Abused Mexican women face hard battle for justice

·3-min read

Battered and bruised from the last beating by her ex-partner, Marisela Oliva waits alone outside a court in the Mexican capital for a hearing to decide if he will walk free.

Her only aim is to see justice served -- no easy feat in a country where 94 percent of crimes against women go unpunished, according to a government commission set up to tackle the problem.

"If the authorities release him, where will I go to protect myself? Where am I going to hide if I'm facing death threats?" said the 58-year-old, who uses a walking frame due to her injuries.

Her case is just one of thousands like it in Mexico, which has been facing a scourge of gender violence.

The government reported 423 femicides between January and May of this year, an increase of 7.1 percent from the same period of 2020, when 967 cases were recorded for the whole year.

Even getting to court was a struggle for Oliva.

Police in the central State of Mexico treated her case as a lovers' tiff and did not bother to take a full statement, she said.

It was only with the help of an activist she contacted that the wheels of justice slowly began to grind into motion.

"What's the justice system waiting for? That he kills me?" she said.

The hearing resulted in the man being kept in preventive custody.

- 'They doubt our word' -

Daniela Sanchez, a 37-year-old government worker, is seeking justice for the years of physical and psychological abuse that she said her ex-partner inflicted on her.

She feels that she is facing a wall of impunity.

"From the first moment we approach the authorities, they doubt our word and the marks on our bodies," Sanchez said.

Mexico lacks an institutional framework capable of "responding to a phenomenon as complex" as violence against women, said Fatima Gamboa, co-director of the civil organization Equis Justicia.

In most cases judicial authorities fail to identify possible situations or behavior that put women at risk, or to issue the necessary protection orders, the group's analysis suggests.

"Justice is not administered with a gender perspective," Gamboa said.

The government has launched several initiatives aimed at preventing violence against women.

They include legal centers that officials say have advised 100,000 people this year, as well as shelters for women at risk.

In Mexico City, all murders of women are initially investigated as femicides.

- 'Exhausting' -

A 34-year-old woman, who gave her name only as Gris, said the legal struggle against her ex-partner had drained all her energy.

When he was drunk he broke into the small kitchen that she had set up with other women to escape unemployment and violence.

He is accused of beating them and destroying furniture, but the response of the authorities has disappointed Gris.

The police took 45 minutes to arrive, the attacker is still free and the case was classified as domestic violence, she said.

"It's sad, exhausting. You don't eat," Gris said.

Even when violence is fatal, it can be hard for relatives to get justice.

Monica Borrego's daughter Yang Kyung Jun died aged 21 in 2014 -- killed, she believes, at the hands of a man already facing accusations of attempted femicide.

The case was initially closed as a suicide even though the body bore signs of violence.

The family had to fight to have the case reopened, resulting in the suspect recently going on trial.

She remembers one official who dismissed her as a "hysterical mother."

Two years after the death, Margarita Alanis lost her 31-year-old daughter Campira Camorlinga, a mother of two.

The two women believe the same man was behind both killings and tried to make them look like suicides.

"Campira wouldn't have been killed if he had been arrested after what he did to Yang," said Alanis, who believes the Mexican judiciary does not take femicides seriously.

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