Mexico Gaining Ground in Efforts to End 'Femicide', Other Violence against Women, Delegation Tells Anti-Discrimination Committee
Mexico Gaining Ground in Efforts to End 'Femicide', Other Violence against Women, Delegation Tells Anti-Discrimination Committee
|Department of Public Information • News and Media Division • New York|
Committee on Elimination of
Discrimination against Women
1051st & 1052nd Meetings* (AM & PM)
Mexico Gaining Ground in Efforts to End 'Femicide', Other Violence
against Women, Delegation Tells Anti-Discrimination Committee
Expert Members Concerned about Abortion Laws
Murder of Human Rights Defenders, Low Education for Indigenous Women
Through a “juridical revolution” and a range of comprehensive assistance programmes, Mexico was gaining ground in its bid to end violence against women, including murder, bolster their political representation at the most senior levels and slash maternal mortality, members of that country’s delegation told the Women’s Anti-Discrimination Committee today.
Maria del Rocio Garcia Gaytan, President of the National Institute of Women, and co-head of her country’s 19-member delegation, said the Government of Mexico had recently amended the penal code to criminalize “femicide” — the killing of a woman because of her gender — and had vastly widened its support network for female victims of violence by hiring special agents and creating institutes around the nation to prevent, investigate and prosecute cases, while protect victims.
Since 2006, the number of violence-affected women with access to Government assistance had quadrupled, she said, adding that since 2008, public funds to prevent such violence and promote gender equality had ballooned 138 per cent to almost $4.29 billion. As a result, violence against women had dropped significantly in 28 of 34 federated states. “We reiterate our commitment as a State Party to implement the recommendations of the CEDAW to achieve a life without violence and discrimination for all women living in our national territory,” Ms. Garcia Gaytan said, describing violence against women as one of the current administration’s greatest challenges
Presenting her country’s seventh and eighth periodic reports to the Committee, which monitors the compliance of States parties with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, said that in 2008, Mexico had become the first country in the world to require national political parties to earmark at least 2 per cent of their budget to training, promoting and developing women’s political leadership. An amendment to the electoral law, enacted the same year, had made it possible for women to capture 37 per cent of congressional seats during the presidential election weeks ago, she said, citing also initiatives to improve post and pre-natal care for pregnant women, erase macho and misogynistic attitudes, bolster educational opportunities for indigenous women, and give women equal pay for equal work in the labour market.
The Committee’s 23 expert members acknowledged Mexico’s “pioneering pieces of legislation”, but they expressed concern particularly over the still high levels of gender-based violence and trafficking of women, particularly by organized criminal groups; shortcomings that prevented the criminal justice system from ending such crimes and prosecute offenders; and the murder of journalists and human rights defenders.
In response, the delegation members pointed to protective measures provided by the National Human Rights Commissions and other human rights bodies, measures to standardize investigations into the disappearance of women; plans to create a gender-based violence alert system, passage of the 2007 Anti-trafficking Act, the establishment of a national network of shelters for victims; and a national strategy to improve coordination among the police and the armed forces. However, they conceded that the outcome of those efforts varied among the country’s regions.
Members of the delegation also expressed worries over the lack of rights for domestic workers, low education levels among indigenous women, and the introduction of restrictions on abortion, despite the Committee’s 2006 recommendation that Mexico harmonize abortion legislation, among others.
The Committee will reconvene at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, 18 July, to consider New Zealand’s seventh periodic report.
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women met today to take up the combined seventh and eighth reports of Mexico (document CEDAW/C/MEX/7-8).
Luis Alfonso de Alba Gongora, Permanent Representative of Mexico to the United Nations, led his country’s delegation, which also included Maria del Rocío García Gaytán, President, National Institute of Women; and Alejandro Negrín Muñoz, Director General for Human Rights and Democracy, Secretariat of Foreign Relations; Yanerit Morgan, Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations; Dolores de los Ángeles Nazares Jerónimo, President, Commission on Equity and Gender, Chamber of Deputies; and Teresa del Carmen Incháustegui Romero, President, Special Committee for Monitoring Action Against Femicide in Mexico, Chamber of Deputies.
Other members were: Maria Serrano Serrano, President, Commission on Equity and Gender, Senate; Manuel Gonzalez Oropeza, Federal Electoral Tribunal of Judicial Power; Facundo Rosas Rosas, Deputy Secretary for Prevention and Citizen Participation, Secretariat of Public Security; Francisco Javier Guerrero Aguirre, Electoral Adviser, Federal Electoral Institute; Dilcya Samantha García Espinoza de los Monteros, National Commissioner for the Prevention and Eradication of Violence against Women, Secretariat of the Interior; Ricardo Antonio Bucio Mujica, President, National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination, Secretariat of the Interior; Victor Hugo Perez Hernandez, Director General of Human Rights, Secretariat of Public Security; and Monica Maccise Duayhe, Secretariat for Monitoring Programmes of Gender Equality, Federal Judicial Power, Supreme Court of Justice.
The delegation also included: Aurora del Río Zolezzi, Assistant Director General, National Centre for Gender Equality and Reproductive Rights, Secretariat of Health; Blanca Lilia García López, Assistant Director General for International Relations, Secretariat of Social Development; Ricardo Ruiz Carbonell, Assistant Director General for Public Policy, Special Attorney for Violence against Women, Attorney General’s Office; María del Carmen Barreneche Rodriguez, Director of Political Education and Gender Equity, Secretariat of Public Education; Ismerai Betanzos Ordaz, Director of Indigenous Rights, National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Communities; and María de la Concepción Vallarta Vázquez, Director of Gender Equity, Federal Judiciary Council.
Introduction of Report
Ms. GARCÍA GAYTÁN introduced her country’s report, saying that the “30-30-30” slogan would be easy for Mexico to remember because it had already achieved the goal of ensuring that women occupied 37 per cent of congressional seats. The Government was working to ensure full gender parity in all three branches of Government, as well as in autonomous bodies and civil society by 2030. While cautioning that challenges remained, she said the Government had made progress on women’s rights, citing advances on normative and institutional gender-equality frameworks the 2011 constitutional reform on human rights, which was based on international human rights treaties, and a Supreme Court decision that had established the equal right of all Mexicans to justice.
She went on to say that the harmonization of national penal and habeas corpus legislation with international law was part of a broad process of harmonizing laws governing planning, migration, climate change, development cooperation, disability and protection of refugees and human rights defenders. Recalling that the Federal Penal Code had recently been amended to criminalize “femicide” — the killing of a woman because of her gender – she said the federal budget law had also been amended was recently to require the Government to earmark funds for programmes to promote gender equality and end gender discrimination and violence against women.
Funds for those activities had increased 138 per cent since 2008, to almost $4.29 billion, she said, adding that all Government-run women’s empowerment mechanisms had been strengthened to ensure that gender concerns were mainstreamed throughout State-level government. Moreover, the Government was working to change the public mindset in order to end discriminatory practices and dismantle Mexico’s patriarchal, macho, misogynistic culture, the “principal enemy” of women’s advancement, she said, noting that the Second National Survey on Discrimination in Mexico, conducted in 2010, revealed that women experienced discrimination in all aspects of life.
She went on to cite a range of municipal and national programmes aimed at fighting gender-based discrimination, including in the labour market. A total of 242 strategies developed by various independent entities and 155 committees were working to stamp out sexual abuse and violence, and the Observatory for Equality was working to achieve gender parity in the Mexico’s armed forces. Six Government offices were spending $563 million on 20 capacity-building programmes for indigenous women, she said, pointing to higher education citing programmes aimed at facilitating women’s entry into technical and scientific careers.
As part of efforts to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on reducing maternal mortality, the Government had launched a strategy to improve pregnant women’s access to health care, including prenatal and postnatal care, she said. All women had access to emergency obstetric care, regardless of their ability to pay, and 28.3 million who did not qualify for social security benefits were provided with free sexual and reproductive health services. In 2011, the Government, in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), academic institutions and civil society groups, had established the Maternal Mortality Observatory in order to develop and monitor action to reduce maternal mortality. Starting this year, all nine-year-old girls would be immunized against the human papillomavirus (HPV), a move that was expected to reduce transmission of the sexually transmitted disease by 90 per cent and of cervical cancer by 70 per cent. The number of women with access to mammograms for the detection of breast cancer had doubled, she added.
Since 2006, the number of violence-affected women with access to Government assistance had quadrupled, she said, adding that, in 2011, Mexico had became the first Latin American country to quantify women’s unremunerated work performed in the home. Such work was estimated to be the equivalent of almost 23 per cent of gross domestic product, which exceeded the contribution of the manufacturing, agriculture and oil-extraction sectors. To combat violence against women, which was one of the current administration’s greatest challenges, the Government had launched a “juridical revolution”, which had led to a 5 per cent drop in violence against women by their male partners, as well as a significant decline in emotional, economic, physical and sexual violence in 28 states. “Nevertheless, the challenges are still enormous to fully guarantee a life free of violence for all women,” she said.
The Government’s four justice centres, strategically placed throughout the country, had provided assistance to more than 5,000 women and had issued 886 protection, or restraining, orders, she said. The Law of Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence was a powerful tool to protect women’s rights. The Government had hired 66 special agents and created several special institutes to prevent, investigate and prosecute violence against women, as well as set up 66 shelters to assist victims. Recognizing its responsibility under international law to protect victims, Mexico had presented three cases of such violence to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. It had also set up special units within the Public Prosecutor’s Office to investigate cases of women who had disappeared or who had been abused or murdered because of their gender. Despite such efforts, according to the Secretariat of the Public Security, in August 2011, a total of 10,344 women had been victims of deprived of access to justice, including 325 indigenous women. Steps were being taken to correct that.
Bolstering women’s participation in politics was a top Government priority, she said. Preliminary results of the 1 July federal elections showed that women had won 37 per cent of the seats in both the lower and upper houses of Congress. She attributed that success to the 2008 amendment to the electoral law which stipulated that no more than 60 per cent of the seats could be filled by one gender. From 2006 to 2012, women’s representation had risen from 37 per cent to 44 per cent in the Senate and from 31 per cent to 46 per cent in the Chamber of Deputies. In 2008, Mexico became the first country in the world to mandate that national political parties to earmark at least 2 per cent of their budget for training, promotion and development of women’s political leadership. Since then, $23 million had been invested.
In conclusion, she cited Mexico’s greatest challenges to gender equality and women’s empowerment. Among them were the need to strengthen implementation and enforcement of laws; better coordinate resources among all Government actors; continue classifying “femicide” in all federal entities and applying relevant protocols to combat it; develop a model to address violence against violence against women, particularly indigenous women; reform the Federal Labour Law to established gender parity in pay, end discrimination and sexual harassment in the workplace and penalize offenders; and increase women’s presence in public and political life. “We reiterate our commitment as a State Party to implement the recommendations of the CEDAW to achieve a life without violence and discrimination for all women living in our national territory,” she said.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
PATRICIA SCHULZ, expert from Switzerland, opened the dialogue by commending Mexico for its various “pioneering pieces of legislation”. Noting that the country had a federal law as well as 32 state laws, she said she was interested to know how the Government would respect its commitments under the Convention, especially in relation to preventing rape, forced disappearances, trafficking, femicide and abortion. Who was responsible for guaranteeing women’s rights in the entire territory? she asked, noting also that, due to militarization and the growing influence of organized crime, there was an “extravagant level of impunity in the country”.
PRAMILA PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, asked how the Government would strengthen coordination among the federal, state and municipal levels of authority. How many states had comprehensive centres to ensure quality services for indigenous women? What efforts were being made to train and sensitize the agents of local authorities with regard to gender-based violence, women’s equality and human rights in general?
DUBRAVKA ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, requested more information on training for lawyers and judiciary on the Convention. In approximately half of Mexico’s states, the legal system still permitted reduced sentences in cases where women were killed in the context of infidelity, she noted, asking whether the Government had plans to repeal such laws as per its commitments under the Convention.
OLINDA BAREIRO-BOBADILLA, expert from Paraguay, emphasized that, while enshrining the Convention in domestic law was very important, complying with it was equally important. Highlighting the large number of assassinations of and attacks against journalists and human rights defenders, she said it was necessary to include a gender perspective in the criminal investigative protocol.
NICOLE AMELINE, Committee Vice-Chairperson and expert from France, asked whether the Government intended to make the cause of women and violence a national priority so as to accelerate the pace of change at all levels.
A member of the delegation said impunity was a great concern to the Government, which maintained a databank on disappearances as well as records of each case and protocols to help identify missing women. Mexico was one of the first countries to use the AMBER alert, she noted. It had also established far-ranging legislative reforms such as the law to prevent and eradicate crimes against human rights defenders and programmes for the protection of migrant women and young girls, whatever their migrant status. As for training, the Government knew that current levels were not enough. Officials at all levels required more thorough education, even a paradigm shift, which would bring about a more egalitarian, inclusive way of thinking, instead of the old cultural patterns.
On the subject of federalism, another delegation member said that, because of the federal State’s structure, it was a little slower to harmonize laws, but the international treaties and agreements it had ratified were at the level of constitutional regulations, obliging the State and the three branches of Government, especially the judiciary, to discharge duties stemming from the legislation linked to those treaties. The Government was aware of the importance of a judiciary that would apply sanctions when international treaty norms were violated, she said. On penal reforms, she said the inquisitory system had been replaced by an accusatory system that would enable transparency and effectiveness.
Another member of the delegation said the Government was convinced that the gender-equality programmes it had launched were fully institutionalized and would not change with every change in administration. Mexico had gone “beyond the stage of resistance and foot-dragging”, she said, adding that 35 per cent of federal judges had received training in human rights and gender perspectives.
A large percentage of cases dealt with by the Special Prosecutor for Crimes against Freedom of Expression, had to do with violence against women and women journalists, another delegation member said. More than 100 injunctions had been issued by the Attorney General’s office to protect victims, and the National Human Rights Commission had also requested injunctions for the protection of journalists. Mexico was training an elite police force to deal with disappeared women, she added.
Another member of the delegation said that for decades, Mexican police had performed their duties in “a reactive and disjointed manner”. Violence had become rampant as a result of confrontations between organized crime cartels over territorial control. In order to tackle that, the Mexican State had implemented a national strategy for safety and security involving improved coordination between police, and the subsidiary and temporary participation of the armed forces.
Another delegation member said that although many efforts had been undertaken at the Government and the civil society level, there was no special collective effort to confront the problem of violence against women. Access to protection from discrimination could differ depending on the territory in which, and the government under which people lived, he acknowledged, adding that Mexico had much more to do in that regard.
“ Mexico is not militarized,” another delegate stressed, adding that the State did not create violence. The armed forces were supporting safety and security in some territories at the request of local governments.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
Ms. SCHULZ, expert from Switzerland, sought to know how the Government was addressing the imbalance of power between men and women under the revised criminal justice system. She also remarked that federalism could not be an excuse for the existence of pockets of discrimination in the country. “How many murders less do you need to have?” she asked, requesting information on the objective that the Government had set for reducing various forms of violence against women.
VIOLETA NEUBAUER, expert from Slovenia, asked for information on efforts to strengthen mechanisms for the protection of women’s rights in regions where they were lagging.
SOLEDAD MURILLO DE LA VEGA, expert from Spain, asked about coordination among women’s organizations. Noting that there were three agencies concerned with violence against women, she asked when and how often they met, and how they articulated their work. On the protection of human rights defenders and women journalists, she warned about the dangers of creating “double discrimination”, noting that it seemed that the murderers continued to be outside legal follow-up while human rights defenders were still under threat, in spite of protective measures. “The real protection was to put the originators of crimes in jail,” she stressed, asking what action had been taken to bring the perpetrators of the assault on women in Atenco to justice.
Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, asked whether the number of women who had disappeared had increased or decreased.
A member of the delegation said that while the day would never come when it would be said that not a single death had occurred, the Government intended that one day it would say there was not a single case of impunity. The National Women’s Institute met regularly with the agencies that received earmarked funds to discuss the impact of their programmes, and then reported to the Gender Equality Commission, she added.
Another delegation member agreed with the expert that the best protection was punishing the guilty, but pointed out that Mexico had been evolving a particularly useful system of protective measures — there were national protective measures provided by the National Human Rights Commission, as well as measures handed down by the Inter-American Human Rights Court. In addition, there were centres of justice where protection was offered as soon as women approached them - a great step forward for Mexico.
As for the imbalance between men and women in the new penal system, another delegation member said the revised system provided assurances of hearing and defence for both genders. There were certified public defenders to provide counsel specifically to women whose economic, social and cultural situation prevented them from accessing such services.
Another member of the delegation said that, while the May 2006 assault on women by police in Atenco had not resulted in many prosecutions, it had been followed by a significant intervention by the Supreme Court on serious violations of individual guarantees. That had led to an overhaul of the law on torture, he added.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
Ms. MURILLO DE LA VEGA, expert from Spain, applauded the Government of Mexico for having amended the electoral law to require gender parity instead of relying on political parties to do so. She also noted the positive changes, and careful oversight of magistrates, in verifying whether women were properly represented in the judiciary. Were there special temporary measures to assist indigenous or disabled women, as well as single women heads of household? she asked. Was there an entity to provide them with housing, given their difficulties in finding work?
Ms. PATTEN, expert from Mauritius, noted that the murder rate among women had increased by an average of 68 per cent, according to independent sources, due to a lack of investigation, discrimination against victims’ families and the altering of evidence by perpetrators. How was the Government addressing the long history of impunity and shortcomings in the criminal justice system while ensuring that cases were in fact investigated? she asked. What was the impact of such measures? Noting that the Human Rights Council had expressed concern in 2010 over the absence of protection for human rights defenders and journalists, particularly those who fought impunity and promoted the rights of indigenous communities, she asked what progress had been made in investigating attacks against them? What was the Government doing to ensure proper implementation of such measures?
Ms. ŠIMONOVIĆ, expert from Croatia, asked the delegation to elaborate on steps taken to prevent the murder of women in Ciudad Juárez and prosecute the perpetrators of previous murders. What was the Government doing to punish perpetrators?
NAELA MOHAMED GABR, expert from Egypt, welcomed the Government’s efforts to improve the rights of migrants, but expressed concern over trafficking in women, which was closely linked to violence in Mexico. Were there any studies that looked at the correlation between women and girls and trafficking in persons? she asked. What implementation mechanisms were envisaged to address trafficking? What plans were underway to expedite the prosecution of criminal gangs and an end to their impunity? What were the root causes of trafficking in persons, and was there a campaign to raise awareness of them?
A member of the delegation said that after six years of initiatives at different levels of the Congress, a legal description of femicide had been established, with input from more than 70 organizations. Femicide was associated with mutilation and other harm to the body after the murder, a history of harassment against the victim by her attacker, and the dumping of her body in a public place. The sentence for homicide was 50 to 60 years in prison, she said, noting that there had been a major upsurge in femicide since 2007. Impunity for such crimes was problematic because autopsies were conducted in only 30 per cent of such cases, among other factors. The federal Attorney General’s office was working with 24 local attorneys general to build protocols, and efforts were under way to ensure that a neutral, gender-based violence alert system existed nationwide, she said.
Another delegation member added that the National Conference of Prosecutors had adopted agreements to standardize investigations of disappeared women, and all states had appointed a focal point to address that issue.
Another delegation member said that, in cooperation with the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Reporters without Borders and other groups that monitored violence against reporters and human rights defenders, the Attorney General’s Office had been working to quantify those occurrences, but there was scant data. Cell phones, outdoor and indoor lighting, locks and other measures of security in offices and residences, as well as bullet-proof vests and vehicles, and escorts were used to protect women, she said, adding that her office had 66 open cases, including nine of homicides against women.
Another delegate said the Government had set up a round table to review the procedure for creating a Government-run gender-based violence alert system.
Yet another delegation member cited the 2011 migration law and the creation of an interdepartmental commission to punish trafficking in women. Shelters provided free assistance to victims. In 2006, together with members of the Regional Conference on Migration, Mexico had established regional guidelines for returning children and teen victims of trafficking to their countries of origin, she said, adding that 19 federal bodies had enacted the 2007 anti-trafficking law, which provided greater protection for victims. There was better coordination between the federal and state governments to protect and provide reparations to victims, he said, adding that the Palermo Protocol had been incorporated into national law in 2003. In 2009, specialized shelters for victims of violence and trafficking had been set up and had since provided shelter for 293 women and 92 girls and boys. In addition, 17,000 people had received psychosocial and legal support.
Another delegate said there were scholarships for pregnant teens and indigenous women, while the presence of women in the defence sector had increased. The Secretariat for Equality between Men and Women created dialogue between sexes. Two of the 11 judges on the Supreme Court of Justice were women, she added.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
Ms. MURILLO DE LA VEGA, expert from Spain, suggested that the exemptions be removed from the 2008 electoral law once the desired number of women candidates was achieved in order to avoid discrepancies among States in implementing it.
A delegation member noted that in May 2012, women had made up the majority of those listed on the electoral register. Women’s representation in the Senate had increased from 37 per cent to 44 per cent, and the exemptions must be removed.
Another member of the delegation pointed out that Mexico was poised to achieve 30 per cent women’s representation in the lower house of Congress, the Chamber of Deputies.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
BARBARA EVELYN BAILEY, expert from Jamaica, asked about measures to erase illiteracy, particularly among rural indigenous women. What percentage of women pursued technical and vocational training and careers? Noting that the high participation of women in higher education was not reflected in women’s participation in the labour market, she asked whether employment was based on merit. If not, what were the barriers to women’s participation in the labour force? How was violence in schools, including sexual violence, being addressed? Why did women receive only 23.8 per cent of grant funding, while men received 36.4 per cent? She also asked the delegation to elaborate on microcredit programmes and how women benefitted from them.
NIKLAS BRUUN, expert from Finland, recalled that, during Mexico’s presentation of its last report in 2006, the Committee had asked the delegation to eliminate the pregnancy test for female job seekers. What was the status of that? he asked. When would the revised Federal Labour Act enter into force? How many companies had received certificates for applying voluntary standards to ensure that women received equal pay for equal work? How many cases had been brought to court under the sexual harassment protocol? How often had sanctions been used? Noting the shortage of day care services, he asked whether Mexico was planning to ratify International Labour Organization (ILO) Convention 156 on parental responsibility, and what was being doing to improve the status and rights of domestic workers and indigenous women in the labour market. How did the delegation view the connection between organized crime and employment opportunities for poor people?
MAGALYS AROCHA DOMINGUEZ, expert from Cuba, recalled that the Committee had called on Mexico in 2006 to harmonize abortion legislation. Since then, 20 states had introduced amendments to abortion laws, in favour of protecting life from the moment of conception. Had such amendments been analysed to determine whether they had caused an increase in illegal abortions? How was the country addressing the fact that greater restrictions on abortion led to increased maternal mortality? And with that in mind, how did Mexico intend to achieve the Millennium Development Goal on maternal mortality? Why was maternal mortality higher in the southern part of the country, particularly among indigenous populations?
Ms. BAREIRO-BOBADILLA, expert from Paraguay, asked the delegation to elaborate on measures to better protect indigenous women against violence, sexual harassment and prostitution, as well as limited opportunities in terms of education, the labour market, health care services, among others.
A delegation member said that on the basis of the 2010 census, illiteracy among the indigenous population had fallen by 11 per cent in the last decade, and 7 per cent among indigenous women. The Government provided feeding programmes, shelter and housing to indigenous students in primary, secondary and higher education. Between 2007 and 2011, almost 1,500 indigenous women had been supported through scholarships, compared to 900 men over the same period, she said.
Another member of the delegation said the Government provided bilingual education programmes for migrant women and their children. The school dropout rate was higher among girls due to their early entry into the workforce. Citing the “Pronim” programme for children of agricultural workers, she said that by the end of 2012, the Government intended to provide almost 50,000 scholarships for girls aged 15 to 19. The Government also provided day care services for female college students, she added.
Another member of the delegation said the Federal Labour Law needed to be modified and brought into the twenty-first century. Mexico’s new laws contained provisions against harassment by bosses and penalties for bosses who demanded non-pregnancy certificates, she added.
Some 2 million domestic workers faced multiple forms of discrimination, another delegation member added, noting that, despite a number of attempts to reform the relevant laws, the weight of stereotypes and cultural discrimination still prevailed.
On the subject of abortion, another delegation member said abortions resulting from rape were not punishable, even in states that had introduced constitutional amendments to protect life from conception. Acknowledging that those amendments were causing confusion, she said the Government was training health personnel to ensure there would be no unfair obstacles in the way of women. Abortion remained a cause of maternal death, she noted, adding that the Government was working to reduce the maternal mortality rate by providing timely quality care for obstetric emergencies. Both the popular insurance and the healthy pregnancy initiatives were enabling women to access medical units, but not all of them were in operation yet. The challenge was great, but Mexico was on its way, she said.
Turning to social security, another delegation member described it as a great challenge because of the growing informal labour market. Over the last 10 years, many efforts had been made to protect citizens left out of the social security scheme. There were programmes to provide education, health, and nutrition support, as well as one called Seventy Plus, which targeted people aged over 70 years, a large number of whom were women, she said.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
RUTH HALPERIN-KADDARI, expert from Israel, requested an update on specific areas of reform that had already been planned but not yet enacted, such as removing the limit of 300 days for women to remarry after divorce, and the use of DNA tests to prove paternity. Did the Government provide any supplementary funds to those women who were not granted alimony? she asked.
A member of the delegation said that, because of Mexico’s federated system, non-payment of child support was punishable in some states but not in others.
Turning to the subject of household work, another delegation member said the criteria for separation had become more flexible, making it easier for women to leave their marriages. No-fault divorces had been established and 52 per cent of divorces this year had been initiated by women, she noted.
Another member of the delegation said that, although the subject had not come up, she wished to speak about microcredit. It was necessary to take the word “micro” out of microcredit. Just because it involved women, the credit did not need to be “micro”.
Experts’ Questions and Comments
Ms. MURILLO DE LA VEGA, expert from Spain, said it was not possible to combat trafficking in persons without tackling organized crime. Furthermore, social workers were subjecting women requesting abortion to “third degree” interrogation. The right to health was endangered by such practices, she pointed out. While the Supreme Court should be congratulated for permitting abortion in the first 12 weeks, how was it possible that the Human Rights Commission, despite its name, had appealed that decision as unconstitutional? No law was useful if there was no accountability, she emphasized.
ZOHRA RASEKH, Committee Vice-Chairperson and expert from Afghanistan, described her meeting with a human rights defender from Mexico’s southern Chiapas region who had been threatened by Government agents who had barged into her house during the night. What was the Government doing to ensure that protection measures were implemented properly? She also requested information about the services available to women victims of violence.
Responding to the question on trafficking, a member of the delegation said that an office handling organized crime within the Attorney General’s office also dealt with trafficking issues.
Another delegation member said that all health clinics were obliged to provide abortions for women who had been raped, and if that was not done, criminal sanctions were applied. However, it was necessary to put up signs in the clinics, informing women of their rights as many women did not know them.
On the subject of therapeutic services, another member of the delegation said the national health system offered psycho-emotional support services to women through 284 service points in the country’s 34 federated states. That service had been available to more than 40,000 women so far this year, and the goal was to reach 100,000, she added.
Another delegation member added that there were also justice centres offering such care. Psychologists trained in gender perspectives were the emergency responders and also provided longer-term care.
In conclusion, the head of the delegate said Mexicans were living through difficult times. There was inequality and discrimination, but Mexico was also a country of creativity and progress. In alliance with civil society, the three branches of the Government were working to ensure that there was not a single step backwards, he said.
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