On 16 February, Mexico’s Senate approved an amendment to the country’s General Law for Women’s Access to Life Free from Violence by including disability as one of the elements prosecutors and courts must assess when deciding to grant protection to women victimized by violence. The new revision to the law is a crucial milestone towards ensuring equal protection for women with disabilities, who are disproportionately impacted by domestic violence.
“This reform is an important step. The Senate should now build on it, by ensuring that a bill currently under consideration in the Senate on the protection of women from violence, including access to shelters, is fully inclusive of women with disabilities,” said Carlos Rios Espinosa, a senior disability rights researcher and advocate at Human Rights Watch.
On 5 February, organizations of women with disabilities and other human rights groups submitted recommendations for amendments to the law to Senator Malú Micher, President of the Senate Commission for Gender Equality. The proposals focused on measures to tackle intersectional discrimination, ensure women with disabilities can escape from their aggressors, and guarantee accessible services and means of communication in Mexico’s state-run Women’s Justice Centers and other shelters.
In Mexico, it is a common occurrence for victims to know their abusers personally, as many women with disabilities live in households with large amounts of extended family. According to Human Rights Watch, women with disabilities may find themselves trapped in violent situations because they often rely on their abusers for daily living support, housing, and financial aid. This also complicates escaping abuse as there are few organizations dedicated to protecting women with disabilities that can reach rural localities. If many women with disabilities have to rely on their abusers for help with activities such as transportation, reaching domestic violence shelters may be impossible. Additionally, in a June 2020 report, Human Rights Watch found that women with disabilities who are victims of domestic violence are sometimes forced to return to aggressors and face further abuse due to a substantial lack of accessible shelters and support services. While the new revision to the law will help grant protection for these victims under the criminal justice system, it does not ensure that they will be provided with equal access to shelters and protection.
“Unless Mexico’s legislature includes women with disabilities in all relevant laws on the protection of victims and survivors, women with disabilities will have little hope of escaping abuse and accessing justice,” said Espinosa. Currently, the Senate has an opportunity to illustrate its declared commitment to the equal protection of women with disabilities who have survived violence. It is imperative that the Mexican government back up their words with action. Going forward, the Senate should approve all proposed amendments that guarantee adequate and equally accessible protection, justice, and services to all women.
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