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Everything Goes in Mexico

27 March 2014

Wednesday 19th March WILPF partnered with Just Associates (JASS) and other organisations to hold a side event to the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation of Mexico in light of the adoption of the report of Universal Periodic Review.

A Climate of Violence

The event painted a dreary and disheartening picture of Mexico.

Panel on Human Rights in Mexico on 19th March
Panel on Human Rights in Mexico on 19th March

The war on organised crime and drugs that the Mexican government has undertaken has led to a militarisation of public security, meaning that the military is very present in all spheres of society, carrying out tasks that pertain to the police. As a consequence, there has been an increase of human rights violations not only against human rights defenders, but also against civilians.

Disappearances Don’t Discriminate

The issue of disappearances took central stage at the panel, as it is considered to be a national tragedy that touches everyone, regardless of sex, social class, employment or age. People can be disappeared for reasons such as speaking out against the police even in household situations.

The justice system has little to no capacity to investigate disappearances and 98.99% of crimes in general go unsolved. There is no mechanism to find people, investigations stand still and impunity is the norm. Also, when remains are found, they often go unidentified, or mistaken with other remains. This has earned Mexico the title of “clandestine cemetery”.

Further, in order to obtain compensation, relatives need to declare the death of the missing person, which they do not want to do if they believe they are still alive. This creates a difficult situation for them since a great part of the population struggles financially, especially if they have to undertake costly investigations to find their relatives. Disappeared relatives damage the socioeconomic conditions of a family just as much as a death would do, so shouldn’t these families have the right to compensation as well?

This is especially relevant in light of the socio-economic context: half of Mexico’s population lives in poverty.

Flyer for the side event
Flyer for the side event

The highest number of UPR recommendations made by member states to the Mexican government regarded women. Not only are women human rights defenders and journalists in danger, but every woman is at risk of being abused, forcefully disappeared or, in the worst case, killed.

Between 2000 and 2009, 12.636 women and girls have been killed in Mexico, meaning that every day 6 women are murdered.

The region of Chihuahua provides the worst case of feminicide in the country, with a woman being murdered every 20 hours. The case of Juarez is the most well known, but it has never been investigated properly. Families of victims have, as the families of the disappeared, received no compensation.

Women human rights defenders and journalists are especially vulnerable to violence. But impunity continues to reign and women have no access to justice because of a corrupt and inefficient justice system who simply does not see them.

Impact of Weapons

Violence, attacks, disappearances and other violations are all fueled by the widespread availability of small arms and light weapons in the country. The impact of arms on the lives of citizens has not been recognised by the government, but they lead to an increase of non-armed groups who commit violence against women and recruit children. The room was chilled when one of our panelists described how these children are raised in such a violent culture where weapons are like toys.

A Failed State?

The panel ended by insisting on the urgency of targeting impunity by boosting investigations and improving the efficiency of the judicial system. Gender language and awareness needs to be integrated in national policies and feminicide cannot remain a marginal issue that the government suppresses.

Put together poor socio-economic conditions, easy access to arms, a government who turns a blind eye and a military who holds too much power, and you will have a culture of violence, where women are toys, where everything goes, when you can get away with heinous crimes simply because you can.

You will have a failed state.

Sign up to our Update from the Human Rights Council newsletter to learn more about these issues.

Aquí puedes encontrar el artículo en español.

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Melissa Torres


Prior to being elected Vice-President, Melissa Torres was the WILPF US International Board Member from 2015 to 2018. Melissa joined WILPF in 2011 when she was selected as a Delegate to the Commission on the Status of Women as part of the WILPF US’ Practicum in Advocacy Programme at the United Nations, which she later led. She holds a PhD in Social Work and is a professor and Global Health Scholar at Baylor College of Medicine and research lead at BCM Anti-Human Trafficking Program. Of Mexican descent and a native of the US/Mexico border, Melissa is mostly concerned with the protection of displaced Latinxs in the Americas. Her work includes training, research, and service provision with the American Red Cross, the National Human Trafficking Training and Technical Assistance Centre, and refugee resettlement programs in the U.S. Some of her goals as Vice-President are to highlight intersectionality and increase diversity by fostering inclusive spaces for mentorship and leadership. She also contributes to WILPF’s emerging work on the topic of displacement and migration.

Jamila Afghani


Jamila Afghani is the President of WILPF Afghanistan which she started in 2015. She is also an active member and founder of several organisations including the Noor Educational and Capacity Development Organisation (NECDO). Elected in 2018 as South Asia Regional Representative to WILPF’s International Board, WILPF benefits from Jamila’s work experience in education, migration, gender, including gender-based violence and democratic governance in post-conflict and transitional countries.

Sylvie Jacqueline Ndongmo


Sylvie Jacqueline NDONGMO is a human rights and peace leader with over 27 years experience including ten within WILPF. She has a multi-disciplinary background with a track record of multiple socio-economic development projects implemented to improve policies, practices and peace-oriented actions. Sylvie is the founder of WILPF Cameroon and was the Section’s president until 2022. She co-coordinated the African Working Group before her election as Africa Representative to WILPF’s International Board in 2018. A teacher by profession and an African Union Trainer in peace support operations, Sylvie has extensive experience advocating for the political and social rights of women in Africa and worldwide.

WILPF Afghanistan

In response to the takeover of Afghanistan by the Taliban and its targeted attacks on civil society members, WILPF Afghanistan issued several statements calling on the international community to stand in solidarity with Afghan people and ensure that their rights be upheld, including access to aid. The Section also published 100 Untold Stories of War and Peace, a compilation of true stories that highlight the effects of war and militarisation on the region. 

IPB Congress Barcelona

WILPF Germany (+Young WILPF network), WILPF Spain and MENA Regional Representative

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WILPF uses feminist analysis to argue that militarisation is a counter-productive and ill-conceived response to establishing security in the world. The more society becomes militarised, the more violence and injustice are likely to grow locally and worldwide.

Sixteen states are believed to have supplied weapons to Afghanistan from 2001 to 2020 with the US supplying 74 % of weapons, followed by Russia. Much of this equipment was left behind by the US military and is being used to inflate Taliban’s arsenal. WILPF is calling for better oversight on arms movement, for compensating affected Afghan people and for an end to all militarised systems.

Militarised masculinity

Mobilising men and boys around feminist peace has been one way of deconstructing and redefining masculinities. WILPF shares a feminist analysis on the links between militarism, masculinities, peace and security. We explore opportunities for strengthening activists’ action to build equal partnerships among women and men for gender equality.

WILPF has been working on challenging the prevailing notion of masculinity based on men’s physical and social superiority to, and dominance of, women in Afghanistan. It recognizes that these notions are not representative of all Afghan men, contrary to the publicly prevailing notion.

Feminist peace​

In WILPF’s view, any process towards establishing peace that has not been partly designed by women remains deficient. Beyond bringing perspectives that encapsulate the views of half of the society and unlike the men only designed processes, women’s true and meaningful participation allows the situation to improve.

In Afghanistan, WILPF has been demanding that women occupy the front seats at the negotiating tables. The experience of the past 20 has shown that women’s presence produces more sustainable solutions when they are empowered and enabled to play a role.

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