Violence against women in Mexico

Violence against women in Mexico includes different forms of "gender-based violence" and may consist of emotional, physical, sexual, and/or mental abuse.[1] The United Nations has rated Mexico as one of the most violent countries for women in the world after comparing its rankings of these different types of violence to other countries around the world.[2][3] According to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography in Mexico (INEGI), 66.1 percent of all women age 15 and older have experienced some kind of violence in their lives.[4] Forty-nine percent have suffered from emotional violence; 29 percent have suffered from emotional-patrimonial violence or discrimination; 34 percent from physical violence; and 41.3 percent of women have suffered from sexual violence.[5] Of the women who were assaulted in some form, 78.6 percent of them have not sought help or reported their attacks to authorities.[5]

There are different explanations for the causes of these high numbers of violence; scholars have looked both at the cultural roots as well as economic policies and changes that have led to a recent growth in the amount of gender-based violence.[6][7] There was a rise of international attention looking at the state of violence against women in Mexico in the early 1990s, as the number of missing and murdered women in the northern border city of Ciudad Juárez began to rise dramatically.[8] While legislation and different policies have been put in place to decrease violence against women in Mexico, different organizations have shown that these policies have had little effect on the state of violence due to a lack of proper implementation.[8][9]

Cultural and Economic Roots

Susan Pick, Carmen Contreras, and Alicia Barker-Aguilar, researchers from the Mexican Institute for Family and Population Research (IMIFAP), examine the cultural roots that play a role in the current state of violence against women in Mexico. They look into the culture of "machismo" that has created a feeling of superiority or entitlement for men in Mexico. Women, on the other hand, have been traditionally put into roles of subservience and have had less access to knowledge and power to discuss and change the current norms. They call violence against women "an expression of male power," and they include institutional forms of violence, such as lack of access to resources or types of freedom.[6]

Along the same lines, Mercedes Olivera looks at the way that these gender dynamics have changed recently, especially with the introduction of neoliberal economic policies in Mexico. Mercedes Olivera is a researcher at the Center for Higher Studies of Mexico and Central America in the Universidad de Ciencias y Artes of Chiapas, and she is involved in the Independent Women’s Movement and the Center for Women’s Rights. Olivera argues that as poverty, unemployment, and insecurity have increased in Mexico, more women have started joining the workplace in order to attempt to escape their situations. This progression of increasing numbers of women in the workplace has threatened the concept of a division of labor between men and women, where men's place was the workplace and that the duties of the women are in the home. According to Olivera, this change has affected the men's self-image and harmed their personal sense of "machismo" or superiority.[7]

Femicide in Mexico

Femicide, also known as feminicide, is defined in a report by the World Health Organization (WHO) as "intentional murder of women because they are women."[10] Similarly, it is defined by UN Women, UNiTe to End Violence Against Women, and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights as "the violent death of women for reasons of gender."[11] Femicide is categorized as a specific type of violence against women or gender violence, which the UN described in 1979 as "a mechanism of domination, control, oppression, and power over women."[6]

Amnesty International estimates that there have been around 34,000 female homicides in Mexico between 1986 and 2009.[9] According to the National Citizen Observatory on Femicide, only 49 percent of the 800 cases of women killed in Mexico between June and July of 2017 were investigated as femicide.[8] One activist, Natalia Reyes, reported that only 8 percent of femicides in Mexico are punished.[12] Additionally, in 2012, Mexico was ranked as the 16th country in the world with the highest rates of femicides.[13]

In the years 2011 to 2016, there were an average of 7.6 female homicides per day.[14] In 2016, Mexico had a rate of female homicides of 4.6 femicides per 100,000, and there were a total of 2,746 female deaths with presumption of homicide.[14] In this year, the top three states with the highest rates of female deaths with presumption of homicide were Colima (with 16.3 deaths per 100,000 women), Guerrero (13.1 per 100,000), and Zacatecas (9.7 per 100,000).[14] The top three municipalities in 2016 were Acapulco de Juárez (24.22 per 100,000), Tijuana (10.84 per 100,000), and Juárez (10.36 per 100,000). During the years 2002-2010, the state of Chihuahua had the highest rate of female homicides in the world: 58.4 per 100,000.[9] The rates of femicide in the municipality of Juárez have decreased significantly in just 5 years; in 2011, the rate of female deaths with presumption of homicides was 31.49 per 100,000, and by 2016 it had decreased to 10.36 per 100,000.[14]

Female deaths with presumption of homicide, 2000-2016[14]
Year 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016
Rate per 100,00 women 2.7 2.7 2.7 2.6 2.5 2.6 2.6 2.2 2.8 3.6 4.5 5.1 5.0 4.6 4.1 4.0 4.6

Killings of women are shown to be much more brutal than those of men in Mexico. It is 1.3 times as likely for women to be murdered using sharp objects than men. Also, women are 3 times as likely to be murdered by means of hanging, being strangled, being suffocated, and drowning. Finally, women are 2 times as likely to be killed in means involving substances and fire.[14]

With more attention being given to the amount of women killed and missing in Mexico, there has been a growth in the amount of activism responding. For example, a popular hashtag in Mexico has been "Ni Una Menos." A group in the city of Nezahualcoyotl called Nos Queremos Vivas has gathered for marches, and has also created self-defense workshops to help young girls protect themselves.[15] There is an alliance of 47 different organizations in Mexico called the National Citizen Observatory on Femicide, which has called for more effective and complete investigations following missing or killed women, increasing accountability on part of the authorities in Mexico.[8] This group is funded by the UN Trust to End Violence Against Women.[8] A collaboration among UN Women, the National Citizen Observatory on Femicide, and Católicas por el Derecho a Decidir opened the first permanent exhibition on femicides in Mexico in 2017; the exhibition is called "¡Ya basta!", which is located in the Museum of Memory and Tolerance in Mexico City.[8]

Femicides in Ciudad Juárez

Ciudad Juárez is a city in northern Mexico in the state of Chihuahua located on the border between Mexico and the United States; it is located within the municipality of Juárez, Chihuahua. The first major cases of female homicides in Ciudad Juárez were in the early 1990s, during which the city and events gained international attention.[8] Over the course of just a decade, hundreds of women were reported missing.[16] According to a report by Amnesty International, in 2010 there were 320 women killed in the city of Ciudad Juárez.[17] The rise in femicides in Ciudad Juárez is related to a rise in crime rates in the city, especially as the city has become a major territory in the drug trafficking industry. Amnesty International has reported the lack of a sufficient response from the authorities in Ciudad Juárez and Mexico, and the irregularities in the investigations following cases of missing or killed women.[18]

Sexual Harassment and Assault in Mexico

The National Institute of Statistics and Geography in Mexico reported that almost 3 million sexual attacks, ranging from rape to groping or other forms of sexual harassment, occurred between the years 2010 and 2015.[19] In the year 2009, there were 2,795 convictions of rape, but there were 3,462 prosecutions and 14,829 complaints of rape in Mexico.[17] It has been shown through numerous surveys that the majority of women in Mexico do not report rape to authorities; these studies have shown that as few as 15 percent of rapes are reported.[17] An INEGI report in 2017 found that of the women attending school in the prior 12 months, 10.7 percent of them were sexually assaulted.[5]

It is reported that the main location of sexual harassment in Mexico is the workplace, in which the victim rarely files any complaints since there are no rules in place to address the problem and punish the aggressor.[20] Another common location where sexual harassment occurs is on public transportation. A survey conducted by the National Institute of Statistics and Geography found that 96 percent of women in Mexico City have experienced some form of sexual harassment in a public space, and 58 percent have been groped.[21] UN Women's Safe Cities program coordinator in Mexico, Yeliz Ozman, believes that while this is due to the problem of male entitlement in Mexico, it is made worse by the overcrowded public transportation and when women have to work odd hours.[21] In 2016, the government of Mexico City started offering free rape whistles to women at public transportation hubs. They also provide women-only subway cars and pink buses to help protect women.[2]

Domestic Violence in Mexico

A 2003 survey conducted by the National Institue of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) in Mexico found that 47 percent of women over 15 in a relationship have experienced some form of domestic violence, and that 96 out of every 100 victims of domestic violence in Mexico are women.[6] More recently, in 2016, INEGI found that 43.9 percent of women in a relationship have been attacked by their partner at some point.[5] There are many different types of domestic violence that can occur, including emotional abuse, intimidation, physical abuse, and sexual abuse. A survey conducted by the National Institute for Women in Mexico (INMUJERES) found that 98.4 percent of all cases involving maltreatment of women include emotional abuse, 16 percent include intimidation, 15 percent include physical abuse, and 14 percent include sexual abuse.[6] According to a 2006 survey in Mexico, 38.4 percent of married women suffer from emotional, physical, financial, or sexual abuse from their husbands. As of 2011, this rate had decreased slightly to 28.9 percent.[9]

Immigration and Violence Against Women in Mexico

There are tens of thousands of migrants going through Mexico from Central America and other countries on the journey to the United States.[17] Most of these migrants are from El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua.[22] Migrants are at great risk for different kinds of violence as they make their journey, including kidnapping, threatening, and assaults.[22] According to human rights groups situated in Mexico, there are increasing amounts of women and girls attempting to migrate as well. Women and girls are at special risk as they make their journey north, particularly to sexual violence and to sex trafficking. A report by Amnesty International estimates that 6 out of every 10 women migrating through Mexico may be a victim of sexual assault.[17] Migrant women are at the risk of sexual violence by gangs, human traffickers, other migrants, and corrupt officers.[22] The risk of sexual assault and rape is so high for migrant women that smugglers, or coyotes, require women to have contraceptive injections before leaving.[22] It is hard for researchers to get statistics on violence against migrant women because these women are unable to report the assaults for fear of being deported, in addition to the existing stigmas behind sexual violence that cause many sexual assaults to go unreported.[22]


While there has been legislation over the last few decades attempting to decrease violence against women, they have proven to have little effect due to a lack of enforcement. Many female homicides have gone unrecognized by authorities, so there is no action taken to investigate the women's deaths.[8] In fact, femicide has been criminalized in the Criminal Codes of only 13 states of Mexico.[13] The Committee on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) reports that most states in Mexico do not view femicide as a serious problem, and so they do not see it as equal to other similar offenses.[13]

In 1993, Mexico signed a document from the United Nations titled The Declaration on the Elimination of Violence against Women. This agreement was the first international document that recognized a type of violence that was specific to a gender.[6] In January of 2007, a law was created titled the Ley General de Acceso de Las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia (General Law on Women's Access to a Life Free of Violence), which was created as a response to the alarming numbers of femicides.[9][13] Reports by Amnesty International have shown that this law has not been very effective due to poor implementation and a minimal change in police investigations following reports of different kinds of violence.[9]

One policy that has been put in place to increase response by local officials is the Gender Violence Alert Mechanism (Alerta de Violencia de Género contra las Mujeres). In this program, citizens may opt to receive a gender alert when violence against women is increasing in their municipality.[12] In the state of Mexico, the state with the highest population, the federal government found the state of femicides severe enough to issue an alert on gender violence on July 31 in 2015.[15][23] This is the first time the federal government had done this for any state of Mexico.[15] Since then, there have also been alerts released in Morelos, Michoacán, Chiapas, Nuevo León, Veracruz, Sinaloa, Colima, San Luis Potosí, Guerrero, Quintana Roo, and Nayarit.[23] This regulation has also been shown not to be very effective, since authorities often see it as a punishment or a political attack, and choose to hide from facing any repercussions rather than address the problem and make changes in how they investigate violence against women.[13]

See also


  1. "Violence against women". World Health Organization. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  2. 1 2 Linthicum, Kate. "Why Mexico is giving out half a million rape whistles to female subway riders". Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  3. “Violence against Women.” The World's Women 2010: Trends and Statistics, United Nations, 2010, pp. 127–139.
  4. "Estadísticas a Propósito del Día Internacional de la Eliminación de la Violencia Contra La Mujer (25 de noviembre)" (PDF). Institute Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. November 23, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  5. 1 2 3 4 "Resultados de la Encuesta Nacional Sobre La Dinámica de Las Relaciones en Los Hogares (ENDIREH) 2016" (PDF). Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía. August 18, 2017. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  6. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Pick, Susan, et al. “Violence against Women in Mexico.” Annals of the New York Academy of Sciences, New York Academy of Sciences, 5 Dec. 2006,
  7. 1 2 Olivera, Mercedes. “Violencia Femicida.” Latin American Perspectives, vol. 33, no. 2, 2006, pp. 104–114., doi:10.1177/0094582x05286092.
  8. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 "The long road to justice, prosecuting femicide in Mexico". UN Women. Retrieved 2018-05-14.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Liu, Y. and T. M., Jr. Fullerton. "Evidence from Mexico on Social Status and Violence against Women." Applied Economics, vol. 47, no. 40, 2015, pp. 4260-4274. EBSCOhost,
  10. “Understanding and Addressing Violence against Women.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 2012,;jsessionid=2E636E5F0740BAC96712F0F2C005A00A?sequence=1.
  11. "Modelo de protocolo latinoamericano de investigación de las muertes violentas de mujeres por razones de género (femicidio/feminicidio)" (PDF). UN Women. 2014. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  12. 1 2 Lettieri, Michael. Violence Against Women in Mexico. Trans-Border Institute, 2017, Violence Against Women in Mexico.
  13. 1 2 3 4 5 "Femicide and Impunity in Mexico: A context of structural and generalized violence" (PDF). Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. July 17, 2012. Retrieved June 5, 2018.
  14. 1 2 3 4 5 6 “La Violencia Femenicida En Mexico, Aproximaciones y Tendencias 1985-2016.” Dec. 2017, df.
  15. 1 2 3 "Mexico's largest state rocked by slayings of women". The Seattle Times. 2017-10-11. Retrieved 2018-05-14.
  16. Cave, Damien (2012-06-23). "Wave of Violence Swallows More Women in Juárez, Mexico". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  17. 1 2 3 4 5 “Mexico: Briefing to the UN on the Discrimination Against Women.” Amnesty International, July 2012.
  18. “Mexico: Intolerable Killings.” Amnesty International, Amnesty International, 10 Aug. 2003,
  19. "Mexico City's Plan To Fight Sexual Assault: Whistles On The Subway". Retrieved 2018-05-21.
  20. "Mexico: Lawmaker Proposes Criminalizing Sexual Harassment at Federal Level | Global Legal Monitor". Gutierrez, Norma. 2017-08-28. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  21. 1 2 CNN, Meera Senthilingam, CNN Graphics by Sarah-Grace Mankarious,. "Sexual harassment: How it stands around the globe". CNN. Retrieved 2018-05-28.
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 "Invisible Victims: Migrants on the Move in Mexico". Amnesty International. 2010. Archived from the original on April 12, 2014.
  23. 1 2 Mujeres, Instituto Nacional de las. "Alerta de Violencia de Género contra las Mujeres". (in Spanish). Retrieved 2018-05-16.
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