Rape and Domestic Violence: The federal penal code criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and imposes penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Twenty‑three states and the Federal District have laws criminalizing spousal rape. According to the UN and NGOs, rape victims rarely filed complaints, in part because of the authorities’ ineffective and unsupportive approach to victims, victims’ fear of publicity, and a perception that prosecution of cases was unlikely. Human rights organizations asserted that authorities did not take seriously reports of rape, and victims continued to be socially stigmatized and ostracized. Forced disappearances and sexual violence continued to be a widespread problem along the border region.
The federal penal code prohibits domestic violence and stipulates penalties between six months’ and four years’ imprisonment. Twenty-eight states and the Federal District stipulated similar penalties, although actual sentences were often more lenient. Federal law does not criminalize spousal abuse. State and municipal laws addressing domestic violence largely fail to meet the required federal standards and often were unenforced, although states and municipalities, especially in the north, were beginning to prioritize domestic violence-related training.
Victims of domestic violence in rural and indigenous communities oftentimes did not report abuses due to fear of spousal reprisal, stigma, and societal beliefs that abuse did not merit a complaint. There were no authoritative government statistics available on the number of abusers prosecuted, convicted, or punished. According to the most recent National Survey on Household Relations, conducted in 2011, 46 percent of women age 15 and older had in their lifetimes been victims of violence by their partner, with the incidence ranging from 30 percent in Chiapas to 57 percent in the state of Mexico.
Femicide is a federal offense punishable by 40 to 60 years in prison. As of September, 28 states and the Federal District had added femicide to their criminal codes. In many cases state laws allow for reduced sentences when a killing was associated with infidelity. According to a report published in late 2012 by SEGOB’s Human Rights Office, the number of female homicide victims increased dramatically over the past three years, particularly in the states of Chiapas, Chihuahua, Durango, Guerrero, Michoacan, Oaxaca, Sinaloa, Sonora, and the Federal District. The study cited regional disparities in the number of female homicide victims, stating that a woman between the ages of 20 and 24 from the northeastern region of the country was 29 times more likely to be killed than a woman of the same age elsewhere in the country.
According to the National Femicide Observatory, between January 2010 and December 2012, offices of state attorneys general in 10 states (Sinaloa, Chiapas, Mexico State, Jalisco, the Federal District, Morelos, Guerrero, Veracruz, Durango and Guanajuato) registered only 388 femicides. The National Femicide Observatory disputed the figure and reported that the actual number of femicide victims was considerably higher.
The PGR’s Special Prosecutor’s Office for Violence against Women and Trafficking in Persons is responsible for leading government programs to combat domestic violence and prosecuting federal human trafficking cases involving three or fewer suspects. With only 15 federal prosecutors dedicated to federal cases of violence against women and trafficking countrywide, the special prosecutor faced challenges in moving from investigations to convictions, although it achieved several convictions.
On February 4, masked gunmen broke into a beach resort bungalow in Acapulco, Guerrero, and raped six Spanish women who were vacationing in the area. According to official reports, the attackers tied up and gagged several male companions before repeatedly raping the victims over a period of at least three hours. The attackers allegedly spared a seventh woman of Mexican origin. On February 13, PGR officials reported the arrest of six suspects in the case, who allegedly confessed to the crimes. Police officials arrested a seventh suspect on March 7. Following the final arrest, the Guerrero Attorney General’s Office stated that its investigation into the matter was closed.
There were approximately 70 shelters for women and their children funded at least in part by the government. Shelters were mostly for victims of gender-based violence, but the PGR operated one government shelter with a focus on adult sex trafficking victims. According to the National Network of Shelters, shelter staff were professional and the shelters well equipped; however, because government funding typically only covered shelter operations for eight months, there was a high turnover of personnel. Civil society and women’s rights groups maintained numerous shelters as well.
Sexual Harassment: The federal labor law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for fines from 250 to 5,000 times the daily wage. Sexual harassment is explicitly criminalized in 15 of 31 states and the Federal District, and all states have provisions for punishment when the perpetrator is in a position of power. According to the National Women’s Institute (INMUJERES), the federal government institution charged with directing national policy to achieve equality of opportunity between men and women, sexual harassment in the workplace was widespread, but victims were reluctant to come forward and cases were difficult to prove.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the legal right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children and sometimes have the information and means to do so free from discrimination. Numerous NGOs reported that services, information, and public policies in the area of reproductive health were limited. Despite the existence of a national family planning program, the lack of sex education and access to contraceptives in public hospitals and rural areas continued to undermine the government’s commitment to reproductive rights. In a study released in February by SEGOB, the National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women (CONAVIM) reported that, of indigenous women who underwent sterilization procedures provided by public health services, 27 percent were sterilized after doctors consulted with only the woman’s partner and not the woman herself. According to UN estimates from 2011, 67 percent of married women ages 15-49 used a modern method of contraception. Information on maternal health was accessible at public and private health clinics and online at the Federal Secretariat of Health’s website. According to government figures, the maternal mortality rate was 47 for every 100,000 live births. Skilled attendants at delivery and in postpartum care were widely available except in some rural indigenous areas.
On October 3, an indigenous woman gave birth on the back lawn of a health clinic in San Felipe Jalapa de Diaz, Oaxaca, after the clinic staff allegedly denied her care. According to the town’s mayor, the woman arrived at the clinic experiencing labor pains, but a clinic employee told her that the doctor was not available to help her. The mayor stated a nurse later refused to open the door for the woman, causing the woman to deliver the baby in a grassy space behind the clinic. The Oaxaca secretary of health acknowledged medical negligence in the case but accused the indigenous woman of not following medical instructions and for willingly giving birth “out of desperation” in the back lawn. He further justified the refusal of service by noting the clinic’s limited resources to attend to the various needs of its patients. Another indigenous woman delivered a child outside the same clinic July 18 following similar circumstances. The CNDH opened an investigation into the October 3 case and continued to look into the incident.
Discrimination: The law provides women the same rights and obligations as men and “equal pay for equal work performed in equal jobs, hours of work, and conditions of efficiency.” According to INMUJERES, women continued to earn between 5 and 30 percent less than men for comparable work. According to the World Economic Forum, women earned 42 percent less than men for comparable work. According to the 2011 National Survey on Household Relations, 21 percent of women said they had been victims of discrimination in the workplace in the past year; this figure likely underreported the problem. Women constituted 99 percent of domestic workers and therefore were more likely to experience discrimination in wages, working hours, and benefits. The law provides labor protection for pregnant women. According to the Information Group on Reproductive Rights, some employers reportedly sought to avoid this law by requiring pregnancy tests in pre-employment physicals and by continuing to make inquiries into a woman’s reproductive status. INMUJERES reported that 14 percent of women age 15 and older had been required to take a pre-employment pregnancy test in order to get a job, despite labor laws that prohibit employers from requiring such tests. The illiteracy rate for women living in urban areas was 5 percent, compared with 18 percent for women living in rural areas. In all but two states (Sinaloa and Sonora), women had lower literacy rates than men.