STRATEGIC LITIGATION

Femicide Reform Sought in Mexico

MexicoGender-Based Violence

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Cristina Escobar González’s Murder Drives Push for Femicide Code Reform in Mexico

Cristina Escobar González worked in a maquila factory by day and as a dancer in a club by night in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico. On the night of March 13, 2004, she met a man outside the club who offered Cristina 300 pesos to go to a hotel with him. With some outstanding bills to pay, she agreed. Hours later, after an anonymous call to an emergency tip line, authorities saw the man dragging Cristina’s body across the hotel bed. When they opened the door, they discovered Cristina had been killed.

The story Cristina’s killer told was this: In the middle of the night, she had grabbed him. He tried to stop her, they wrestled, and Cristina accidentally hit her head on a heater. He thought she had been knocked unconscious, but after realizing she was dead, he tried to hide her body.

Cristina’s status as a sex worker—and more importantly, a woman in Mexico—negatively affected her case from the start. Although an autopsy found severe wounds indicating violence that did not corroborate the man’s story, those details were not registered or considered by police on the scene. Evidence went missing. Police did not inform Cristina’s mother of her daughter’s death—she found out from a reporter who came to ask questions. Authorities involved in the investigation even sympathized with the murderer, taking the outlook that because he was a married man who was in a hotel room with another woman, he’ll face enough problems at home.

Cristina’s killer was eventually found guilty of homicide—not femicide, which was not a specific crime in the state of Chihuahua, as opposed to in federal legislation and in most other states in Mexico—and sentenced to eight years and six months of jail time. With time off for good behavior, he was released after less than four years in prison.

Why is This a Key Case?

Cristina was killed simply because she was a woman, something all too familiar in Mexico, Latin America, and other countries around the world. Today, she is one of the 55 femicide victims included in the Cotton Field Memorial in Ciudad Juárez ordered as a reparation by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in the 2010 Campo Algodonero case, which held the Mexican government responsible for the femicide of eight girls and women.

How is RFK Human Rights Supporting Cristina’s Case?

The organization and partner Center for the Integral Development of Women A.C. (CEDIMAC) continue litigating the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) against Mexico for violating Cristina’s right to life and right to equal protection, among other rights recognized under Mexican and international law.

What is the Status of the Case?

RFK Human Rights and CEDIMAC submitted observations on admissibility and merits in February 2021. The state will now present its response, and then the IACHR is expected to decide on both the admissibility and merits of the case.

Name of the case (as it appears in the respective legal mechanism)

Cristina Escobar González et al. v. México


Month/Year of filing

May 2007 (RFKHR joined as co-counsel in 2015)


Legal mechanism in which the case is being litigated

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights


Rights and legal instruments alleged violated (OR found to have been violated)

Articles 1.1 (obligation to respect rights), 2 (domestic legal effects), 4 (right to life), 5 (right to humane treatment), 8 (right to a fair trial), 11 (right to privacy), 24 (right to equal protection), and 25 (right to judicial protection) of the American Convention on Human Rights


Article 7 (to live free of violence) of the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women “Convention of Belém do Pará”


Procedural stage

Merits


Counsel

RFKHR and Centro para el Desarrollo Integral de la Mujer, A.C. - CEDIMAC


For More Perspective

CAMPAIGN—

#JusticiaParaVicky: The historic case of Vicky Hernández et al. v. Honduras

In the midst of the June 2009 Honduran coup d’état, with the streets of San Pedro Sula closed to all but military and police forces, 26-year-old trans woman Vicky Hernández’s body was found with a gunshot wound to the head.


Vicky’s story—and the impunity the state has granted her killers—is all too familiar in Honduras. In the decade since Vicky’s extrajudicial execution, more than 300 LGBTQ+ people have been targeted and killed for their gender identity; of those, only 67 cases have been prosecuted, resulting in fewer than 20 convictions.


Vicky Hernández et al. v. Honduras, litigated by Red Lésbica Cattrachas and RFK Human Rights, was the first case involving lethal violence against an trans person to reach the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.


On June 28, 2021, exactly 12 years after Vicky’s murder, the Court made a landmark ruling holding the government of Honduras accountable for her death and issued a series of reparations, including financial support for Vicky’s family, that set a legal precedent for LGBTQ+ rights throughout the region.