Thursday, March 08, 2007

New Law Against Violence Toward Women in Mexico: Hope to an End of Femicide?

This photo by Jorge Urzon literally puts a face on the murdered women of Juarez. These are models of women's faces forensically reconstructed from skulls found in the Mexican desert. In honor of International Women's Day 2007 today, I offer a note of hope, but also of caution. The Mexican Congress has passed a new national law to address violence toward women. It is quite a radical move within Latin America to propose this--it goes straight to the heart of machista culture, namely that violence toward women by men is not a private matter, but one of public health and human rights.

Critics of the law are pointing out its vague definitions of harm against women. That can be handled by the legal specialists, hopefully. The big worry is that there has been no budget allocated to enforcing the new law. Some have even suggested taking some money away from the special prosecutor's office in Juarez that is charged with investigating the femicides in order to pay for the national effort. This seems like a dangerous compromise.

Reporting on this issue is dangerous business. Journalist Diana Washington Valdez claims that women are being killed simply for sport in northern Mexico. Her new book, "Harvest of Women" is now out. And she continues to recieve serious threats on her life.

Please listen the Engage interview with Alicia Gaspar de Alba, done last year for International Women's Day, to find out more about the situation in Juarez.

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