HomeNewsAnalysisWomen Targeted by Mexico Drug Violence
ANALYSIS

Women Targeted by Mexico Drug Violence

GENDER AND CRIME / 5 SEP 2011 BY CLARE FORSYTHE EN

Many female migrants from Mexico to the U.S. have been displaced by violence, often linked to organized crime, with Mexican women targeted by sex traffickers, gender-based killings, and often recruited by criminal gangs themselves.

A recent press release from womens’ advocacy group REDGE said that most female migrants from Mexico to the U.S. are escaping violence and insecurity. The organization said this was a bigger driver of illegal migration by Mexican females than the more commonly cited motivation of joining their male relatives or partners in the U.S.

The drug conflict currently engulfing Mexico hits women in a number of ways. One is the phenomenon of “femicide;” gender-based killings of women, which seem to accompany more generalized drug violence. The most well-known example is Ciudad Juarez, a hub for the drug trade, located on the U.S. border, where hundreds or even thousands of women have been found dead and sometimes mutilated in apparently gender-based crimes in the last 20 years. The reasons for these killings are often unclear, but they are often described as linked to the general atmosphere of violence and impunity, as well as the macho culture around the drug trade in the city. The situation has not improved in Juarez -- the state of Chihuahua, where it is located, reportedly saw a record number of women murdered in 2010, with some 370 killings. The state has already seen 222 murders of women so far in 2011.

Another threat to women is posed by sex trafficking. As InSight Crime has highlighted, drug trafficking organizations in Mexico have increasingly turned to this trade as an alternative revenue source in the wake of government crackdowns on the drug trade. This has resulted in an increase in the number of disappeared women and girls, a significant proportion of whom are believed to have been kidnapped by criminal groups for this purpose.

Female illegal migrants constitute particularly easy targets for sex trafficking and sexual assaults by these gangs. As undocumented migrants, they are already far less likely to be reported as missing, and less likely to report violence or abuse to the authorities. This makes the illegal crossing into the U.S., already a dangerous undertaking, even more perilous for women migrants than for their male counterparts, as their gender means they are particularly vulnerable to exploitation.

Women can be the perpetrators, as well as the victims, of organized crime. A recent report in the New York Times noted that there had been a 400 percent increase in the number of women incarcerated for federal crimes in Mexico since 2007 -- this covers most activity linked to organized crime. The newspaper noted that increasing numbers of women actively participate in these criminal organizations, acting as drug mules, as “honeytraps” in kidnapping operations, and even as assassins. The tasks carried out by many of these individuals seem to play on the traditional image of women in Mexican society, exploiting the fact that they are more likely to be assumed to be innocent (useful for drug smuggling) or otherwise using their beauty as bait to lure men.

Equally, it seems that a grey area has evolved between victim and participants, as the New York Times points out. It is not always clear to what extent the women participating in organized criminal groups do so out of free will, or as the result of having been forcibly recruited or tricked by drug gangs, as some claim.

In any case, what has become clear is that women are by no means bystanders to the violence in Mexico, and that, whether chosen or not, many are directly caught up in the drug war.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 3 APR 2018

The recent arrest in Colombia of two veteran air traffic controllers linked to Mexico's Sinaloa Cartel has once again highlighted…

MEXICO / 1 APR 2015

As strange as it may seem, some of the most prominent drug traffickers in Sinaloa state, Mexico, are compliant taxpayers…

MEXICO / 30 JUL 2013

Taxi drivers in Chilpancingo, Mexico, are demanding authorities take action against the more than 150 organized crime linked "narcotaxis"…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela El Dorado Investigation Makes Headlines

3 DEC 2021

InSight Crime's investigation into the trafficking of illegal gold in Venezuela's Amazon region generated impact on both social media and in the press. Besides being republished and mentioned by several…

THE ORGANIZATION

Gender and Investigative Techniques Focus of Workshops

26 NOV 2021

On November 23-24, InSight Crime conducted a workshop called “How to Cover Organized Crime: Investigation Techniques and A Focus on Gender.” The session convened reporters and investigators from a dozen…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Names Two New Board Members

19 NOV 2021

In recent weeks, InSight Crime added two new members to its board. Joy Olson is the former executive director of the Washington Office on Latin America…

THE ORGANIZATION

Senate Commission in Paraguay Cites InSight Crime

12 NOV 2021

InSight Crime’s reporting and investigations often reach the desks of diplomats, security officials and politicians. The latest example occurred in late October during a commission of Paraguay's Senate that tackled…

THE ORGANIZATION

Backing Investigative Journalism Around the Globe

5 NOV 2021

InSight Crime was a proud supporter of this year's Global Investigative Journalism Conference, which took place November 1 through November 5 and convened nearly 2,000 journalists…