Charles Brown cbrown at michiganlegal.org
Wed Oct 26 06:49:51 MDT 2005

WOMEN OF JUAREZ: Background information

For more than a decade, the city of Juarez, near the US-Mexico border, has
been a killing field for young women, the site of over 400 unsolved
femicides. Despite the horrific nature of these crimes, authorities at all
levels exhibit indifference, and there is strong evidence that some
officials may be involved. Impunity and corruption has permitted the
criminals, whoever they are, to continue committing these acts, knowing
there will be no consequences.

A significant number of victims work in the maquiladora sector - sweatshops
that produce for export with 90% of the products destined for the United
States. The maquiladoras employ mainly young women at poverty level wages.
In combination with lax environmental regulations and low tariffs under the
North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the maquiladoras are amassing
tremendous wealth. Yet despite the crime wave, they offer almost no
protection for their workers.

High profile government campaigns such as Ponte Vista (Be Aware), a self
defense program, and supplying women with whistles have proven to be
ineffective and are carried out mainly for public relations purposes.

Small advances in the struggle for justice are due to the perseverance of
victims' families who cannot be silenced despite the efforts of state and
federal authorities to keep them quiet. Campaigns by local, national and
international non-governmental organizations have been very important in the
efforts for justice. Often grassroots groups in the area of Juarez work in a
climate of threats and defamation by government officials for making one
simple demand - STOP THE FEMICIDE!


We demand that the United States government get involved in resolving the
crimes of Juarez. About one third of the victims worked in maquiladoras,
factories which are owned by U.S. companies. Despite the tremendous wealth
that the maquiladoras are accruing from the low wages being paid to the
workers, they offer hardly any employee protection. These young women must
wake up before sunrise to catch a bus into town, and usually don't leave the
factory until after midnight. The way to and from the bus stop is not well
lit, and is along a part of town that is not very safe. What's even more
appalling is that the factory managers will turn the workers away if they
arrive even four minutes late. Their families make sure they know the work
schedules of their daughters/sisters/ cousins/nieces so that they will know
when to expect them home. However, if the young women are turned away, there
is no way of notifying their family members, and they are left vulnerable in
the darkness to make their way home safely. Though these U.S. companies can
be lax with environmental regulations and pay low wages through NAFTA, there
is no excuse for being negligent with human life.

The National Organization for Women (NOW) has begun a campaign to address
the femicides in Juarez. We demand that the U.S. and Mexico authorities
seriously investigate, apprehend, and bring to justice the perpetrators of
these crimes. NOW will take action in El Paso, Texas in December 2005, and
will work to ensure passage of House Resolution 90 and Senate Resolution 16
which asks the United States government to demand a serious investigation of
the crimes by the Mexican government. The women of Juarez, Mexico have the
right to be free from violence and discrimination. As a feminist
organization, NOW urges the United States and Mexico to amplify efforts to
respect and ensure those rights.

In sisterhood,

Olga Vives

Executive Vice-President

National Organization for Women

Femicide definition:

Femicide is the mass murder of women simply because they are women. It is
the term that has been coined in response to the now more the 400 young
women who have been killed on the U.S.-Mexico border in the city of Juarez,
just across the border from El Paso, Texas.

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