Guest Author - Lisbeth Cheever-Gessaman
On January 1st 1994, the North American Free Trade Agreement came into effect eliminating the majority of tariffs on imports and trade along the Canadian/Mexican borders, thus allowing a new and legal way for large corporations to employ low-cost migrant work in formerly tariffed countries. Subsequently, several maquilas, or factories, were immediately built utilizing low-cost labor for American companies.
Coincidentally or not, since that time, over three hundred and seventy women have been discovered mutilated and slain at the borderlands of Cuidad, Juarez where many of these factories are located. An additional four hundred women are missing and have never been found. Many of these women were students and most were maquiladora or workers of these factories.
Is NAFTA to blame? Certainly there are timelines and coincidences that can't easily be ignored. The murders first began around the time the free trade agreement was enacted. Women make up the majority of the Maquiladora workforce and the patriarchal culture of Mexico has been suggested as partly to blame for turning a blind eye to women who chose a largely non-conventional lifestyle that was considered to be questionable and less than virtuous. The long and often late hours that many women adopted in order to earn money for their families exposed them to risks that women in Juarez had formally never known.
But then, these are not mere rote killings. It is not that these women were singularly and systematically slaughtered - they were dismembered, mutilated nearly always with violent trauma and evidence of sexual assault and ritual rape. Victims as young as seven and as old as sixty. It is estimated that over one fourth of the murdered were kidnapped and tortured extensively before being raped and murdered. Because of the similarities of their deaths, many people believe a serial killer or serial killers are responsible and still on the loose. However, despite this in August 2006 the Mexican government frustrated with media coverage and anti-mexican sentiment annnounced that the ones responsible had been charged and punished and without revealing any detail, pronounced the case closed and dropped all further investigation.
To date, the crimes have never been satisfactorily solved and the murders continue on.
There is no 'official' list of the four hundred plus women who have been systematically and brutally killed in Cuidad, Juarez and Chihuahua, Mexico since 1993. There is also no official agreement of just how any of our sisters, mothers, daughters and wives have fallen at the hands of this atrocity.
Three things you can do this moment:
1) Inform yourself and do not forget. The murders in Juarez represent nothing less than a mass femicide perpetuated against women which continues to this day. Many of these women bear evidence of being held captive for several days and systematically tortured before being mutilated and dismembered.Do not forget.
2) Sign the Amnesty International online petition to Mexican President Felipe Calderon to end the violence against the women of Juarez now ;
2) Join Amnesty International's campaign to stop violence against women which is not limited singularly to Juarez but all areas of the world where women are treated as second class citizens here.