return to Current Event page

return to Homework page

Current Event: International Trade

Lead Article:

Support Article #1:
Masculinity in Mexico

Support Article #2:
Reding, Andrew. Democracy and Human Rights in Mexico [1995]

Support Article #3:
World Policy Institute America's Project - Mexico

return to the top of the page


Current Event:

U.S. Department of State. Mexico Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998, Women. Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999

Our article focuses mainly on Gender equality rights within the state of Chiapas, Mexico. It talks about the opinions of both women and men towards the issue of women's rights in the workplace and also in their community. It states that in order for there to be Women's rights, men have to change their ways and views, as well as women putting in the effort to change the society's views of gender equality.

We chose this article because we believe that it expresses the viewpoints of both the sexes very accurately and it shows the opinions and gives direct inputs of the Women's Organizations in Mexico. The points that the women made in their statements were very strong and powerful enough to change the views of people that were non believers in women's rights before. It shows how the women were brought up to obey, to listen and not to complain, but now they've learned that in order to gain equality they must speak their minds, and stand up for what they believe in.

The central issue in this article is Gender rights and the rights that women should and soon will have in Mexico. The article's talks about how women and men should be considered equal and should receive equal pay, treatment and power in their communities. Yet the practical process of respecting and implementing these rights has been slow. Women still suffer domestic violence, and discrimination, and are underrepresented in decision-making in their own communities.

The underlying issues include an innovative project that aims to give Indigenous men the opportunity o come together and look at their own identity and behavior, and how they impact on the lives of women.

The regions that these issues are immediately relevant to are all around the world, but this article focuses mainly on the impact it has on Indigenous women and men in Chiapas, Mexico.


5 Critical thinking discussion questions

1. If there was to be total equality between men and women starting in Chiapas, Mexico, how would it effect the way their government system operates?

2. What is your opinion of equality and the way men and women are separated now? Do you think it's right for women to be treated differently because of their gender? Explain your reasoning.

3. Do you think that men and women are different (despite physical differences)? In what ways are they similar?

4. If the president of Mexico was a Woman, how do you think the laws would change and what would be the changes made in the societies and communities in Mexico?

5. Why do you think it is important to focus on the equality of men and women in all places, not just Mexico? If you were a woman seeking equality in Chiapas Mexico, how would you go about stating your opinions and ideas?


support articles:

Masculinity in Mexico:
Reding, Andrew. Democracy and Human Rights in Mexico [1995]: This web site gives helpful background information relating to gender and minority rights in Mexico:
World Policy Institute America's Project - Mexico: This web site gives information on Mexico's gateway to Americas Project web site on Democracy and human rights in the Americas; with sections on treaties; death penalty
This site gives general information on the practices of human rights in 1998:

return to the top of the page

 Lead Article

U.S. Department of State. Mexico Country Report on Human Rights Practices for 1998, Women. Released by the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, February 26, 1999.

The most pervasive violations of women's rights involved sexual and domestic violence, which is both widespread and vastly underreported. The penalty for rape is 8 to 14 years in prison. The law generally is enforced when the abuse is reported, but these incidents are underreported due in part to a lack of public confidence in the police. The CMDPDH maintained that a rape occurs once every 7 minutes in Mexico City. Victims report only 17 percent of rapes, and the courts penalize only 23 percent of the men eventually charged with rape. For example, a young woman told Mexico City police on May 3 that she had been beaten and raped by an acquaintance. Physical and forensic evidence supported her accusation. The police arrested and jailed the suspect 2 days later, but a judge released him on May 12 based largely on the victim's prior relationship with the accused.

Women are reluctant to report abuse or file charges, and even when notified, the police are reluctant to intervene in what society considers to be a domestic matter. Police are also inexperienced in these cases and unfamiliar with appropriate investigative technologies. According to press accounts, reports of domestic violence in Jalisco increased 86 percent in 1997. Press accounts also suggest that this increase is due in part to a greater willingness by women to report violence.

Since 1993, according to Chihuahua state police, 178 women have been found murdered in the Ciudad Juarez area. The police report that 29 bodies were unidentifiable, 87 cases have been solved, and 62 murders remain under investigation. They classified 90 of the deaths as sex crimes and 40 as serial murders. According to press reports, more than 130 of these murders of have not been solved and there were at least 22 suspicious deaths of women by year's end. In January the authorities appointed a special prosecutor and hired foreign experts in serial killings to advise investigators. Nonetheless, women's groups charged that the authorities ignored the murders because the victims were young and poor. In apparent support of that charge, the CNDH recommended in May that the state attorney general and the mayor of Ciudad Juarez be investigated for negligence. The CNDH also determined that in its inadequate response to the murders the state attorney general's office had violated the human rights of the victims and their families.

In December 1997, Congress passed a legislative reform initiative on intrafamily violence. This law had three main objectives: to discourage and punish intrafamily violence, establish protective measures for victims, and educate the public. The legislation expanded the crime of rape to include spousal rape, involving married or common law couples. The legislation has yet to be enforced. Past legislation has been interpreted loosely; in Jalisco the authorities only need to act on a complaint if the injuries of the victim take more than 2 weeks to heal.

Under certain circumstances limited to statutory rape of a minor between the ages of 12 and 18, the Criminal Code provides that a judge may dismiss the charges if the persons involved voluntarily marry. In practice, this provision is invoked rarely.

In Mexico City, during the first 8 months of 1997, the Center for Family Violence (CAVI) received 8,760 cases and assisted 11,732 persons. The CAVI provided counseling to 2,684 crime victims. During 1996, the Special Agency for Sexual Crimes received 5,643 complaints. Rape was the most reported sexual crime with 1,693 reported cases, 48.2 percent of the total; followed by sexual abuse, 1,053 cases; and attempted rape, 179 cases. The Center for Support for Victims of Sexual Crimes provided counseling to 10,822 people in 1996, and in 1,611 cases it provided legal support. The Mexico City Attorney General's office provided legal assistance to crime victims through a special unit (ADEVI) which was created in 1994. Between January and August 1997, the ADEVI assisted 7,655 people and sent 1,592 cases to the appropriate authorities. The ADEVI also helped to obtain $210,583 for compensation to some of the victims.

The IACHR reported a striking incidence of rape and sexual assault by state agents, particularly of women in detention (see Section 1.c.).

Over 1 million women each year, according to the CMDPDH, seek emergency medical treatment for injuries sustained because of domestic violence, the fourth highest cause of death for women. Groups such as the nongovernmental Center for Research and Care of Women are working to educate both men and women in an effort to counter the widespread view of domestic violence as a private act that is common and therefore tolerated, and to deter future violence.

Although the Constitution provides for equality between the sexes, neither the authorities nor society in general respect this in practice. The legal treatment of women's rights is uneven. Women have the right to own property in their own names and to file for separation and divorce. However, in some states a woman cannot bring suit to establish paternity, and thereby obtain child support, unless the child is a product of rape or cohabitation; the child resides with the father; or there is written proof of paternity.

The Federal Criminal Code includes penalties for sexual harassment, but victims were reluctant to come forward and cases were difficult to prove. Sexual harassment in the workplace was considered widespread by NGO's and women's agencies.

The Constitution and labor law provide that women have the same rights and obligations as men, and "equal pay shall be given for equal work performed in equal jobs, hours of work, and conditions of efficiency." However, women typically were paid less and were more likely to work in lower paying occupations. According to an academic study, even though girls and boys attended school at similar rates, a woman on the average needs 4 more years of education to earn the same salary as a man in a comparable position.

Labor law includes extensive maternity protection, including 6 weeks' leave before and after childbirth, and time off for breast feeding in adequate and hygienic surroundings provided by the employer. During pregnancy, the law requires employers to provide full pay with no dismissals, heavy or dangerous work, or exposure to toxic substances. To avoid these expensive requirements, some employers, including some in the in-bond export processing (maquila) industry, reportedly required pregnancy tests in preemployment physicals or exposed pregnant women to difficult or hazardous conditions to make them quit. The U.S. National Administrative Office (NAO), under terms of the North American Agreement on Labor Cooperation (NAALC), the labor side agreement to the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), accepted a challenge to these practices in the maquila industry. On January 12, the NAO recommended ministerial consultations. As a result, the U.S. and Mexican Secretaries of Labor agreed in October to hold a conference in March 1999 on gender discrimination in employment.

In order to protect women's labor rights, the Ministry of Labor made 23,138 safety and hygiene inspections in private factories and public institutions during 1996. However, while the Government increased the number of federal inspectors during 1997 and negotiated agreements with an increasing number of state governments to expand and coordinate labor inspections better, the number of maquila plants far outstrips what state and federal inspectors can monitor.

In 1995 the CNDH found that the largest number of complaints against health care institutions involved negligence or abuse during childbirth by medical personnel and charges of forced sterilization. It said that the number of such complaints had grown, in large part due to women's increased awareness of their rights.

The Constitution states that all persons have the right to make free, responsible, and informed decisions on the number of children they choose to have. The 1984 General Health Law provides for criminal action against those who pressure a woman to undergo sterilization procedures or perform such procedures without a woman's consent. From May 1997 to May 1998, the CNDH received four complaints of forced contraception. There are 15 formal complaints under review by the National Medical Arbitration Commission (CONAMED), 10 for IUD insertion without informed consent and 5 for sterilization without informed consent. Independent agencies believed that forced sterilizations exceed by several times the number of known cases, but the overall scope of the problem is difficult to quantify. Persons may not realize that procedures have been performed until after the fact, and many victims are reluctant to file complaints. Further complicating the issue, some women may recant their consent if they must affirm it for investigators in the presence of their partners. Several NGO's and government agencies monitor government family planning practices. The CNDH has recommended that medical administrators train their staffs to be more aware when dealing with such patients. The Government has instituted a number of mechanisms, including better training and medical review boards, to address the problem. In addition, the National Population Council, the institution responsible for population policy development, is working with CONAMED and the national and state human rights commissions to strengthen the channels for reporting these practices and to improve the resolution of such cases.

In February 1997, the Government initiated an antipoverty program called PASE in five of nine targeted microregions, designed to try to break the cycle of poverty by tying together health, education, and nutrition benefits, with special emphasis on women and girls. In August 1997, the Government renamed the program Progresa and planned to have it active in all 9 microregions in 13 states, in order to reach as many as 500,000 of the country's poorest families by the end of that year.

The National Women's Program (PRONAM) monitored the situation of women, made recommendations to the Government regarding women's issues, and worked with government agencies, international organizations, and NGO's to support women's causes. PRONAM and the National Statistics Institute compiled gender-specific statistics to ascertain more accurately the status of women. The International Labor Organization (ILO), the Secretariats of Labor and Foreign Relations, and PRONAM also promoted the status of women in the workplace. In addition, PRONAM and the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) initiated an advertising campaign attacking social stereotypes and discrimination against women.

return to the top of the page 


return to Current Event page

return to the top of the page

return to Homework page