June 28, 2016 6:35 AM
FILE – Police tape that reads in Spanish “Caution” marks off a crime scene in Tijuana, Mexico.
Amnesty International says that a vast majority of incarcerated Mexican women face sexual torture during arrest and in the hours following.
In a report released Tuesday, Amnesty detailed interviews and testimonies of 100 jailed Mexican women. Seventy-two of them said they were sexually abused during or soon after their arrest, and 33 reported being raped.
“These women’s stories paint an utterly shocking snapshot of the level of torture against women in Mexico, even by local standards,” said Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas Director at Amnesty International. “Sexual violence used as a form of torture seems to have become a routine part of interrogations.”
The report found that most of the women in Mexican prisons were first-time offenders, low-income, and perhaps victim of an upswing in arrests related to the war on drugs. Many of them reported being forced to sign confessions immediately following hours of torture.
“Women from marginalized backgrounds are the most vulnerable in Mexico’s so-called ‘war on drugs’,” Guevara-Rosas said. “They are usually seen as easy targets by authorities who are often more eager to show they are putting people behind bars than to ensure they are finding the real criminals.”
One of the women interviewed for the report is Maria Magdalena Saavedra. In 2013, she told Amnesty armed Navy marines burst into her bedroom and beat her while yelling questions. She was suffocated until she passed out, and the marines continued to beat her and rape her with objects after loading her in a van. She was accused of controlling the finances of a major drug gang.
At the police station, the marines threatened her daughter and applied electric shocks to her genitals and mouth. The torture lasted for twenty hours. But a Navy doctor deemed her “physically healthy”, in a medical examination after her arrest. Three years later in 2016, Amnesty investigators found that her scars were still visible.
The majority of the women surveyed reported the abuse to a judge or other authorities, but only 22 investigations were opened. Amnesty says no charges have yet been filed, and the army reports that no soldiers were suspended from service for sexual abuse between 2010 and 2015.
Another woman interviewed said she was seven months pregnant and beaten until she miscarried in a prison over a hundred miles away from her home.
A third woman, Monica, was gang-raped by six police officers before receiving electroshocks to her genitals and being suffocating during her arrest in 2013. The 24-year-old mother of four was forced to watch her husband being tortured, and he later died in her arms.
Years later, all three women are still in prison, and their families say they have no idea why.
In 2013 alone, over 12,000 cases of torture were filed in Mexico, according to data from local and national ombudsman bodies, of which 3,218 were women.
The Mexican Congress is currently reviewing a draft of a general law on torture – a measure Human Rights Watch says is long overdue.
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