How Sexualized Violence Is Used as a Weapon of War
To exert power: A 2012 report analyzing the effects of violence on women in Mexico, co-produced by the Nobel Women’s Initiative and JASS, found that government officials and their security forces were often the worst perpetrators of sexualized violence and used it as a tool to “intimidate and subdue” women. The 45,000 troops deployed by President Felipe Calderón Hinojosa in 2007 to fight drug cartels contribute to a growing culture of violence and fear, especially for women, youth, indigenous communities, and migrants who are vulnerable in the face of the corrupt and often misogynist security institutions. Francisco González, a professor of Latin American Studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies in Washington, argues in a 2011 Current History article: “It is not far-fetched to say that the average Mexican citizen lives in fear of both criminals and public authorities.”
To silence: President-elect Enrique Peña Nieto was governor of the State of Mexico in 2006 when protests against the building of a new airport in San Salvador Atenco erupted into violence. Two protesters were killed and 26 women were sexually assaulted by state and federal authorities. Lulú Barrera, the president of the steering committee for Amnesty International, Mexico, said she believes the assaults were a “tool to demonstrate political control and power” and to deliver a clear, threatening message to other protesters. As of this publication, not a single police officer has been found guilty of assaults. When recently confronted by college students in Mexico City about the lack of justice surrounding the incidents, Peña Nieto was unapologetic and argued that he had used necessary force to restore public order.