Our own President, Mr. Bush, visited Latin America to mend some fences recently. Latin Americans accused him and us, the U.S., of getting our priorities mixed up. On some issues they are right. However, the leaders seem to have ignored an ugly problem in the world, in the U.S., and in particular, Latin America. Concentrating on immigration and the drug debacle does not help this problem.
Some are calling it femicide. The continuing murder of women with impunity has to be more important than the movement of bales of grass or the desires of some to come to America without a green card. Progress has been made in the more civilized world against the murder and abuse of women, but the carnage continues. In traditional societies where men rule, where law is easily bought or ignored, as in Mexico and Latin America, the murder and exploitation of women is just beginning to be publicized and fought. The battles are small, the war large, the advances slow. In the violent, primitive world of the Arab and Muslim, women remain disposable property. It is not easy to read Lolita in Teheran.
In December of 2006, the Mexican Congress passed a new law protecting women. The new President, Felipè Calderòn, signed The General Law on Women's Access to a Life Free of Violence, which for the first time in Mexico addresses broadly a problem suffered on a daily basis by close to half the women in this country, usually in silence. The President has made his first priority the promotion of law and order in a traditional culture that continues to kill women at the rate of 5 per day.
IPS News reported on the changes under the title "Law on Violence Against Women - Necessary but Not Sufficient" by Diego Cevallos. The campaign begins one spot with: "This is the last time Patricia will be battered." There are radio and TV spots about the new law, but the problem is that it seems to have no teeth, and, and while women are continuing to be raped and murdered, the issue is still being discussed and argued.
At least Mexico's new law brings an important light to shine on a problem too long kept in the dark. However, it has serious obstacles before it can be of any worth. There is the reality of gender issues that are new to a traditional culture. There are "no trained prosecutors, police or judges, nor is there a network of shelters for battered women, nor educational programmes about violence," said Mariela Martinez, the "gender affairs coordinator" for Etornos Educativos (Educational Settings).