Mexicans march for women’s safety, justice

AP, MEXICO CITY

Tue, Sep 10, 2019 - Page 7

Hundreds of people on Sunday marched silently in the Mexican capital to call for justice for women who suffer violence in one of the most dangerous countries to be female, including students murdered by rejected suitors, girls raped before they reach puberty and single mothers who disappear without a trace.

Relatives of victims carried pictures of missing and murdered daughters and sisters. They held signs that read: “We won’t stop until we find you.” The word “justice” was scrawled on tape over mouths. They choked back tears, as they detailed the practically nonexistent investigations into the cases and the ability of the perpetrators to walk free.

“This is a state that doesn’t punish, that doesn’t guarantee the rights of women, much less victims,” said Maria de la Luz Estrada, coordinator of the National Citizen’s Observatory of Feminicide and one of the march’s organizers.

On average, 10 women are murdered every day in Mexico, often after a sexual assault, Estrada said.

At least 9,000 more have disappeared without a trace in recent years. The statistics are fuzzy because only about one in 10 crimes in Mexico is reported.

Only 10 percent of total criminal cases result in prison sentences, and when it comes to rape, only 2 percent of assailants face jail time.

“This is a macho, discriminatory culture that always thinks the woman provoked the situation,” said Estrada, who has been fighting for women’s safety for more than 20 years, since hundreds of women were found slain and dumped in the desert outside Ciudad Juarez, across the border from El Paso, Texas.

The UN said that four of every 10 Mexican women would experience sexual violence, such as unwanted groping or rape, during their lifetimes.

Women who report sex crimes are often re-victimized during the investigations, facing questions about what they were wearing at the time of the assault and how many sex partners they have had.

Health officials frequently fail to collect forensic evidence.

The families of those who have been sexually assaulted, killed or disappeared are painfully aware of the failures of Mexico’s criminal justice system.

Elideth Yesenia Zamudio was the first mother to arrive on Sunday, wearing a T-shirt emblazoned with the face of her dead daughter.

Zamudio said she used to spend her weekends strolling around the capital or doing exercise. That changed in January 2016, when her daughter Maria de Jesus was thrown from a window of a fifth floor apartment. The 19-year-old engineering student was found semi-naked, her clothes seemingly pulled off by force. Neighbors, but not the student’s roommates or male house guests, called an ambulance.

Zamudio suspects her daughter was killed by a young professor who had expressed an attraction to the girl and who was at the apartment that night. Maria de Jesus was not interested in an intimidate relationship with him, the mother said.

The teacher remains free and continues to give classes at the university, she said.

The mourning mother now spends most weekends advocating for justice for young women. She said that she is motivated more by love than pain and that getting out on the streets makes her feel useful as her daughter’s case stagnates.

However, she still struggles with the loss and with the frustration that nobody has been punished.

“This has destroyed our lives,” Zamudio said. “Unfortunately, we are many mothers that feel this pain.”

Zamudio lost her job as an insurance agent, dismissed for missing too much work as she hunted down details of her daughter’s death. Old friends avoid her, saying she is no longer fun. She has become distrustful and all-too-aware of the gaps in public safety.

“We have the right to live without fear,” she said. “We have to change the mindset as a society. These men are used to us being submissive.”