Mexico is one of the countries where violence is most exercised against children and young adults. Physical abuse and homicide are the main threats to these groups. Up to 2009, the National Agency for Family Development (Sistema Nacional para el Desarrollo Integral de la Familia, DIF) confirmed 20 thousand child abuse cases. Even with this figures, there is no comprehensive system of children’
s rights protection and the entities responsible do not have the sufficient funds to guarantee the safety of children and young adults.
The essay titled Regional glances: Violence towards Children and Adolescents published by the Network of Children’
s Rights in Mexico (Red por los Derechos de la Infancia en México, Redim) warns the country of the rapidly ascent to one of the first places on the list of increasing violence, ranging from physical assaults to homicide, towards children and young adults.
Among the Organization of Economic Co-operation and Development countries, Mexico is first place in terms of physical assault, sexual abuse and homicide against 14 year old minors.
The recent report notes that violence in the form of corporal punishment as disciplinary action is on top, followed by physical and mental abuse, negligence and humiliating treatment. The National Agency for Family Development registered 20 thousand child abuse cases through its state application forms.
In Mexico, according to the Network of Child Rights in Mexico, no legislation regulates and protects children against violence. Among the motives is the scarce knowledge about child rights, lack of data to analyze the cause and effects of violence and lack of child participation to promote opinion, demands and complaints.
s difficult to quantify the number of cases because the illegality of these activities and the subjective elements of interpretation which unable the identification of violence.
The 2007 World Report: Violence against Children defines violence as maltreatment or humiliation of minors that encompasses all types of physical and emotional maltreatment that result in a potential or real harm to health, development or dignity in the context of a relationship based on responsibility, trust or power.
“Early exposure to violence is crucial in the development of the brain in the maturing process” declares Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. “In the case of prolonged exposure to violence, including as a witness, disturbance of the nervous and immunological system can result in social, emotional and cognitive limitations as well as cause diseases, injuries, and social problems.”
In 1990, Mexico ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which requires states to initiate legislative, administrative, social and educational processes in order to protect children from all forms of violence, physical or mental, traumas or maltreatment, negligence, and exploitation (specially sexual abuse) while children are under the custody of their parents, legal representative or any other person assuming parental rights.”
In 2006, UN Committee of the Rights of the Child expressed concern about the high number of complaints of violence at home and against children, lack of prevention measures or opposition to these practices. For these reasons, it recommended that the Mexican government intensify its efforts to create a system of data on minors that need special protection.
In addition, it suggested that in cases of torture, abuse, negligence, and maltreatment to adopt measures to prevent and eliminate all forms of violence, adequately investigate cases, and assure the victim protection and services needed for recuperation and social integration.
More specifically, it proposed to amend federal and state laws to assure the prohibition of corporal punishment and classify as penal crimes the exploitation, treatment and kidnapping of children.
According to Network of Child Rights in Mexico, as long as there is not an integral Child Rights Protection System in Mexico and as long as the National Agency for Family Development lacks a legislative framework, resources and institutional support, the rights of children and young adults will be vulnerable.
The Impunity of Physical Abuse
In 2009, the National Agency for Family Development received 22, 129 child abuse complaints. Network of Child Rights in Mexico admits ignorance as to why so few complaints are reported to the judicial authorities. The relation between the verification of the complaints received and the ones presented to the judicial authorities is minimal.
The Regional glances: Violence towards Children and Adolescents notes that in Oaxaca, state with the second most complaints, of the 4,000 cases only 75 are filed by the Attorney General. In Colima only 0.76% initiate a juridical or penal process even though it’s the state where most complaints are received.
The United Nations Children’s Fund recognizes the insufficiency in the registration of cases and recommends shaping public policies that facilitate the denunciation of child abuse to know the precise magnitude of the problem, paying special attention to girls, and providing necessary attention to the victims of violence.
In the country, physical abuse is the most frequent type of violence against minors. In 2009, 15,000 complaints were filed, of which only 52% were verified and 21% initiated a juridical or penal process. The civil association assures the current judicial efforts are insufficient.
Within the region, the state of Mexico registers the most complaints. Of the 3,700 cases in 2009 only 10% have been filed by the Attorney General. The state of Querétaro holds first place in the verification of the crime; in 2009, 95% of the accusations were confirmable. The civil association believes that either the mechanisms of attention of the complaints are effective or the abuse is so evident that denunciation is the only possible outcome.
In the northeastern sector of the country, the state of Nuevo Leon stands out because of the number of complaints of abuse received, cases approved and the number of persons that initiated a judicial or penal process. A minimum percentage of complaints are presented before authority, even if the cases are significant. “The mechanisms of attention and case follow-up are not aptly performing,” noted the civil association.
Deaths Due to Violence
Homicide and suicide are the ultimate and most severe expression of harm by violence. In Mexico, deaths due to violence constitute 3% of all deaths. Between ages 0 to 4, it’s one among the 20 principal causes of death. According the World Report: Violence against Children, babies and minors have higher risk of death by homicide.
“In the case of children under 5 years old,” explains the Network of Child Rights, “these types of deaths can be concealed by child mortality due to natural causes and not reported as provoked deaths; thus the under-filing and follow-up of these crimes of violence against children.”
In a year, 153 homicide cases of children, ages 0 to 4, and 419 of adolescents, ages 15 to 17, are registered. The Northeast region holds the highest mortality rate due to homicide of minors under 4 years old. Chihuahua is the entity with the most incidences; between 2000 and 2008, 40 deaths were registered. Network of Child Rights says that “there is no data about child-victims of indirect violence in Chihuahua; that is, data on orphans of one or both parents due to the war against crime.”
The central region, encompassed by the State of Mexico DF, Jalisco and Michoacán, totals 78% of the homicides against minors. In the South, 18% of the homicides are committed against children under 4 years old. Most of the assassinations are registered in Chiapas and Guerrero.
Since 2008, the death, due to violence, of adolescents, ages 15 to 17, has increased considerably. Within this age group, 50% are homicides and 71% are suicides. According to the Network of Child Rights, the states are among the worse in terms of the rate of mortality due to homicide. The Northeast is responsible for 15% of homicides against minors. The Network of Child Rights attributes the percentages to the situation children and young adults are exposed to at the border: organized delinquency, sexual exploitation, and femicides. The average rate of entities such as Chihuahua is higher than the national rate. The state contributes more than 50% of the total regional cases, followed only by Durango and Tamaulipas.
Bullying and Punishment in Schools
On March 2, 2010 Mayra Vanessa Martínez, 10 years old, was locked in a classroom for 19 hours as a punishment by teacher María Dolores Servín. Her mother was not allowed access to the school Lázaro Cárdenas del Río, in Uruapan, Michoacán and was told her daughter was not on the premises. When she went to the police, the school principal and the faculty protected the teacher.
After the incident, a campaign of intimidation was carried out against Mayra Vanessa. Mayra and Lenin, her brother, had to leave the school due to the increased aggressions.
The penal complaint is pending. The Human Rights Commission in Michoacán recommended the reintegration of Mayra Vanessa in the school community and sanctioned the teacher and school principal for the violation of the human rights of the minor.
According to the third report by the Human Rights Commission in Michoacán, published in July 2010, the violation of the right to education is on the eighth place, one place down from torture. The Secretariat of Public Education is the third of the noted authorities to violate human rights. 272 complaints where filed against the governmental department and is the one the least follow the recommendations.
“The level of impunity and violation of the law,” according to the Network of Children’s Rights in Mexico, “is so institutionalized that Michoacán’s highest authorities cannot penalize them.”
According to Regional glances: Violence towards Children and Adolescents, the severity and frequency of the physical and verbal abuse, intimidation, social exclusion and abuse of power in schools have increased increase and expanded in all sectors of the country. Violence is a reality students face on a daily basis.
In the past, school violence was only associated with staff physical and emotional abuse. Nowadays, however, bullying has changed this perception. “Nevertheless, every day, the National Commission of Human Rights receives a complaint of maltreatment of students by teachers.”
90% of the incidents occurred in a school setting.
The Discipline, violence and the consumption of substances that affects health in primary school and high schools in Mexico, study carried out by the Evaluation of Education National Institute (Instituto Nacional para la Evaluación de la Educacion, INEE), notes that 2 out of 10 primary school students and 1 out of 10 in high school participated in a fight. 11% of students in primary school confessed having robbed or threatened a schoolmate. 7% of high school students admitted having intimidated, in group, another student.
The Network of Children’
s Rights in Mexico notes that although the number of students exercising violence against another is not too high, the percentage of student victims of violence is much higher.
17% of students in primary school and 14% of high school students interviewed by the Institute were physically abused. 13% of high school students have been threatened and 2% are afraid to go to school.
“The studies indicate that, even in its least cruel form, violence hurts interpersonal relations, terrorizes and deteriorates safety and trust necessary for the intellectual, affective, and moral development of the students,” says the association. “In its cruel form (as prolonged harassment, mockery, and many other forms of aggressive conduct), it has devastating implicated effects as it results in psychological and emotional harm.”
Violence against Girls
Regional glances: Violence towards Children and Adolescents notes that girls are in a situation of vulnerability because they experience inequality and violation of their rights on a daily basis.
According to the Violence against Women National Survey 2003, 1 out of 4 women admitted having a violent relationship in their lives. 42% of the interviewees were beaten as a child by a parent or other family member. It clarifies that the numbers do not illustrate the magnitude and specific characteristics of violence against girls under 15 years of age.
The number of victims differs depending on gender. Girls are abused more than boys in the state of Colima, Mexico DF, State of Mexico and Nayarit. In Michoacán the number of girl victims doubles the number of boys.
In the Northeastern region of the country, the percentages are similar. Durango and Tamaulipas are the exceptions. The Network of Children’
s Rights in Mexico lists the backwardness of the area, where machismo is the norm, and the presence of the maquiladora industry, where women are the main workers. The mothers, who hand down household obligations to their daughters, use physically punishments for housekeeping mistakes.
It emphasizes the alarming number of sexual abuses. 2 out of 10 women are victims of this crime; 7% were victims of sexual abuse before turning 15 years old.
“This attack against human dignity presenta another characteristic of violence: the gender variable. Unlike other forms of violence, it demonstrates the vulnerability of girls,”
affirmed the association.
In Mexico, 77% of the victims are girls. The average age of female victims is 5.7 years old. Most of the victims know their aggressor: 19% brother, 18% step-father, 16% uncle, 15% father.
The Household Dynamics National Survey 2006 notes that in Mexico almost 36, 500 people live in homes where one or more forms of violence against women are exercised. Minors, younger than 14 years old, live in these homes; that is, 4 out of 10 children live in a home where their mother or tutor is attacked.
Although federal entities sponsor laws to protect women, these laws are not in harmony with the general law. “These laws do not framework of the law leave girls without protection because they do not recognize violence starts during infancy.”
The state laws of Aguascalientes, State of Mexico, Guanajuato, Jalisco, Nayarit and Zacatecas are in least harmony with the general law because these lack diverse forms of attention, protection orders and state programs. Furthermore, the definition of the concept of violence, victim, aggressor and human rights differ.
The Survey inform that the definitions are an inalienable, integral and indivisible part of the universal human rights included in the Convention to Eliminate All Forms of Discrimination against Women, Children’
s Rights Convention, Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Sanction and Eradicate Violence against Women.
According to the Network of Children’
s Rights in Mexico, an integral system of protection of the rights of children, in which programs of social support include no discrimination, participation, development and interest in childhood, is needed.
Even though social perception holds the Family Integral Development System in charge of childhood, “the facts indicate that it lacks a legislative framework, resources and institutional structure to adequately guarantee the rights of at-risk children.”
In the context of the war against drug traffic, undertaken by the president Felipe Calderón, its necessary to request detailed information about the number of children hurt or killed during this period: “we need to demand the explanation of the killings of children, take the killers and their accomplices to the law, punish the responsible and compensate the families.”
It expressed that it’s especial to note that violence against children in the first phase of development is more common than Mexican society is ready to admit: “
The State needs to create a permanent mechanism of evaluation and monitoring of violence at home, school, and all spaces where children develop.
It is urgent to reform Article 133 of the Constitution to confer human rights and international human rights treaties. This means that the Children’
s Rights Convention will have a real impact in the Mexican justice system.
México: Niños Violentados y Sin Derechos
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