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Thursday, Jan. 19, 2006 at 1:52 AM
Mexican society generally considers domestic violence to be a private matter
2. OVERVIEW OF THE CURRENT SITUATION
2.1 Statistics on violence against women
According to Country Reports 2001, violence against women is "both widespread and vastly underreported" (2002, Sect. 5). Sources state that domestic abuse occurs in one of every three homes in Mexico (Country Reports 2001 2002, Sect. 5; CIMAC 6 June 2002; La Jornada 29 May 2002). According to UNICEF México, in Mexico as a whole, four in 10 women report acts of spousal violence committed against them, and only three of those commence legal proceedings (2001). Men are the perpetrators in 90 per cent of family violence cases (La Jornada 29 May 2002).
According to the chairperson of the Committee on Equality and Gender of the Federal District Legislative Assembly, the incidence of violence against women in the Federal District is the same as for Mexico as a whole, which means that it occurs in one in every three households (ibid. 29 Apr. 2002). In 2001, Federal District authorities dealt with 16,000 cases of domestic violence (ibid. 2 Mar. 2002), and according to statistics compiled by the Justice Attorney General's Office of the Federal District (Procuraduría General de Justicia del Distrito Federal), 48 per cent of homicides committed in 2001 were attributed to domestic violence (ibid. 29 Apr. 2002). Of the 9,132 people in the Federal District who used the services of specialized family violence units (Unidades de Atención a la Violencia Familiar) in 2001, 96 per cent were women or girls (ibid.). For more information on these units, see Response to Information Request MEX40336.E of 11 October 2002.
It is noteworthy that only 12 per cent of judicial police officers in the Federal District are women (La Jornada 1 Oct. 2002). The Research Directorate was unable to find, within time constraints, statistics regarding the number of women employed in other Mexican police forces.
2.2 Attitudes among authorities and the public
Mexican society generally considers domestic violence to be a private matter (Country Reports 2001 2002, Sect. 5) and views it as completely [translation] "normal" behavior (CIMAC 13 Dec. 2002). This is why the police are reluctant to intervene in domestic violence cases (ibid.; Country Reports 2001 2002, Sect. 5). Similarly, many Mexicans believe that racism, sexism and even violence against women are part of the social fabric; in fact, such issues are even joked about (AP 22 Mar. 2002). The concept of womanhood is still structured around patriarchal concepts which are influenced by the Catholic Church (NACLA Report on the Americas Mar.-Apr. 2001, 39). According to a Washington Post article, a "machismo culture" has led many men to "believe they are superior and dominant, and that women are an object" (30 June 2002). In addition, that mindset has led many men - including policemen, prosecutors, judges and others in positions of authority - to underestimate the problem of violence against women (The Washington Post 30 June 2002; CIMAC 13 Dec. 2002).
Women who are victims of domestic violence face numerous obstacles when they attempt to report it (ibid.; CLADEM July 2002, 92; Copley News Service 12 June 2002; COVAC 27 Nov. 2002; La Jornada 27 July 2002). According to one source, spousal abuse is widespread because few women file complaints, specialized judicial authorities are in short supply and [translation] "reporting is not part of the culture" (Seguridad y Defensa Noticias 8 Apr. 2002). According to the Mexican Association Against Violence Towards Women (Asociación Mexicana contra la Violencia a las Mujeres, A.C., COVAC) there are three reasons why few women file criminal charges after they are assaulted (27 Nov. 2002). First of all, they tend to opt for administrative or civil proceedings (such as conciliation, non-aggression agreements and divorce) to resolve cases of spousal abuse (COVAC 27 Nov. 2002). Secondly, they fear reprisals, and are concerned that they could become financially destitute, embarrass their children, be alone if their spouses are in jail, and more generally, undergo a change in their lives (ibid.). Thirdly, they have little information about the types of recourse available to them (ibid.). In addition, COVAC notes that women in general do not trust the legal system because of generalized corruption among authorities (ibid.). COVAC also reports that men are generally the ones who possess enough money to bribe the authorities to secure a favourable outcome for their cases (ibid.).
Women are increasingly relying on divorce as a way to escape domestic abuse, according to Rafael Crespo Dávila, a judge with the Federal District Superior Court of Justice and former family court judge (La Jornada 24 June 2002). Consequently, the divorce rate has increased between 10 and 20 per cent in the past few years (ibid.). The judge noted that 300 to 400 of the 1,300 trials over which he presided on average each year in family court resulted in a divorce (ibid.).
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