Three of every four female human rights defenders in Mexico have been violently attacked for their work, according to the book Human Rights Defenders in Mexico: A Diagnostic of 2011-11 on the Risks of Performing their Work, which was presented Jan. 19.
The report, which was researched by organizations such as the Association for Justice, Women´s Network of Ciudad Juárez and the Consortium for Parlamentary Dialogue and Equity-Oaxaca, say that the activists are the target of persecution and threats, regardless of whether they work defending the environment, sexual health rights or against violence against women.
Between 2010 and 2011 nine Mexican women who worked in human rights were killed: Bety Cariño in Oaxaca; Josefina Reyes, María Magdalena Reyes, Luisa Ornelas, Marisela Escobedo and Susana Chávez in Chihuahua; Isabel and Reyna Ayala Nava in Guerrero; and Carmela Elisarraráz Méndez in Michoacán.
“In recent years, the risk and attacks against women human rights defenders has increased in the entire country,” said the report. “Particularly worrying is the situation in states like Chihuahua, Nuevo León, Oaxaca, Chiapas and Guerrero, as well as the growing and repeated number of attacks against those who denounce femicides, manage or work in shelters for abused women, denounce human rights violations committed by the army, transnational companies and in work environments, defending sexual and reproductive health, support families with incarcerated relatives, or those who have been persecuted or disappeared for political reasons.”
Other big targets of violence are journalists, indigenous rights defenders, sexual freedom activists.
More than three-quarters of those interviewed in the study are victims of gender-based violence, that is sparked by motivations of putting them down and isolate them from their family or community. Forty percent of them said sexual violence was the main form of attack.
“The [human rights] defenders tend to be targets of violence just for being women, and for being women who promote and defend human rights, which breaks with the traditionally accepted female identity,” said the report. “This violence is also posing challengers to gender roles and struggles for already very limited sexual and reproductive rights, which are generally backed up by women with very little support from men, even from human rights defenders.”
The report also said that indigenous women are the most vulnerable of activists, along with young people and transexuals for their lack of economic autonomy, domestic and sexual violence an “innumerable difficulties to balance their family lives with their human rights activism.”