Women: victims of gender assault in Ciudad Juarez - Gender Essay Example

Women: victims of gender assault in ciudad juarez

 

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1.1 Introduction

 

Ciudad Juarez is Mexico’s fourth largest city, located on the US Mexico border conjointly with El Paso. It is colloquially known as the “maquiladora capital” with a large number of export processing factories located in the area which are mostly owned by rich businessman from the USA. (Nathan, 1999). A peculiarity of these factories is employment of large quantum of female work force, in the form of cheap labor at pay scales which are ten times below that in neighboring USA. Since 1993, over 300 girls and women mostly between the vulnerable ages of 11 to 22 have been murdered in the area, with reports of hundreds of girls missing being received regularly. Most of these women are from very low income families thereby lacking the means to afford social and economic protection. (Livingston, 2004).   Over the years varied approaches to resolve the ghastly problem of crime and grave gender injustice have been adopted, to include joint US Mexican mechanisms, police, judicial and civil rights activism. The feminist movement has also been involved in bringing the case to international notice across borders, particularly through Coalition Against Violence which has been very active in this sphere. A number of arrests have been made ranging from an Egyptian chemical scientist to a gang of bus drivers and of late a Mexican cement worker in Denver USA.

However these appear to be superficial in their approach to the problem and seem to be tackling the external rather than the root causes arising out of traditional gender inequity and exploitation of women in an industrial setting with poor social and security supports. There is thus scope for analyzing the issue of murder of large number of women in Ciudad Juarez from the perspective of gender assault and social preventive measures that could be taken to avoid such proliferation.

 

1.2 Research Topic

The number of violent deaths of girls and women in Ciudad Juarez area transgressing on the borders with El Paso has been over 320 during the period 1993 – 2003, with a third of these deaths denoting extensive mutilation of the bodies of the victims. (Staudt. Coronado, 2003). This issue has been engaging the attention of the people in the region since August 1993, when the first murder of a young woman was reported on the outskirts of the city.  There has been involvement of anti social elements as drug dealers, pimps as well as husbands and boy friends in these incidents. However a large number of deaths, almost one third are reported to be mysteriously unaccounted for. The involvement of a serial killer in these incidents though suspected has been frequently disputed, though there are clear signs of a rape-torture-murder cycle, denoting the handiwork of such murderers, at work. The profile of the women is said to be generally poor, with dark skin and long black hair. Their bodies are frequently dumped in the desert after mutilation and the death is unusually ghastly.

 

The authorities are generally seen to be indifferent to the plight of the victims as well as their families. Being a border town with a flourishing drug and criminal network, it is easy to commit the crime and then slip into anonymity in neighboring El Paso. Since the victims are poor there is inadequate motivation for the police to follow up such incidents. While pressure from civil activists invariably results in shoddy investigations and forced confessions which fail to address the root cause of the problem.

 

The first suspect arrested in the case was Sharif Abdul Latif Sharif in 1995. He was an Egyptian chemist who was said to be a scientific genius but an alcoholic and possibly a psychopathic sexual assaulter. He had been in and out of jail a number of times taking advantage of his ability to manipulate the authorities. The killings continued even when Sharif was in jail and it was reported by the police that he had hired a gang called as, “The Rebels” to continue the murders. Even after the members of this gang were arrested, the blood shed continued. Later a gang of bus drivers was reported to be involved in the murders and rape of young women, who were easy victims while returning from work. However no satisfactory explanation has been given for involvement of such a large number of people in the killings restricted to a relatively small area.

 

Gender discrimination was evident since the initial stages as the law enforcing authorities put the blame on the victims who it was said should not have gone out at night given the existing circumstances. Recently it was felt that organ harvests could have been one of the motives for the murders. (Staudt. Coronado, 2003). This also brought into focus the need to involve federal authorities in the crime. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) asked to investigate the cases felt that it was not the work of serial killers but could be of three or four individual murderers. Other criminologists felt that there were not just one but a number of serial killers involved in the incidents.  The latest arrest in the case has been made in August 2006 as reported in the Denver Post. Edgar Alvarez Cruz has been arrested in Denver on charges of being one of the main suspects in the murders. (Cardona. Sherry, 2006).

 

Apart from a criminal or law and order perspective there are other larger issues which are underlying the trend of killings. As the border is running between the metropolitan areas of Ciudad Juarez-El Paso, it complicates the problem of accountability of the government authorities.  The system of governance on both sides of the border is different. For example in Mexico, a serious crime as murder involves the state and not the metropolitan police. (Staudt. Coronado, 2003). Thus accountability has to be across multiple verticals such as the legislature, judiciary and law and order machinery and cannot be seen to grant special privileges to those who have the money to buy their way through the law or the political patronage to prevent it taking its legal course. The US Government is not able to involve itself in the case due to issues of national sovereignty though a number of US representatives have used their offices to persuade the FBI to provide assistance in the case but with limited effect. While Texas Senator Eliot Shapleigh has been supportive being an anti violence activist, the underlying pressures and rule bound bureaucratic apathy has resulted in lack of sufficient progress. The cultural variation in functioning of the Mexican and the American authorities has been noticeable. Thus while the Mayor and Police Chief of El Paso are comfortable with joint cooperation between judicial authorities, the Mexican officials appeared some what concerned with the approach during a press conference on the subject in March 2003.

 

 

Lack of gender sensitivity is a major factor highlighted by activists involved in the case. Thus it is stated that while local governments across the borders cooperated on issues such as auto theft, they failed to be responsive towards much more serious crimes such as murder of women. (Staudt. Coronado, 2002). The proverbial male domination of society has also led to suppression of women who are becoming financially independent. Psychologists feel one vicious way is of raping and murdering them.  These attitudes could only be transformed with active interest shown by anti violence activists who focused attention on the killings. Groups as the Coalition Against Violence were formed in late 2001 bringing together a large body of students, teachers as well as anti violence service centers in Ciudad Juarez and El Paso. These primarily comprised of those who have been relatives of victims of the violence. The complexity of the issue is highlighted by the fact that the victims are multi national though the majority are Mexicans. The large number of migrants amongst the worker community in Ciudad Juarez also creates an environment of easy anonymity for the assailants. (Staudt. Coronado, 2003).

 

On the whole it is also felt that the system of policing and investigations in Mexico has considerable scope for improvement. Numerous instances where the spot has not been properly investigated have come to light as activists visiting the scene after the police had completed their preliminary investigations, found objects belonging to the victim. The response of the law and order officials has also been lackadaisical. The data on the crime in the area of Chihuahua has not been disaggregated and hence all murders are jointly projected and compared to similar figures in major cities as New York which tones down the gravity. Separation of data of women victims would provide greater degree of attention to this problem. While the issue has been taken up by the women legislature representatives in Mexico it has restricted focus. (Staudt. Coronado, 2003). There is a general tendency of manipulating figures of deaths by government officials before the elections and by the activists in general which complicates the issues. Pandering two sets of figures hampers proper investigations. The investigations by the police or independent agencies are frequently interfered and challenged by the local as well as state authorities. There is also a powerful influence of the export processing factory owners who have been milking the poor girls of the area for cheap labor at $3 per day.

 

1.3 Statement of the Problem

 

The problem of murder of over 300 women in Ciudad Juarez over the period 1993 to 2003 is a complex one. There are a number of issues involved which need consideration. Being a border area, it provides ideal opportunities for crime to flourish as there are obvious cross border limitations such as multiple government authorities, lack of a professional attitude of the law and order machinery and lower priority for poor women in general. Thus despite the grievous nature of the crime against women there was lack of consciousness to undertake appropriate remedial measures to overcome the menace. A number of solutions were offered but most of these related to judicial, criminal and legislative options. There has been limited research addressing the issue of enhancing the socio-economic and security awareness of the women by appropriately educating them about the dangers faced in criminal and sexual assault and how the same could be prevented. Thus there is adequate scope for research in this field which is relatively unexplored.

 

1.4 The Aim and Research Questions

The aim of the research is to analyze the issue of murder of large number of women in Ciudad Juarez from 1993 to 2003 with particular reference to employment of socio economic awareness strategies to check the crime and prevent recurrence.

The main research questions will fulfill achievement of the aim and are framed as follows:-

(a)  What are the dimensions of the problem of large scale murders of women in Ciudad Juarez from 1993 and 2003?

(b)  What strategies were used to overcome the problem and how effective have these been?

(c)  Were any socio economic awareness strategies employed? If so what were    their effects and how can these solve the issue?

 

2.0 Research Methodology

 

Research is a well defined area of study of a particular problem or issue in its totality or in specific to a particular area of concern. (Veal, 2000).  On the other hand Morgan (2000) has stated that research should entail the following characteristics, which will be kept in mind by the author while evaluating the research:-

(a)    Systematic collection of data.

(b)    Analytical interpretation of data.

(c)    Developing a theory and conclusion.

 

2.1  The Research Philosophy

 

The research philosophy that is adopted should reflect the authors’ view point on development of knowledge. An author will thus have to decide on the means of collecting data, use of interviews and the main conceptual issues supporting the research. Modern research has three models; these are positivism, realism and interpretism. . (Cantrell, D. C. (n.d.)).The author will be looking at the two most widely used approaches which are as follows:-

2.2 Positivism

 

Positivism entails a scientific stance for research and interpretation of data. Thus only those phenomenon which are observable and measurable are regarded as knowledge. . (Cantrell, D. C. (n.d.)). Positivists maintain an independent and objective stance. They are interested in correlation of objects being studied and imply that these objects were present before they began their examination. There are more quantitative rather than qualitative facets in their research. . (Cantrell, D. C. (n.d.)).

2.3  Phenomenology (Interpretivism)

 

This is opposite of the positivistic approach and is known as interpretivism or phenomenology. This is used by social scientists with an attempt to comprehend people’s socially constructed interpretations which are subjective to reality. . (Cantrell, D. C. (n.d.)). Though positivist and interpretivism paradigm are two extremes, most researchers use elements of both practices, which are implied in realism. Use of the realistic approach combining the positivism and interpretivism is considered the most suitable for the current research.

 

2.4 Research Approach

 

As per Trochim (2000) the deductive approach is used when a hypothesis is developed and the research design has to test that hypothesis. This is in relation to quantitative research and is developed in a way that facts and samples have to be obtained in sufficient numerical quantity for enabling generalization.

On the other hand the inductive approach is related to qualitative data, as a sample used in a case study as contrasting to the large quantum of data which is used in the deductive approach. (Trochim, 2000). A theory is said to be developed from data collection in this approach. The dynamic nature of the research will entail application of both approaches by the author as in practice almost all the research projects have elements of both the approaches in view of the importance of including both qualitative and quantitative findings.

 

2.5  Kinds of Research Data

 

Research data in this case will be the details and pattern of the murders, their socio economic composition, the strategies employed and the results achieved. The basic classification of research data is in terms of quantitative and qualitative methods.  Quantitative research entails examination of numerical data by using mathematical models and statistical procedures. (Morgan, 2000). While qualitative research involves use of analysis and opinions to explain interviews and documents and explaining the phenomenon.  It facilitates improvement of understanding of the phenomenon. There are as per Veal (2000) many methodologies and technologies which assist the researchers in obtaining a better insight of various management issues. A quantitative cum qualitative approach will be employed in the research.

 

2.6 Data Collection Approaches

 

Primary sources. These comprise of data which is unpublished and which has been gathered from the organization directly. (Veal, 2000).  This can be carried out through a number of the surveys, interview, case study and action research. The principal approach used will be a survey of the details of incidents of murder and questionnaires.

Secondary sources.  Veal (2000) has indicated that secondary research contains two issues, statistical information collected by countries, organizations and institutions as well as descriptive documents. The author will use both approaches that will serve as the backbone of the dissertation.

Extensive research will be carried out in the Library for getting a theoretical view of the issue as well as bench marks available of similar studies in other countries. There are wide-ranging resources of great help to the research, such as books from all over the world on issues that can provide theoretical background from which the study will set off using analytical and comparison tools of great contribution.

 

2.7  Data Collection Strategies

 

The research strategy is the general method used.  Employing the right data collection strategy is thus of paramount importance in order to obtain the desired results. There are eight common strategies for data collection. (Veal, 2000). However survey and ethnography will be the principal methods used.

 

2.8 Research Instruments

 

Primary data is collected for the research study to answer a specific question. Potter (1996) states that surveys are one of the most common ways to collect data, where the subject can be contacted through mail, telephone or directly in personal interviews. It entails sending questionnaires, interviews and non-formal enquiries made to people. By carrying out interviews of a significant number of individuals a broad perspective can be provided.

2.9 Questionnaires

 

Questionnaires based on multiple responses will be prepared and administered to a selected audience from Ciudad Juarez who have been mainly concerned with the case over the years. While preparing the questions, due care will be taken to ensure that the responses provide the widest possible variations. As also in a questionnaire, some questions will be included to get confirmatory responses to the trends as it is always found that some responders will give vague and at times incoherent answers to some questions, which gets balanced if we have confirmatory questions. The researcher will be able to derive deductions from their responses.

2.10 The Method in which Conclusions will be derived

 

The most important issue in case study research is that the process is not a sequential one.  No conclusion can be drawn until there is a clear data display. (Miles.Huberman,1994). Consequently, after having implemented within-case analysis, the findings from the questionnaire will be compared with review of literature to determine the impact of various strategies adopted for preventing crime and assess the possible impact of socio economic awareness strategy.

 

2.11 Limitations

A number of limitations are envisaged in this research as it is on a contemporary subject with varied biases. However attempt will be to analyze the available data and seek opinions and views of a cross section of the population.

 

2.12 Available Research on the Subject

 

There is extensive research which has been carried out on the subject but very limited work is available on the impact of socio economic awareness strategies to empower women. Thus while the law and order, inter border issues and governance has been covered amply that of women empowerment has been found wanting. Some of the most seminal work is done by Staudt and Coronado (2003), who investigates the issue of social justice on the US Mexican border holistically but provides a legalistic – judiciary perspective. A number of studies have also been carried out by human rights organizations such as Amnesty International which have attempted to identify the nuances of the issues. There is limited research available on the impact of women empowerment and thus this aspect will bring out fresh perspectives on the subject.

 

4.0  Conclusion

The issue of brutal murder of over 300 girls and women in Ciudad Juarez over a period of a decade, represents one of the most heinous facets of a modern society, where poor women working in factories are firstly exploited through discrimination in compensation and there after   face the danger of being raped, mutilated and killed at the hands of a group of killers who remained anonymous for long. The multiple dimensions of the problem in its political and law and order dimension as been examined in detail in literature so far. What remains unaddressed is the impact of socio economic awareness of the victims, which is proposed to be covered in the research.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

1.      Cantrell, D. C. (n.d.)) Alternative paradigms in environmental education research: The interpretive perspective. http://www.edu.uleth.ca/ciccte/naceer.pgs/pubpro.pgs/alternate/pubfiles/08.Cantrell.fin.htm.  (22 September 2006).

2.      Cardona, Felisa and Sherry, Allison. 2006. Break in Juarez serial killings. http://www.denverpost.com/nationworld/ci_4199814 (22 September 2006).

3.      Livingston, Jessica. 2004. Murder in Juarez: Gender, Sexual Violence, and the Global Assembly Line. Frontiers – A Journal of Women’s Studies. Volume: 25. Issue: 1

4.      Miles, Matthew & A. Michael Huberman (1994) Qualitative Data Analysis. 2nd edition. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, Inc.

5.      Morgan.G. (2000). Research Methods in Applied Settings. Mahwah, NJ. Publication

6.      Nathan, Debbie.  1999. Work, Sex and Danger in Ciudad Juarez. NACLA Report on the Americas. Volume: 33. Issue: 3. Publication Year: 1999. Page Number: 24.

7.      Potter.J. (1996). An Analysis of Thinking and Research about Qualitative Methods. Mahwah, NJ. Publication.

8.      Staudt, Kathleen. Coronado, Irasema. 2002. Fronteras No Mas: Toward Social Justice at the U.S.-Mexico Border (Hardcover). New York. Macmillan.

9.      Staudt, Kathleen. Coronado, Irasema. 2003. Civic Action for Accountability: Anti-Violence Organizing in Cd. Juarez-El Paso. USMEX 2003-04 Working Paper Series.

10.  Trochim, W. 2000. The Research Methods Knowledge Base, 2nd Edition, Atomic Dog Publishing, Cincinnati.

11.  Veal.A. (2000). Business Research Methods: A Managerial approach. University of Technology, Sydney, Australia.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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