintana wrote that Women in Black is attacking “apathetic
attitudes, numbed consciences and normalized perceptions that the murders
of women are something ordinary.” The November 2009 caravan, Quintana
added, proposes to shake up the nation and refocus its future on “a new
reality built by all, women and men, of bountiful rights and of bountiful

Additional sources: La Jornada (Aguascalientes edition), November 15,
2009. Article by Susana Rodriguez. Lapolaka.com, November 11 and 13, 2009.
El Diario de Juarez, November 11 and 13, 2009. Norte, November 7 and 11,
2009. Articles by Felix A. Gonzalez and Herika Martinez Prado. El
Universal, October 30, 2009; November 13 and 14, 2009. Articles by Juan
Jose Arreola and Luis Carlos Cano.

La Jornada, November 13, 14 and 16, 2009. Articles by Israel Davila,
Mariana Chavez, Miroslava Breach, Ruben Villalpando, Gustavo Castillo
Garcia, and correspondents. Cimacnoticias.com, September 11, 2009; October
2 and 20, 2009. November 6 and 13, 2009. Articles by Paulina Rivas Ayala,
Anayeli Garcia Martinez and editorial staff. El Paso Times, October 12,
2009. Article by Diana Washington Valdez.

Frontera NorteSur (FNS): on-line, U.S.-Mexico border news
Center for Latin American and Border Studies
New Mexico State University Las Cruces,New Mexico

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