Mexico : Church and Macho Politicos Wage War on Women

Photo of graffiti from Mejilla Hyde.

Catholic Church and macho politicos
Wage war on Mexico’s women

‘Get your rosaries out of our ovaries!’

By John Ross / The Rag Blog / October 13, 2009

MEXICO CITY — “Sacan Sus Rosarios De Nuestras Ovarios!” The women, some of them bare-breasted, linked arms and chanted at the men in suits who were dashing towards the barricaded doors of the colonial edifice that houses the local congress in the central Mexican city of Queretero.

“Get Your Rosaries Out Of Our Ovaries!”

Indeed, some of the men were so eager to get to their desks on the floor of the state legislature that they squeezed through basement windows, risking wrinkles to duds that had been freshly pressed for the occasion.

By 9 a.m. September 1st, in a classic “madruguete” (early morning vote behind locked doors to exclude dissenters), all 21 members of the all-male Queretero congress had unanimously passed a bill criminalizing abortions for all women with the exception of rape victims (but not victims of incest) and those whose lives would be put at risk for carrying to full term. Any other woman who so much as inquired about the availability of abortion at a hospital or clinic could now be imprisoned for up to a year.

According to news reports, a week after the law was passed and signed off on by the rightist Queretero governor, one unfortunate and unidentified woman was in fact arrested for soliciting an abortion, held in jail overnight, and forced to pay a 4000 peso fine.

Queretero was the 15th Mexican state to criminalize abortion. Days later, the conflictive southern state of Oaxaca became the 16th entity in the Mexican union to ratify what pro-choice organizations label “La Ley Machista” that defines life as beginning at fertilization and imposes prison sentences on women seeking to terminate unwanted pregnancies. As in Queretero, the measure was vociferously dissed by pro-choice advocates and the legislature was forced to relocate to a secure alternative site to vote the Oaxaca version of “The Macho Law” up.

Criminalization of abortion bills are also pending in Michoacan, Sinaloa, Veracruz, and Mexico state. With half of Mexico’s 31 states plus one now on record, the machos are assured that a constitutional amendment criminalizing abortion can be passed and such legislation is expected to be introduced in a coming session of the new Mexican congress.

Criminalization of abortion is turning Mexico into “a totalitarian state,” opines Diego Valades, a former attorney general and dean of the National Autonomous University (UNAM) law faculty — such legislation “cedes control of a woman’s body to the state and is itself unconstitutional.” Valades proposes instead a constitutional amendment that would guarantee a woman’s reproductive rights.

The anti-abortion putsch is being orchestrated by the ruling right-wing PAN party in connivance with the Princes of the Catholic hierarchy. One goal is to force repeal of Mexico City’s free abortion-on-demand law. Since the pro-choice legislation was deemed constitutional by a ten to one vote of the nation’s Supreme Court two Septembers ago after the law had been challenged by then-attorney general Eduardo Medina Mora, a proxy for President Felipe Calderon, and the National Human Rights Commission ombudsman Jose Luis Soberanes, an Opus Dei intimate, the city has provided free interruptions of unwanted pregnancies during the first 12 weeks of gestation to more than 30,000 women, an average of 41 a day, according to the Mexico City Womens’ Institute.

Abortion on demand has incurred the fierce wrath of Mexico City Cardinal Norberto Rivera, the most powerful Churchman (there are no Churchwomen) in the land, who ordered all church bells in the capital rung in mourning to mark the court’s decision. The Mexico City archdiocese has since bought a plot in the Dolores Cemetery where it stages funerals for aborted fetuses.

The 102-member Mexican Bishops’ Conference (CEM) is equally as obstreperous in its condemnation of Mexico City’s free abortion services, even those few liberationist bishops who have a voice and vote oppose the leftist capital government’s pro-choice initiative — San Cristobal de las Casas bishop emeritus, an apostle of liberation theology, once exhibited gory blow-ups of aborted fetuses on the esplanade outside the “Cathedral of Peace” in that Chiapas city.

“I am appalled by the CEM’s position. The separation of Church and State is the foundation of the Mexican constitution,” an indignant Diego Valades reminded attendees at a recent National University academic conference.

Mexican Attorney General Arturo Chavez Chavez.

The campaign to criminalize abortion is only one front in the war on women being waged by the PAN, the Roman Catholic Church, and their political allies. Last month (September), the Mexican Senate confirmed Arturo Chavez Chavez, Calderon’s handpicked designee, as the country’s new attorney general over the intense objections of feminists and human rights activists.

As chief prosecutor in the northern state of Chihuahua during the mid to late 1990s, Chavez Chavez was charged with investigating the murders and disappearances of 192 women in the gritty border city of Ciudad Juarez. Mothers of the dead women — “Las Muertas” — accuse Chavez Chavez of gross negligence.

In testimony at his confirmation hearing, the future attorney general insisted that he had cleared 60 murders during his years as Chihuahua’s chief prosecutor but the truth is more diffuse — Chavez Chavez prosecuted one suspect, an Egyptian chemist Omar Latif Sharif, for 60 killings. Sharif, however, was convicted of only one murder, that of a sometimes girlfriend, and is currently serving a 30 year sentence in a Chihuahua penitentiary.

Paula Flores, whose murdered 17 year-old daughter Maria Sagrario has become an icon for the mothers of Las Muertas, recalls a less than empathetic Chavez. When 11 years ago she went down on her knees before him to plead for justice for Sagrario, the aspiring attorney general just walked around her as if she didn’t exist. Later, Chavez Chavez’s investigators mistook Sagrario’s tomb and opened up an adjoining gravesite, carrying off the remains of another Muerta for an autopsy.

Such confusion tainted the Calderon nominee’s years at the helm of the investigation. In 1999, United Nations rapateur for extra-judicial killings Asma Jahangir denounced Chavez Chavez’s “arrogance” when she sought to question him about the investigations. A second UN rapateur on judges and judicial processes, Dato Parran, who visited Juarez in 2002, doubted that any of the more than 100 remaining cases had even been investigated.

In 2003, Amnesty International found “intolerable negligence” in the investigations of the dead women’s murders carried out by Chavez Chavez and his successors — autopsies did not meet international legal standards and inquiries were only initiated after pressure from grieving families. Many of the disappeared women were dismissed as runaways.

Jurist Eduardo Buscalgia, who headed a UN commission that reviewed the violent deaths of 258 women in Juarez between 1993 and 2003, uncovered what he recently described as “procedural horrors” in the investigations of the deaths of Las Muertas. Many of the victims had apparently been tortured and some of their bodies burnt. Eight women had one breast cut off and were brutally bitten by their attacker(s) and their remains thrown out on the same desert lot, evidence that suggested a serial killer was at large yet no serious investigation was ever launched by Mexican authorities.

Instead, Chavez Chavez blamed the women for their own grisly murders, intimating that they had provoked their killers by wearing mini-skirts. “Only bad women go out at night,” he concluded — many of the victims like Maria Sagrario Flores had been working late night shifts at Juarez maquiladoras and were still wearing their “batas” (work smocks) when their bodies were discovered.

Despite overwhelming evidence of Arturo Chavez Chavez’s inept, misogynist investigation into the deaths of Las Muertas, he was confirmed September 24th by the Mexican Senate as the nation’s top law enforcement officer. When, in protest, the mothers of the dead women painted 106 pink crosses (the number of unsolved cases) on the walls of the prosecutor’s offices in Juarez, they were investigated for the destruction of federal property.

Posters at entrance to a government building in Juárez in 1998 protesting disappearances of women and lack of police investigation. Photo© Susan Meiselas.

In another notorious case of violence against women, 11 victims of sexual abuse during police raids in the farming village of San Salvador Atenco May 3rd-4th 2006 have once again been denied justice. This September, the Special Prosecutor for Violence Against Women (FEMIMTRA), which operates under Chavez Chavez’s jurisdiction, rejected their claims that they had been sexually manhandled and penetrated during their arrests and turned the cases back to Mexico state authorities that had already vindicated the police.

Charges against 22 state cops were dropped, five are pending while the accused are out on bail (if previous accusations of sexual battery against the police are any precedent, they will never be prosecuted), and one police agent who was sentenced to three years imprisonment paid a $400 USD fine and is now reportedly back on the Mexico state police payroll.

Violence against women is spiraling in Mexico. On the day Arturo Chavez Chavez was confirmed (September 24th), five women were shot and killed in the Sierra of Petatlan in Guerrero state where army troops have been pursuing purported guerrillas for months. One week later, four women — one a police domestic violence investigator — and a little girl who was playing nearby were gunned down in Ciudad Juarez. According to a grim roster held by the group “Justice For Our Daughters,” 67 women have been murdered or disappeared in Juarez in the first nine months of 2009 — 28 bodies remain unclaimed in the city morgue.

From July 2007 thru June 2008, 227 “feminicides” were recorded in 13 northern Mexican states by the private Citizens Observatory on Feminicides and 1014 counted nationally. 60% of the killings occurred in and around the womens’ homes.

Despite the on-going slaughter, the central Mexican state of Guanajuato, which has long been under the thumb of the Catholic Church and the PAN, is the only one of Mexico’s 31 states that has not enacted a law to protect women from domestic violence. Guanajuato is home to the extreme right-wing “El Yunque” (The Anvil), a secret organization with roots in the 1926-29 Cristero uprising against the anti-clerical president Plutarco Elias Calles, founder of the modern PRI party that ruled Mexico for 71 years until displaced by the PAN’s Vicente Fox, a Guanajuato native, in 2000 — three members of Fox’s cabinet were reportedly affiliated with El Yunque.

When the school term began this fall in Guanajuato, first year high school students found themselves without biology text books because books published by the federal Secretary of Public Education (SEP) had been withdrawn under orders from PANista governor Juan Manuel Oliva who adjudged that they contained “perversions” — the biology books included anatomically-correct reproductions of human genitalia and addressed birth control, even daring to use the two dread words “condom” and “abortion.”

Instead, the Guanajuato Education Secretariat (SEG) distributed 114,000 of their own biology textbooks that demonized masturbation and homosexuality, skipped any mention of AIDS prevention, and advocated abstinence as the only method of avoiding unwanted pregnancies.

When the federal SEP (ironically controlled by the PAN) insisted on teaching the original biology texts, a group of women in Leon, the state capital, headed by a local rightist councilwomen burnt hundreds of the SEP books in the central plaza of the city. “They want to make my son wear a condom,” explained the councilwoman Hortencia Orozco.

The PAN is hardly alone in its pogram against women. The Chavez Chavez nomination was voted up by the PRI and the Mexican Green Environmental Party (sic) that together hold an absolute majority in the Mexican congress. Eight of the 16 states that have criminalized abortion are governed by the PRI whose party president is a woman.

600,000 abortions are performed in Mexico each year according to the Secretary of Public Health, 100,000 of them under dangerous, clandestine circumstances. The prohibition of legal abortion stirs the specter of the dark ages of back alley butchers scraping women with clothes hangers. In six of the 16 states that have criminalized the interruption of unwanted pregnancies, maternal mortality is five times the national average.

Both local and national legislatures in Mexico are male dominated. The number of women holding congressional office (27%) is well below Cuba (43%), Argentina (40%), Costa Rica (39%), and African nations such as Mozambique, Tanzania, and Rwanda (49%). Only 15% of high echelon executives in the Calderon government are women in a country where women (52%) are the majority — in Ecuador 35% of all executive positions are held by women and Argentina and Chile have women presidents.

Two years ago, Mexico revised its electoral code to insure that women would comprise 40% of the federal congress but this September 2nd, when the recently elected Chamber of Deputies met for the first time, eight recently elected women rose from their desks one by one and asked for permanent leaves of absence. Their seats were then delegated to their all-male substitutes (“suplentes“), at least one of whom was the husband of an electee. Denouncing violation of the so-called “Equanimity of Gender” clause of the reformed code, feminist Gabriela Rodriguez, writing in the left daily La Jornada, blasted the flimflam as “nothing less than electoral fraud against women.”

[John Ross’ monstrous El Monstruo — Dread & Redemption in Mexico City, a “love letter” to the most contaminated, corrupt, and conflictive city in the Americas (Kirkus Reviews), will be published next month by Nation Books. His Iraqigirl (Haymarket), the diary of a teenager growing up under U.S. occupation, is now in the stores. The author is scouting venues for a 2009-2010 book tour. Any ideas? Contact johnross@igc.org.]

The Rag Blog

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13 Responses to Mexico : Church and Macho Politicos Wage War on Women

  1. GooseBreeder says:

    And so the clock keeps getting wound back and women loose what flimsy rights they had acquired.It’s a human rights issue.

  2. Given that so many in the US and around the world have no problem stealing the earnings of unborn generations to pay for a more desirable life today, (re: wealth redistribution and deficit spending) it’s no surprise they can blithly kill unborn generations to live a more desirable life today.

    If women’s rights are flimsy, unborn children seem to no rights at all. Except in rare cases, men and women choose willingly to put themselves in a position where they cause the pregnancy; by choice, by accident, by forgetfulness, by stupidity. However it happens, and whoever is at fault, it’s not the fault of the child in the womb.

    Kids shouldn’t be disposed of like an annoying hangnail. Adults should take responsibility for their actions.

  3. Mary O'Grady says:

    You play, you pay, eh, Extremist?

  4. Hi Mary,

    Thats a fair summation. I make no judgements about others sexual choices.

    People takes risks and sometimes they avoid consequences. Sometimes the conequences catch up. The inclination to demand someone else, who has received no reward from the risk taken, suffer the consequences is neither morally or ethically justifiable.

  5. Helenita says:

    Dear Extremist,

    I encourage you to research the difference between a first trimester foetus and a ‘child’.

    It appears you’ve only read the first section of the article however, because otherwise you would be aware that those campaigning for tougher abortion laws are also taking strong actions to prevent teaching about measures that prevent pregnancy.

    Perhaps in your own life, unwanted pregnancy occurs only be ‘choice, accident, forgetfulness, stupidity’.
    How do you forget knowledge that people deliberately and actively prevented you from learning?
    How do you choose if you’re never told the optiions?
    Is it you that is stupid if someone else forcefully prevented you from knowing?
    Is it an accident if someone else had a hand in deliberately swaying the course of events?

    ‘Adults should take responsibilty for their actions’
    As the article mentions, this legislation criminalises abortion in the case of rape. It also highlights the appauling negligence in the prosecution of rape cases by Chavez Chavez.
    So not allowing a rape victim abortion, and not making any attempt to find her rapist, it is the rape victim taking responsibility for the actions of the rapist, while he rapist assumes no responsibilty for the actions of his violent crime, or the child created.

    But it’s an interesting idea, adults taking responsibility for their actions…
    It’s a shame Extremist, that you have chosen to enforce the idea only upon the women who have become pregnant, not the male partners involved in the conception, or even Chavez Chavez, who is apparently not responsible for the negligence of feminicide cases which occured under his jurisdiction. Rather than responsible for his work and its failings, Chavez Chavez acts with impunity and is rewarded.

  6. Hi Happy,

    I have pointed out some alternate viewpoints on important topics. But I am sure that does create tension where it didn’t exit before. It is also true that everyone here is entrenched in their viewpoints.

    I believe that Progressive arguments don’t stand up to scrutiny and are mostly based on rhetoric not logic or facts. I primarily focus my activities on reaching those who aren’t entrenched in their positions. When I demonstrate that the messages they hear from Progressives don’t make sense, then they begin to question what they hear and what they know. Questioning is the first step to liberation.

    If Richard or Thorne, who are the contributors, ask me to stop posting or to tone down the volume, I would be happy to do so

  7. Richard says:

    hAPPY,
    Idiotic arguments have as much validity as sane ones. They provide the humor so needed here. I turn on Glen Beck from time to time juat to have a laugh at his stupidity. I enjoy Misterpork for the same reason, their arguments don’t have a leg to stand on but they are funny anyway.
    Loosen up and enjoy.
    BTW WHERE IS RICHARD JENN?

  8. Richard says:

    AND
    If DHS wasn’t here we might have missed Helenita’s coherent and enlightening argument.

  9. Richard is making it more interesting. I have read four of five of his posts in the last few days. Most of them are drive bys without any real substance. I suspect he is already in the deep end of his abilities just making snarky comments, but at least he is trying.

    By the way Helenita, though you made some good observations. you were incorrect when you said: It’s a shame Extremist, that you have chosen to enforce the idea only upon the women who have become pregnant, not the male partners involved in the conception, I said adults need to take responsibility, that means men and women equally. In fact if there were stronger consequences for sperm donor fathers, abortions would decline substantially. Those consequences need to be codified into law. Open to ideas as to what those laws might be. Richard, its ok if you have to go ask someone what codified means 🙂

  10. Thanks Richard, you're right – I should let those remarks just 'entertain' me; remind myself there are more ignorant people in the world than I realized, and not get riled up just because those who shoot off their absurd statements, must look darned funny running around with their head up their butts! I'll take your suggestion………..

  11. PS – also, read the older comments where both Thorne and Richard Jehn have had to 'threaten' some of those remarks by Masterspork and DHS, and it's reached the point where they've now added:

    This blog enforces a specific comment policy that prohibits personal attack, goading and harassment, and other malicious remarks. We will delete remarks considered inappropriate, at

  12. PPS: Also, YES, UNBORN CHILDREN HAVE NO RIGHTS, because 'rights' have been written by LIVING PEOPLE and laws have been written by LIVING PEOPLE, and if a child is conceived and is aborted, then the UNBORN CHILD LIVED THE DURATION OF ITS NATURAL LIFE WITHOUT BEING SUBJECTED TO THE TRIALS OF LIVING IN THIS WORLD WHERE PEOPLE FIGHT AND ARGUE ABOUT RIGHT AND WRONG.

    Maybe the

  13. Oh yes, and DHS mentions about 'toning it down' if asked by Richard Jehn or Thorne, well he was asked by Richard:

    In Richard Jehn's own comment:

    richard jehn said…
    I will warn you exactly one time, Extremist to the DHS. If you are going to goad and harass, your remarks will henceforth be removed without comment or reason. Period.

    Oct 11, 2009 5

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