Section 6. Discrimination, Societal Abuses, and Trafficking in Persons
Rape and Domestic Violence: Federal law criminalizes rape, including spousal rape, and conviction carries penalties of up to 20 years’ imprisonment. Twenty-four states have laws criminalizing spousal rape. Human rights organizations asserted authorities at times did not take seriously reports of rape, and victims were socially stigmatized and ostracized.
The federal penal code prohibits domestic violence and stipulates penalties for conviction of between six months’ and four years’ imprisonment. Twenty-nine states stipulate similar penalties, although sentences in practice were often more lenient. Federal law does not criminalize spousal abuse. State and municipal laws addressing domestic violence largely failed to meet the required federal standards and often were unenforced, although states and municipalities, especially in the north, were beginning to prioritize training on domestic violence.
Victims of domestic violence in rural and indigenous communities often did not report abuses due to fear of spousal reprisal, stigma, and societal beliefs that abuse did not merit a complaint.
According to the law, femicide–the killing of a woman based on her gender–is a federal offense punishable by 40 to 60 years in prison. It is also an offense listed in the criminal codes of all states. The Special Prosecutor’s Office for Violence against Women and Trafficking in Persons of the PGR is responsible for leading government programs to combat domestic violence and prosecuting federal human trafficking cases involving three or fewer suspects. The office had 40 federal prosecutors dedicated to federal cases of violence against women, approximately 15 of whom specialized in trafficking countrywide.
In 2015 and 2016, the federal government began using a “gender alert” mechanism that has existed at the federal level since 2007. The declaration of a gender alert directs relevant local, state, and federal authorities to take immediate action to combat violence against women by granting victims legal, health, and psychological services, and speeding investigations of unsolved cases. Since July 2015 the federal government has activated gender alerts in three states: Mexico, Morelos, and Michoacan. The state government of Jalisco activated its own gender alert. Civil society groups complained that so far the alerts had not led to noticeable changes.
In collaboration with civil society, the state of Mexico established the country’s first “gender alert” system to collect information to support investigations of gender-based violence in 11 of the 125 municipalities. At the national level, there were 72 shelters, of which civil society organizations operated 34, private welfare institutions operated four, and 34 were public institutions.
Sexual Harassment: Federal labor law prohibits sexual harassment and provides for fines from 250 to 5,000 times the minimum daily wage. Sixteen states criminalize sexual harassment, 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 institution charged with directing national policy on equal opportunity for men and women, sexual harassment in the workplace was a significant problem, but victims were reluctant to come forward, and cases were difficult to prove.
Reproductive Rights: Couples and individuals have the right to decide the number, spacing, and timing of their children; manage their reproductive health; and have the information and means to do so, free from discrimination, coercion, or violence.
There were some reports of women pressured to undergo involuntary sterilization, including among indigenous populations, patients afflicted with HIV, and inmates. Antiretroviral therapy to prevent mother-to-child HIV transmission was available.
Discrimination: The law provides women the same legal status and rights as men and “equal pay for equal work performed in equal jobs, hours of work, and conditions of efficiency.” According to INMUJERES women earned between 5 and 30 percent less than men for comparable work, whereas the World Economic Forum reported women earned 43 percent less than men for comparable work. Women were more likely to experience discrimination in wages, working hours, and benefits.
Birth Registration: Children derived citizenship both by birth within the country’s territory and from one’s parents. Citizens generally registered the births of newborns with local authorities. In some instances government officials visited private health institutions to facilitate the process. Failure to register births could result in the denial of public services, such as education or health care.
Child Abuse: There were numerous reports of child abuse. In December 2015 the government created a National Program for the Integral Protection of Children and Adolescents, mandated by law, which is responsible for coordinating the protection of children’s rights at all levels of government. The program includes the creation of a National System of Information on Children and Adolescents, designed to improve data on treatment of children.
Early and Forced Marriage: The legal minimum marriage age is 18. Enforcement, however, was inconsistent across the states, where some civil codes permit a minimum marital age of 14 for girls and 16 for boys with parental consent, and 18 without parental consent. With a judge’s consent, children may marry at younger ages.
Sexual Exploitation of Children: The law prohibits the commercial sexual exploitation of children, and authorities generally enforced the law. Nonetheless, NGOs reported sexual exploitation of minors, as well as child-sex tourism in resort towns and northern border areas.
Statutory rape constitutes a crime in the federal criminal code. If an adult has sexual relations with a minor between ages 15 and 18, the penalty is between three months and four years in prison. Conviction of sexual relations with a minor under age 15 is liable to a penalty ranging from eight to 30 years’ imprisonment. Laws against corruption of a minor and child pornography apply to victims under age 18. For conviction of the crimes of selling, distributing, or promoting pornography to a minor, the law stipulates a prison term of six months to five years and a fine of 300 to 500 times the daily minimum wage. For conviction of crimes involving minors in acts of sexual exhibitionism or the production, facilitation, reproduction, distribution, sale, and purchase of child pornography, the law mandates seven to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 800 to 2,500 times the daily minimum wage.
Perpetrators convicted of promoting, publicizing, or facilitating sexual tourism involving minors face seven to 12 years’ imprisonment and a fine of 800 to 2,000 times the daily minimum wage. For those convicted of involvement in sexual tourism who commit sexual acts with minors, the law requires a 12- to 16-year prison sentence and a fine of 2,000 to 3,000 times the daily minimum wage. The crime of sexual exploitation of a minor carries an eight- to 15-year prison sentence and a fine of 1,000 to 2,500 times the daily minimum wage. The crimes of child sex tourism and exploiting of children in prostitution do not require a complaint to prosecute and can be based on anonymous information.
Institutionalized Children: Civil society groups expressed concerns regarding abuses of children with mental and physical disabilities in orphanages, migrant centers, and care facilities.
International Child Abductions: The country is party to the 1980 Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. For information see the Department of State’s Annual Report on International Parental Child Abduction at travel.state.gov/content/childabduction/en/legal/compliance.html.
According to the 2010 census, the Jewish community numbered approximately 67,000 persons, 90 percent of whom lived in Mexico City. Jewish community leaders estimated there were closer to 45,000 Jews in the country. The Jewish community experienced low levels of anti-Semitism, which primarily involved anti-Semitic rhetoric in the media. In May the Jewish community reported that a congressman used anti-Semitic language during a live radio interview to denounce the candidacy of a Jewish leader as an advisor to the Human Rights Commission in Mexico City.
Trafficking in Persons
See the Department of State’s Trafficking in Persons Report at www.state.gov/j/tip/rls/tiprpt/.
Persons with Disabilities
The law prohibits discrimination against persons with physical, sensory, intellectual, and mental disabilities in employment, education, air travel and other transportation, access to health care, the judicial system, and the provision of other services. The government did not effectively enforce the law. The law requires the Ministry of Health to promote the creation of long-term institutions for persons with disabilities in distress, and the Ministry of Social Development (SEDESOL) must establish specialized institutions to care for, protect, and house persons with disabilities in poverty, neglect, or marginalization. NGOs reported authorities had not implemented programs for community integration. NGOs reported no changes in the mental health system to create community services nor any efforts by authorities to have independent experts monitor human rights violations in psychiatric institutions.
Public buildings and facilities continued to be in noncompliance with the law requiring access for persons with disabilities. The education system provided special education for students with disabilities nationwide. Children with disabilities attended school at a lower rate than those without disabilities. NGOs reported employment discrimination.
Human rights abuses in mental health institutions and care facilities, including those for children, continued to be a problem. Abuses of persons with disabilities included lack of access to justice, the use of physical and chemical restraints, physical and sexual abuse, disappearances, and illegal adoption of institutionalized children. Institutionalized persons with disabilities often lacked adequate privacy and clothing and often ate, slept, and bathed in unhygienic conditions. They were vulnerable to abuse from staff members, other patients, or guests at facilities where there was inadequate supervision. Documentation supporting the person’s identity and origin was lacking, and there were instances of disappearances.
As of October 31, the NGO Disability Rights International (DRI) reported that most residents had been moved to other institutions from the privately run institution Casa Esperanza, where they were allegedly victims of pervasive sexual abuse by staff and, in some cases, human trafficking. DRI reported that they were still suffering abuse and not receiving adequate treatment at these new institutions. Two of the victims died within the first six months after transfer to other facilities, one of whom was a victim of sexual abuse. DRI stated the victim was raped during a period of seven months in the new institution called Fundacion PARLAS I.A.P., and another woman was physically abused at the same institution. DRI claimed the government has not acted to improve conditions at these homes.
Persons with disabilities have the right to vote and participate in civic affairs. Voting centers for federal elections were generally accessible for persons with disabilities, and ballots were available with a braille overlay for federal elections. In Mexico City voting centers were also reportedly accessible for local elections, including braille overlays, but these services were inconsistently available for local elections elsewhere in the country.
The constitution provides all indigenous people the right to self-determination, autonomy, and education. Although the law recognizes indigenous rights, indigenous groups reported the country’s legal framework did not respect the property rights of indigenous communities or prevent violations of human rights. Most conflicts arose from interpretation of the “uses and customs” laws used by indigenous communities. Uses and customs laws apply traditional practices to resolve disputes, choose local officials, and collect taxes with limited federal or state government involvement. Communities and NGOs representing indigenous groups reported the government often failed to consult indigenous communities adequately when making decisions regarding the development of projects intended to exploit the energy, minerals, timber, and other natural resources on indigenous lands. The CNDH maintained a formal human rights program to inform and assist members of indigenous communities.
The CNDH reported indigenous women were among the most vulnerable groups in society. They experienced racism, discrimination, and violence. Indigenous persons generally had limited access to health and education services. The CNDH stressed past government actions to improve the living conditions of indigenous people, namely social programs geared specifically to women, were insufficient to overcome the historical marginalization of indigenous populations.
The law provides for educational instruction in the national language, Spanish, without prejudice to the protection and promotion of indigenous languages, but many indigenous children spoke only their native languages. The lack of textbooks and teaching materials, as well as the lack of qualified teachers fluent in these languages, limited education in indigenous languages.
In April indigenous communities in Chiapas along the border with Guatemala protested a hydroelectric project they claimed threatened to displace them.
In June the CNDH criticized immigration authorities for the 2015 detention of four citizens of indigenous descent for nine days by immigration officers in Queretaro who claimed they thought the four were Guatemalan.
Acts of Violence, Discrimination, and Other Abuses Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity
The law prohibits discrimination against LGBTI individuals, but there were reports that the government did not always investigate and punish those complicit in abuses, especially outside Mexico City. Transgender persons may change their gender marker on identity documents only in Mexico City. The law prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation, but only in Mexico City does it prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. Discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity was prevalent, despite a gradual increase in public tolerance of LGBTI individuals according to public opinion surveys. In March, Rubi Suarez Araujo became the first transgender municipal councilor, in Guanajuato.
In Mexico City the law criminalizes hate crimes based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Civil society groups claimed police routinely subjected LGBTI persons to mistreatment while in custody. Civil society groups reported that the full extent of hate crimes, including killings of LGBTI persons, was difficult to ascertain because authorities often mischaracterized these crimes as “crimes of passion,” which resulted in the authorities’ failure to adequately investigate, prosecute, or punish these incidents. The Executive Committee for Victims Assistance, an independent federal agency, completed a survey 425 lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender persons. Seven of 10 respondents reported discrimination in schools; half reported employment discrimination or harassment; and six of 10 reported having known an LGBT person murdered in the past three years.
In October the press reported three killings of transgender individuals in the space of 13 days. NGOs stated transgender individuals faced discrimination and were marginalized even within the lesbian and gay community.
The National Council to Prevent Discrimination has both national and local level branches. The local council in Mexico City is the city government agency with the authority to resolve complaints of discrimination that occur within Mexico City. The national level council received complaints of discriminatory acts in areas of employment, access to commercial establishments, and access to education and health care. Civil society groups reported difficulty in determining whether individual complaints were ever resolved.
In January the Supreme Court ruled unanimously that denying same-sex partners the right to marry in the state of Jalisco was unconstitutional. A federal tribunal in Nuevo Leon ruled in favor of two women who fought for more than two years in court for the right to marry each other legally in the state. On February 14, the same-sex couple was the first to marry in Nuevo Leon through a civil ceremony in Monterrey. The court ruled in favor of the couple after the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional the state’s civil code restricting marriage to a man and a woman.
Other Societal Violence or Discrimination
There were reports criminal groups kidnapped undocumented migrants to extort money from migrants’ relatives or force them into committing criminal acts on their behalf.
The Catholic Multimedia Center reported criminal groups targeted priests and other religious leaders in some parts of the country and subjected them to extortion, death threats, and intimidation. There were multiple reports of priests kidnapped and killed. In early October the center stated there was an increase in the number of priests killed, from two in 2015 to seven during the year.
Self-defense groups–organized groups of armed civilians that claimed to fight crime in the face of inaction by governmental authorities–were concentrated in the southwestern states of Michoacan and Guerrero.