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National NOW Times >> Summer/Fall 2005 >> Article

NOW to Protest the Brutal Murder of Juarez Women

By Erin Hanna, Chapter and Field Organizer

The murder of hundreds of women in Juarez, Mexico, became the focus of a recommendation developed at the NOW Foundation's Women of Color and Allies Summit (WOCA) in April. WOCA participants viewed Lourdes Portillo's award-winning documentary "Señorita Extraviada," which details the continuing violence women face in Juarez. NOW activists proposed a number of ways to take action and create visibility around this issue, and the NOW national board of directors voted to hold its December meeting in El Paso, Texas — just across the border from Juarez — to participate in protest actions.

The victims of the Juarez murders have primarily been young women who were raped and strangled, their bodies left in the desert or on a secluded street. They worked at maquiladoras, assembly factories often equated to sweatshops, where they earned around $55 a week from U.S. companies such as Alcoa, DuPont and General Electric. Waiting in the dark on empty streets for the buses that take them to and from the maquiladoras is a daily reality for the women of Juarez. On their walks home, these women pass crosses for the dead and billboards that remind them, "Be careful — watch for your life."

To date, no safety measures have been put in place by the factories or the Mexican government. In fact, victims' advocates face a culture where violence against women has traditionally been ignored by authorities. Advocates believe the culture actually works to foster violence, rather than prevent it; for example, men in Mexico cannot be charged with spousal rape.

The United Nations and human rights groups are pressuring the international community to help stop the killings. However, the U.S. government must take greater responsibility for the conditions in Juarez. The factories in Juarez, most of which are U.S. owned and operated, employ young women living in poverty to create goods for export to the U.S.

These U.S. companies use factories in Mexico because the low taxes, lenient environmental regulations and cheap labor made possible by the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) mean more profits for these companies.

"We need to pressure the Mexican government to bring to justice the perpetrators of these crimes and to put an end to the assaults and murders of the women of Juarez," NOW Executive Vice President Olga Vives said. "These murders must stop."

NOW activists are encouraged to attend the press conference and demonstrations to be held in connection with the NOW board of directors meeting, scheduled for Dec. 2-4 in El Paso, Texas. For more information, contact Zenaida Mendez at 202-628-8669, ext. 143.


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