"What language do I have to speak in for you to take notice of what I'm saying, a girl is being beaten and raped …"

by Sassa on March 6, 2015 - 12:07pm

Callings like that1 are very frequent in Ciudad Juárez, located inside the state of Chihuahua, one of the 31 state that made Mexico. The city has become unfortunately famous for horrible killings of many young women, articles and books, as the Huesas en el Deserto (Bones in the Desert) written by Sergio González Rodriguez,describe the situation. Also the cinema has decided to show the problem on some movies as Bordertown (2006) with Jennifer Lopez and Antonio Banderas.

Ciudad Juárez is separated from U.S.A. by the Rio Bravo river, on the other side there is the Texan city of El Paso. Its position has made the city charming for many Mexicans that try to go to U.S.A. to have a better life, so the number of citizens is increased over the time and the biggest part of the population is composed by migrants that live on the poorer areas of the city. The strategic position has became attractive not only for people that want a better life, but also for criminals and especially for drug traffickers, this transformed Ciudad Juárez into one of the Mexican cities with the highest rate of violence.

Violence is common, everybody, men, women and children, can be victim of violence, the number of men's murders is trebled since 1993 and the number of women's murders is quadrupled. The rate of violence against women is very high, many suffer beatings, sexual violence and murder. 1993 has changed Ciudad Juárez and has led the city to always higher rates of murders, especially of women's murders. So what happened in 1993? What is the cause of the increasing of violence?

The cause must be sought in the 70s when the Mexican government adopted the Border Industrialization Program (BIP) to develop the industrial sector on border-towns. The program created the conditions required to install so-called maquiladoras, assembly plants for export products2, where workers are paid less than on other developed countries. The biggest part of workers hired inside maquiladoras are women, they can be paid less than men, they have smaller hands than men, that are better for that kind of work, and finally because they complain less then men3.As a consequence of the BIP, a large number of transnational companies have moved in to take advantage of the favourable conditions which include cheap labour, very low or non-existent taxes, political patronage and a minimum level of regulation. The BIP created also closer relations between Mexico and U.S.A., these bear the signature of the North America Free trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994. A new wave of migrants came to Ciudad Juárez to find a job inside maquiladoras because, even if wages are lower than in U.S.A., these are higher for Mexican standards. The fast enlargement of the city and the presence of so many people, led to an increase on the rate of violence and especially of violence against women. In 1993 there was the first women's murder, it doesn't mean that before this year, no woman had been killed, but it means that for the first time, the woman murdered had features that will characterize future murders. It was the first case of the serial killing of women that is perpetrated still today.

The issue of women's killings is controversial and data are very various, there are also big differences between numbers shown by the police and numbers shown by non-governmental organizations. Some data talk about 880 women murdered and 3000 missing women, some others show 370 women murdered and 300 missing women, but even if data are very different, the phenomenon of violence against women and femicide is real and to many women are still found dead every day in suburbs or in the desert. The chronology of murdered women from 1993 to 2003 shows that the number of murders is increased over the time, 25 women were found dead in 1993 and 39 in 2003.

Researches by Amnesty International, published on the Development of September 2003, show that victims have some common features. Victims are girls between 13 and 22 years, they come from a poor background and usually they are students or workers, the biggest part of them work inside maquiladoras. These workers are more at risk than other workers, many of them live in the poorer areas of the city so they have to walk to go to work and usually they cross empty streets and dangerous areas to reach the factory. Streets near factories usually are not enlightened and these women finish their work late in the evening, when outside is totally dark; 8 women were found dead near a maquiladora in 2001, this demonstrates how dangerous is the place near plants. Amnesty International suggested that the state and municipal must allocate sufficient resources to improving public safety in the state and preventing violence against women in the community, including by installing lighting4. Some plants created a bus system that take workers from the factory and bring them to the city, it should be safer for women, but it isn't so because some bus drivers were charged to be perpetrators of women's murders.

Usually victims are abducted before being killed, it happens not only during the night but also in the middle of the day, many students have been abducted after school. Then, girls are held captive for some days or weeks and for all this time they are subjected to brutal violence, many victims show signs of beatings, rape, biting, wounds, mutilations. "When we found her, my daughter's body told of everything that had been done to her5. When the perpetrator has taken what he wants from the women, he kills her and leaves the body in the middle of the desert or in a empty street. The woman is nothing more than a good that the perpetrator can use when he wants and how he prefers and when he is tired of is toy, he throw her away and looks for another one.

The brutal killings of women is a plague of the Ciudad Juárez society and the inactivity of police and political authorities makes more difficult to eradicate it.

At the beginning, when parents came to the police for reporting missing daughter, policemen told them that probably the girl had gone away with the boyfriend or that she wanted to escape and so they didn't begin investigations. When a woman was found dead, authorities blamed the victim, the State Public Prosecutor said “Women who have a night life, go out late at night and come into contact with drinkers are at risk6. Even if over the years, the behaviour of the police and political authorities is changed, there are still delays on the beginning of investigations, it takes days or weeks and it reduces the chances to find the girl alive. The other problem is that, even if investigations begin, usually the perpetrator is not found, maybe there are some suspects. On the rare occasions when the perpetrator is found, it takes long time before the trial begins and usually very few people are convicted and imprisoned.

Even if many laws and programs have been adopted to eradicate the problem of femicide as the Fiscalia Especial para la Investigación de Homicidias de las Mujeres (Special Prosecutor's Office for the Investigation of Murders of Women), 1998; the 40-Point Plan, 2003; the Ley General de Accesso de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia (General Act on Women's Access to a Life free of Violence), 2007; the phenomenon of women's murders is still present.

Many non-governmental organizations were created to support parents of missing daughters and help them on investigations when the police doesn't do anything, but many times these NGOs are also victims of threats and vandalism. The Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa (Our Daughters Back Home) was established in 2001 by the mother and the teacher of Lilia Alejandra, killed on February 2001. The association gives psychological support to relatives and friends of the victim/missing girl, they raise awareness on the issue and organise campaigns and conferences to talk about it7.

In conclusion, it can be said that if Ciudad Juárez doesn't want to be remembered as the city that kills its daughter, everybody has to commit to respect and protect women. It is not only the duty of the police or of authorities, it is the duty of all citizens to learn to respect women and to consider women's life as important as that of men.


Bibliography and Sitography

Alyson Kozma, Intollerable Killings, Amnesty International, https://d3n8a8pro7vhmx.cloudfront.net/globaljusticecenter/pages/54/attachments/original/1403187950/hrights3.pdf?1403187950

Amnesty International, Developments as of September 2003.

CommonDreams, http://www.commondreams.org/

Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination Against Women, http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CEDAW/Pages/CEDAWIndex.aspx

Nuestas Hijas de Regreso a Casa,  http://nuestrashijasderegresoacasa.blogspot.de/

Observatorio Ciudadano Nacional del Feminicidio, http://observatoriofeminicidio.blogspot.de/


1“En qué idioma tengo que decirles que me hagan caso, que están golpeando, violando a una muchacha …” Telephone call to the emergency services from a witness in the case of Lilia Alejandra García Andrade, after the police had failed to respond to an earlier call (February 2001). Three days later Lilia Alejandra was found dead

2Amnesty International, Developments as of September 2003.


4Alyson Kozma, Intollerable Killings, Amnesty International.

5Said by Norma Andrade the mother of Lilia Alejandra found dead in 2001.

6"Las mujeres que tienen vida nocturna, salen a altas horas de la noche y entran en contacto con bebedores, están en riesgo. Es difícil salir a la calle y no mojarse". Arturo González Rascón, Former Procurador de Justicia del Estado, State Public Prosecutor, February 1999. El Diario de Juárez, 24 February 1999

7Nuestras Hijas de Regreso a Casa.



Hi ! First, I wanted to say that I found your article very well developed and very interesting. Especially because you write about a precise town and not about Mexico in general.
Just, you said at the end that it is not only the duty of police or authorities, of course not. But I think they are the persons who can make change, who have to set the example. They are 'responsible' for the population. People can not change their minds if the police is corrupted, if there is no real sentences, if there is no more awareness-raising campaigns, etc... So, for me, we are all responsible for these horrendous discriminations against women, but people can not change alone.

Hi! Thank you for your comment, I'm happy to know that you appreciated my article.
About your comment I can say that I agree with you. Of course the police plays a key role on the eradication of this phenomenon in Ciudad Juarez and I belive, like you, that if the police would be less corrupt and more effective, probably people would be discouraged from commiting murders. But what I wanted to say with my last sentence was that I think that the change begins from people, ordinary people. If men understand that they don't have to beat or kill a woman, not because they are afraid of the punishment, but because they know that women have the same value and dignity of men, this leads to a reduction of violence against woman.
As I said before, the police plays an important role on this situation, but until a man believe that there isn't anything wrong on women beating, there will not be a change and the problem of femicides will still exist.

Hi ! I totally agree with you. It is exaclty what I mean : inequalities come from the every day life. Already when they are babies : a boy plays football, a girl plays with dolls. That is why I think that the 'ordinary people' - like you said - need to be helped. They need help to change, to understand what is wrong. So for me, civil servant are great and important persons to take part in this process.

About the author

Hello everybody!

I'm Sara, I'm 24 years old and I'm an Italian student.