An investigation of Mexican prisons has unearthed disturbing truths about how female prisoners are handled. Results of the investigation conducted by Amnesty International show that officials often use sexual violence to coerce confessions.
The organization gathered information from 100 women who had been detained by Mexican forces, which encompassed police officers on all levels, as well as members of the Army and Navy. The women had been accused of “organized crime or drug-related offenses.”
72 of those women reported being sexually abused while they were detained in Mexican prisons, and 33 women reported being raped.
All of them reported being subjected to verbal or psychological violence at the hands of authorities. They told stories of being beaten, groped, and electro-shocked while under interrogation.
To make it worse, the women were rarely given medical attention afterwards. If they did, it was grossly inadequate.
“These women’s stories paint an utterly shocking snapshot of the level of torture against women in Mexico, even by local standards. Sexual violence used as a form of torture seems to have become a routine part of interrogations,” Amnesty International Americas Director Erika Guevara-Rosas said.
This investigation of Mexican prisons sheds light on the fact that authorities target women with low incomes without power or influence, simply so they can record arrests, as Guevara-Rosas has noted.
“Women from marginalized backgrounds are the most vulnerable in Mexico’s so-called ‘war on drugs’. 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.”
Only 22 of the 66 cases of sexual abuse reported actually became court cases, according to the Amnesty International investigation. It’s unknown whether or not criminal charges are being brought against the accused in any of those cases.
In one case, a young mother was brutally attacked and then forced to watch as members of her family were tortured in an attempt to get her to confess that she was a member of a drug cartel.
“Mónica, a 26-year-old mother of four, was gang-raped by six police officers, received electroshocks to her genitals, was suffocated with a plastic bag and had her head plunged into a bucket of water in the city of Torreón, Coahuila state in northern Mexico on 12 February 2013. Security officials tried to force her to confess to being part of a criminal gang. She was also forced to watch as her brother and husband were tortured in front of her.”
After her husband died of wounds sustained during the torture, Mónica was forced to sign a confession. In 2014, the Mexican National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) exposed the fact that she was tortured in an official report, and earlier this year, they recommended a formal investigation into her case. Yet, Mónica remains in prison even now, awaiting the results of her trial.
The CNDH has issued dozens of these recommendations for investigations, but those numbers are paltry compared to the incidents of alleged torture, where no action has been taken.
Amnesty International discovered that 12,000 reports of abuse and torture were filed in 2013 alone, more than 3,600 of which were women.
Thousands of reports of sexual abuse or rape have been brought against the Mexican armed forces in a 5-year span, but only four marines were suspended from Naval duty, and another was only temporarily suspended after he was convicted and imprisoned for sexual abuse. This information was obtained from the Army and Navy officials who actually consented to communicate with Amnesty; many refused to do so.
“This failure to carry out proper investigations and bring those responsible to justice sends a dangerous message that raping women or using other forms of sexual violence to force confessions is tolerated and actually allowed,” Guevara-Rosas said about the shocking data.
Amnesty International emphasized the need for officials to take real action against the torture and abuse against women revealed in their investigation of Mexican prisons, rather than keeping these offenses in the dark.
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