Violence Against Women, a Culture of Tolerance
By Jesús Aguado
In Guanajuato, Governor Miguel Márquez said the state government is doing what it takes to stop the high levels of violence and discrimination against women. However, the INEGI (National Institute of Statistics and Geography) reports that 56 of 100 women 15 years and older have suffered at least one incident of violence in their lives. In San Miguel, a study conducted by the Municipal Institute for Women based on a sample of 500 indigenous women, showed that all of them have been victims of gender violence.
In the city there are two institutions that focus their efforts to decrease the violence against women: The San Miguel Women’s Institute (IMAM) and CASA—Center for the Adolescents of San Miguel de Allende—and its program ELEGIR, “Education for Gender Equality and Freedom.” Both institutions concur in their comments when they state that the treatment of victims of psychological, physical, or sexual violence received from public servants of the Unit for Women’s Attention area of the Ministerio Público (District Attorney’s Office) is insensitive. Actually, they qualify it as unprofessional although the personnel are themselves women.
The United Nations declares that violence against women continues as a world pandemic due to the fact that 70 percent of them suffer violence in their lives. This is interpreted as a violation of their human rights. The organization states that harassment against women prevents and affects progress in many areas, including the eradication of poverty, the fight against HIV, peace, and security. Gender violence, according to the UN, is any kind of act against the female gender resulting in psychological, physical, or sexual damage. This consideration was issued in 1993, after world demonstrations by women who were requesting governments to acknowledge that violence against women was not just a private, but a social, act.
In 1999 the United Nations declared November 25 as International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women and invited governments and non-governmental organizations to arrange activities to sensitize the population in this matter.
Organizations preventing violence
On November 25, the IMAM will hold a series of activities in San Miguel, featuring plays, workshops, and lectures targeted toward women to inform them of their human rights and the opportunities they have to confront violence in their lives. That day, the activities will be plentiful and will include the participation of nonprofit organizations and the Ministerio Público and its Area for Women’s Integral Attention.
But, is it possible to eradicate violence against women? Roxana Patlán, director of the IMAM told Atención that it is very difficult due to the culture of tolerance that has been instilled in women. She also comments that 50 percent of violence exists because women lack awareness of their human rights and the agencies that can help them. Many of them do not even know what violence is, says Patlán.
The head of the IMAM mentioned that this institute works daily with women from rural communities and the urban area, giving them information about their human rights as well as about the legal institutions that can help them in case of violence. If there is violence, the women can go to the Attention to Victims of Violence area of the IMAM, where they will receive general advice, and psychological and legal support if it is necessary.
Patlán asserts that the victims who use the services of the IMAM make decisions step-by-step. “First, they get information about their rights; they receive psychological support and legal help if necessary; in the end if they decide to stay with the aggressor, they know that they cannot accept violence in their lives.” When they are well informed, remarks Patlán, the victims are not the same persons who arrived at the IMAM for the first time, sad, ashamed, and scared; they know their rights and exercise them.
In 2012 the IMAM conducted an investigation with a sample of 500 indigenous women from 12 to 60 years of age. The numbers show that all the women had suffered violence. Psychological violence was followed by economic and physical violence. The community with the highest levels was La Huerta. San Miguel Viejo was in second place. In those communities the IMAM has worked all year, traveling with all of that office’s support for the women.
Roxana Guerrero—responsible for the ELEGIR program from CASA—told Atención CASA started working with a program to prevent violence against women in 1981, after they found out in their workshop that there was a high number of mistreated women. ELIGIR aims to prevent violence; as at IMAM, CASA offers psychological and legal support. The organization also has a shelter for mistreated women and children where they can stay for three months, receiving constant support until they can start a new life free of violence. ELEGIR offers legal accompaniment; this means that they go with the victim to the Ministerio Público to file their criminal complaints.
The job of the Ministerio Público
Officially, the Unit for Women’s Integral Attention in San Miguel was opened in May this year. The person responsible for this area in the state, Victoria Sánchez, and the responsible person in San Miguel, Raquel Andrade were working with this new model in the state in 2013 due to the increasing number of serious cases of violence against women. The Unit, say lawyers Andrade and Sánchez, was officially created in January 2014 to investigate the crimes committed against members of the female gender. This unit has a play area for children, a Gesell camera, agents of the Ministerio Público, ministerial police officers, a psychologist, and a medical examiner, plus an analysis area.
Before closing the files, the multidisciplinary group investigates each case, assure Sánchez and Andrade.
Those in charge of the Unit denied that the attention to the victims in that office was unprofessional or insensitive because the goal since the area’s creation has been to provide specialized, sensitive attention to the victims. Sánchez commented, “There have been people who thank us because they received attention completely different from what they were expecting,” and she made it clear that the attention to women has changed because they have the right to receive proper treatment. “We try to make them feel comfortable because we understand that they are emotionally damaged; we listen to them and legally help them if we can. If not, we channel them to the proper governmental offices,” said Sánchez. She asks people to trust that organization; which will conduct the necessary investigation, to solve the cases.
After the increased number of feminicides in Guanajuato, the nonprofit organization Las Libres presented a petition before the National Institute of Women to issue a Gender Alert in the state. The request was submitted three times until it was accepted in April this year by the National Secretariat of Government. In 2013, according to the document, there was a total of 75 homicides. In July this year, the National System to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence against Women rejected Las Libres’ request and only issued some recommendations to the government. These recommendations must be fulfilled before February 2015; if they are not fulfilled, the Gender Alert could be granted to Las Libres. The recommendations request the state government to consider violence against women as a serious crime. Also, the National System recommended the allocation of public resources for the victim’s attention and for prosecution of cases of homicide. The system recommends also that the families of the victim have the right to be informed of the final result of the case. The government, states one of the recommendations, must train the personnel of the Ministerios Públicos in matters of gender violence, and they need to learn about the protocols to give attention to these crimes.
In 2011 the INEGI (National Institute of Statistics Geography and Informatics) conducted a national survey that showed the following results in Guanajuato:
50 percent of each 100 women of 15 years and more have suffered violence from their partners or another person. The document also assures that 40 of each 100 woman who have had at least one relationship were mistreated during the time that the relationship lasted.
Of the 86 percent of the women who suffered violence, 16.4 percent was serious or very serious; 27.4 percent of women physically or sexually abused had suicidal thoughts (15.7 percent thought about it and 11.6 percent tried to commit it.)