Thursday, March 8, 2012

On International Women's Day, Mexico confronts endemic domestic violence

Día International de la Mujer observed by Calderón and others protesting machismo

The International Day of the Woman is being observed here, and thus I presume world wide. I'll admit, I was unaware of the impending event until I noticed a sign outside a commercial building in my neighborhood yesterday afternoon, where a crowd of women had gathered to attend a workshop. Earlier today president Felipe Calderón addressed a conference in Chiapas on women's issues, part of which was broadcast live. And in this presidential election year, officials of the three major political parties (PRI, PAN and PRD) are speaking out as well.

Apropos of all this, in yesterday's local newspaper, Diario de Yucatán (a PAN rag, to be sure, but there are few truly independent newspapers in Mexico), I noticed a sinister article on a topic about which I have written (and translated for a Spanish language writer) previously. In net effect the article said that Yucatán, relatively speaking, is still in the dark ages when it comes to protection of women from domestic abuse. And In many larger Mexican cities today women's groups organized and were on the street protesting the historic machismo in this country, which often leads to tragic consequences.

The Diario de Yucatán article (Mar. 7), entitled El Feminicidio, Tolerado (The Murder of Women, Tolerated), said that Yucatán has some of the most male-biased criminal laws in Mexico (along with the states of Michoacán, Baja California Sur, Chiapas, Jalisco, and Zacatecas). In varying degrees, these states have reduced penalties for cases in which a man, "surprises his wife or partner in the carnal act, or close to its consummation, and then kills her." The Victorian language is Diario's.

The Diario claims that in some Mexican jurisdictions, "honor killings" carry a penalty as little as three days to five years. In Michoacán, stealing a cow is statutorily a more severe offense than killing a woman under honor circumstances, according to the paper. In 10 other states, the stress or "emotional volatility" of a criminal actor arising from betrayed love may be considered by the court when it imposes sentence. Homicide in Mexico is generally a state offense, just as it is in the United States, and each of Mexico's 32 separate jurisdictions is free to create its own sentencing scheme in murder cases. For that reason, some have called for a federal femicide law with uniform national penalties (see below). By way of contrast only (I'm not opining one way or another), the U.S. has no federal femicide law, nor has there ever been any significant support for such.

Last year I collaborated with a Mexican writer on two pieces dealing with a notorious case of horrific domestic violence which occurred right here in Mérida. The case was mentioned in the Diario story. These are the articles, translated from the author's rather challenging Spanish writing style to the best English I could produce (no small task in this instance): Mexico`s Cancer - Domestic Violence, A Virtual License to Kill; Yucatán Acts on Behalf of Woman Almost Murdered by Ex-Boyfriend.

In December I wrote a piece about the possible enactment of a national femicide law in Mexico. It passed: Mexico closer to a federal femicide law.

[While we're on the topic of abusive males, Rush Limbaugh got his comeuppance]

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