Stay Informed

Your go-to source for the latest trends impacting gender justice and women’s rights around the world

Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative at the 52nd CEDAW Committee Session

Women human rights defenders organizations presented a shadow report to the CEDAW Committee of Experts, highlighting the Mexican Government’s lack of compliance and demanded a special investigation on violence against women human rights defenders and journalists in Mexico. The Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative contributed to the report and was part of the delegation to New York, along with Consorcio Oaxaca, Red Mesa de Mujeres de Ciudad Juárez, and Just Associates (JASS).

A review of compliance with the commitments undertaken by the State of Mexico to protect women against violence and discrimination in the country was presented during the 52ndSession of the Committee under the Convention of the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women(CEDAW), held from July 9 to 27 at the United Nations headquarters in New York.

In Latin America, Mexico ranks first in attacks against journalists and second against women human rights defenders:

  • From 2005 to 2012, thirteen women journalists were murdered and over 100 reported some type of violence while exercising their profession.

  • Eleven women human rights defenders have been murdered in the last two years.

  • Chiapas, Chihuahua, Guerrero, Oaxaca and Veracruz are the most dangerous States for women human rights defenders as well as women journalists.

Women human rights defenders organizations – among them the Iniciativa Mesoamericana de Mujeres Defensoras, Consorcio Oaxaca, Red Mesa de Mujeres de Ciudad Juárez, and JASS – presented a Shadow Report to CEDAW. The report questions the country’s security model, centered on police and military intervention, that has shown no results around the eradication of organized crime, nor does it guarantee citizen security. “On the contrary, [the model] has increased human rights violations, criminalized protests and brought about a breakdown of the social fabric. As expenditure on the war on drugs increases, so do assassinations, sexual violence, feminicide and attacks against defenders.”

The report presents an exhaustive analysis of the Mexican State’s weak compliance vis-à-vis the recommendations presented by the Committee on previous occasions. It also calls upon the Committee to note the lack of specific recommendations to protect women human rights defenders bearing gender in mind, “…the majority of the recommendations referring to women human rights defenders are centered on specific cases.”

The summary document of the shadow report, while acknowledging the importance of the Law on the Protection of Human Rights Defenders and Journalists (Ley para la Protección de Personas Defensoras de Derechos Humanos y Periodistas) dated June 2012, notes, that violence against women human rights defenders has intensified, “…without noticeable political will nor specific results from the Mexican State to counter this.” The degree of impunity in which these cases remain and the levels of involvement of authorities in the attacks are obstacles to any effective protection measures..

On July 16, the Mexican delegation of women human rights defenders and journalists, comprised of Yesica Sánchez (Consorcio Oaxaca), Margarita Martínez (Chiapas) and Imelda Marrufo (Red Mesa de Mujeres de Ciudad Juárez), along with feminists Alda Facio (Costa Rica), Natalia Escrucería and Marusia López (JASS and the Mesoamerican Initiative), were able to meet twice with the Experts Committee – comprised of 23 women from different countries. The first was an informal meeting, limited to the participation of civil society organizations. The second included governments and oral statements presented by five Mexican women human rights defenders. One of them, women human rights defender Margarita Martínez, set forth the troubling situation of violence against women human rights defenders and women journalists and requested that the Committee carry out an in-depth investigation of these violations and formulate recommendations that fight against impunity and guarantee the protection of women human rights defenders and journalists from a gender perspective.

Margarita, who has been a victim of threats, attacks, and torture since 2009, because of her work on human rights and comprehensive health care for indigenous women. She has been forced to temporarily leave the State of Chiapas, Mexico as the risk to her life and that of her family is quite high. In a recent joint statement issued July 16, the signatory organizations denounced the June 30 threat she received, a few days before her trip to the United Nations, and expressed that “the protection measures the Government of Chiapas has implemented for Margarita Martínez as part of the precautionary measures of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have been insufficient and have not been able to constrain the threats nor reduce the risk, wherefore she and her family have decided to leave this State.”

During the appearance of the Government of Mexico, the Committee of Experts focused on issues such as: human trafficking, violence against women, impunity, reproductive rights, the effectiveness of government actions in the application of CEDAW, and the level of protection women journalists and women human rights defenders have.

An issue that drew the attention of the Committee was the constitutional reforms implemented in 17 States of Mexico to “…protect life from conception to fertilization.” In view of this, the Committee reiterated to the Government of Mexico, the recommendation presented in 2006 to harmonize Federal and State legislation regarding abortion, as well as the application of a broad strategy that includes effective access to safe abortion services under the circumstances established in the law.

The Mesoamerican Women Human Rights Defenders Initiative is promoted by JASS, Consorcio Oaxaca, UDEFEGUA,the Fondo Centroamericano de Mujeres, Colectiva Feminista, and AWID.

The Initiative seeks to bring attention to the situations of violence against women human rights defenders in the region and the violations of their human rights, denounce this violence at the international level, and demand protection and reduction of aggression and risks against women human rights defenders, enabling them the freedom to do their work defending rights. The Initiative is accompanying Margarita Martínez to ensure her safety and security, as well as that of her family. We hope that visibility at the international level will contribute to her protection.

---- To access the complete summary, as well as the final report, please download the following pdf files----

Additional information:

Latin America