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Women & Children at Risk

.
Toxic Silence
© 2002 by Laura Zárate
Founding Executive Director, Arte Sana
This article was first published in the September 2002 issues of SIN FRONTERAS: WITHOUT BORDERS, Arte Sana's first bilingual newsletter.
08/27/02

 
“If we don’t accept that violence exists
If we don’t know how to detect it
We won’t find it …
And we’ll be part of the problem”
--Suzanne Sgroi


This past August the State of Texas was part of the culmination of an international mobilization in defense of the human rights of one man, Javier Suarez Medina, sentenced to death for the 1988 murder of undercover narcotics agent Lawrence Cadena. This great mobilization included the Mexican government’s funding of full-page petitions in many leading Texas newspapers, a direct plea from Mexico’s President Vicente Fox to Texas Governor Rick Perry, and the unprecedented filing of a “friend of the court” brief with the US Supreme Court that included the signatures of 13 nations including Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela.

For his defenders, the execution of Javier Medina, a Mexican national, at the hands of the Texas judicial
system not only represented a bitter injustice, but also a flagrant violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention of Consular Relations - which requires that foreign nationals be advised that they can contact their consulates when they are arrested.

For his defenders, the execution of Javier Medina, a Mexican national, at the hands of the Texas judicial system not only represented a bitter injustice, but also a flagrant violation of the 1963 Vienna Convention of Consular Relations.

Without entering into a discussion regarding the merits of the arguments from both sides, that will
without doubt need to be reconciled sooner or later, considering that there are over 44 Mexican nationals on death row in the U.S. prisons, let us look instead at the example set by the selective mobilization.

Consider the following:

• between 1993 and May of this year (2002), in the city of Juarez, more than 450 women have disappeared and 284 women have been murdered;

• thousands of workers in other parts of the border also live and work in maquila factories or assembly plants, managed by multinational corporations that do not pay taxes to the Mexican government, in highly unsafe conditions without proper public services, similar to those suffered by the victims from Juárez.

• the United Nations lists Mexico as the number one center for the supply of young children to North America. (Most are sold to rich, childless couples unwilling to wait for bona fide adoption agencies to provide them with a child. The majority are sent to international pedophile organizations; (Allan Hall, The Scotsman, 25 August 1998))

• in 1996 U.S. Postal Service announced that Mexico City was one of the leading producers of child pornography videos. (Diego Cevallos, "Sterile at Age 12, AIDS at 14," IPS, 10 February 1998)

• many Mexican women and youth are victims of sexual trafficking (when traffickers exploit victims of poverty with the promise of a good job and a better life, only to trap them into sexual slavery);

• many victims of sexual assault who cross the border illegally are detained indefinitely and are denied access to readily available victim services;

• many women and youth from both sides of the border suffer sexual harassment on a daily basis (from vulgar sexual propositions to frottage) and find that oftentimes their work schedule and salary are dependent on sexual availability;

YET WE DON’T HEAR THE CRIES OF INDIGNATION!!

Is it the case that the lives of thousands of women and girls are less valuable than the life of one man?

Until when will we remain accomplices of the toxic silence? Until when will we opt to minimize it and forget about it because we do not want to talk about “ugly” things? The thousands of sexual abuse survivors in our midst know very well the traumatic effects of personal terrorism. As long as we are not able to denounce sexual violence and blame those who are responsible (rather than blame the victims) we too will be part of a problem that knows no borders, for when we accept minimization we are guilty of re-victimization.

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Laura Zárate is Arte Sana's Founding Executive Director. This article was first published in the September 2002 issues of SIN FRONTERAS: WITHOUT BORDERS, Arte Sana's first bilingual newsletter.