The International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women is a day to address violence by raising public awareness and holding governments accountable. We should remember the 400-plus murders and disappearances of women since 1993 in the town of Juárez, just across the border from El Paso, Texas.
Ciudad Juárez is representative of the kinds of settlements that grow out of globalizing political and economic interests. It is estimated that 42 million people a year traffic through Juárez and El Paso. This border city is subject to ecological damage, sexual exploitation, and terrorism by the Juárez Cartel. Mexican journalist, Sergio González Rodríguez notes in his new book The Femicide Machine (MIT Press 2012) that "systematic actions against women bear the signs of a campaign: They smack of turf war, of the land's rape and subjugation." Narco-trafficking and the growth of the Juárez Cartel have led to the creation of a second, illicit state that operates beyond the reach of the official government.
While the United States Federal Government has become involved in trying to curtail the drug wars in Mexico, it may come as no surprise that special attention has not been given to the women who are used as pawns in these turf wars. They perpetuate the silence we find in the United States around violence against women. The initial response to this growing violence by the Mexican authorities was denial. As the crimes escalated, the government could no longer deny that women were being tortured, murdered and disappearing systematically. The authorities resorted to an old strategy -- blame the victim. The women were tried and held accountable in the cartel-controlled media. They were accused of living unconventional lives, of being prostitutes and lesbians.