The human rights crisis taking place at the U.S./Mexico border has another heartbreaking result. A study has determined that about 80 percent of women and girls crossing illegally into America are raped on their way here.
The price many Central American women attempting this dangerous voyage pay is rape. The staggering numbers were revealed by directors of migrant shelters interviewed by Fusion, who say, before reaching the U.S., these women have to survive a nightmare in Mexico.
Previously, it was estimated by organizations like Amnesty International that about 60 percent of females crossing the border were raped before arriving in the U.S. In 2010, the human rights institution reported that the women are prime targets for criminals roaming the area.
“Women and girl migrants, especially those without legal status traveling in remote areas or on trains, are at heightened risk of sexual violence at the hands of criminal gangs, people traffickers, other migrants or corrupt officials…Many criminal gangs appear to use sexual violence as part of the “price” demanded of migrants. According to some experts, the prevalence of rape is such that people smugglers may require women to have a contraceptive injection prior to the journey as a precaution…”
Immigration officials expect as many as 70,000 unaccompanied minors to enter the country illegally this year. The majority of these migrant children come from the Central American countries of El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. A Pew Research study in July indicated that girls are outnumbering boys who cross the border.
Ironically, many of the women and girls flee their countries and head towards the border to escape sexual violence, only to find the same fate while they attempt to reach freedom.
According to Detective Gabriel García — a prosecutor and investigator based in Chiapas — some of the trails the migrant women have to travel are hot spots for sexual assaults. This is so widely known by those attempting the voyage, that many take precautions in order not to become pregnant.
“There have been times where women will take contraceptives beforehand, so if they become a rape victim, then they won’t end up pregnant.”
But women crossing the border are not only raped by criminals. Some of the perpetrators have been identified as government officials, according to Alejandro Vila, head of a special prosecutor’s office in Chiapas, which is dedicated to investigating and prosecuting crimes against migrants.
“We have active cases here of officials who’ve been detained and are facing criminal proceedings…for abusing the vulnerable migrant women specifically. We’ve seen that for women crossing alone, the risk of becoming a crime victim increases significantly.”
Vila says that women getting raped while crossing the border may go under-reported by victims, because most of the migrants are not authorized to be in Mexico and face deportation, while other victims are ashamed to admit they have been assaulted.
[Image via CHNM]