PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release

September 30, 2014

Understanding the Role of Gender Persecution in the Life and Death of Lucia Vega Jimenez

VANCOUVER, B.C. Day two begins in Coroner’s inquest in to the death of Lucia Vega Jimenez while in custody of Canadian Border Services and Battered Women’s Support Services echoes our concerns about the role gender persecution played in her life and death.  Following day one, we are reflecting on the testimony of three witnesses who spoke to Ms Jimenez’s fear about returning to Mexico due to a domestic situation.  A domestic situation that included not only an ex-boyfriend but a much more serious problem that involved fear of being tortured and murdered.

1297612282379_ORIGINALGender persecution is typically related to family or domestic violence, acts of sexual violence, punishment for transgression of social mores, forced marriage, coerced family planning, and female genital mutilation. At BWSS, we understand that women are not fleeing from a single form of violence but they experience a spectrum of violence from the moment they are born.. Violence against women in Mexico is highly prevalent and the perpetrators are left unpunished. Legislation to prevent and punish violence has not been enforced effectively and officials are not adequately monitored to ensure that gender-based crimes are dealt with appropriately. Inadequate state protection, coupled with the lack of programs for prevention, do not allow women to feel safe in Mexico. To make matters worse, state actors are often involved in violence against women. Given the level of ineffective state protection, public confidence and trust on state officials are lacking. In these circumstances, BWSS believes that a community-based women’s organization would be best to connect women, who are in a similar situation as Ms. Vega Jimenez, to community-based organizations in their countries of origin.

“As drug violence has escalated across Mexico in the past seven years, the rule of law has collapsed in some of the toughest cities and neighbourhoods.  When that happens, local gangs take control, impose their will on the community and build a culture of extreme violence.  Gender violence including abductions, rapes and murders of women have soared with more women being killed in Mexico than ever before.” said Angela Marie MacDougall, Executive Director Battered Women’s Support Services.

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Battered Women’s Support Services applied and was denied participant status into the inquest into Ms Jimenez death.  The reality of gender-based persecution for women from Mexico, specifically, is not understood very well or is being ignored by Canadian officials.  It is virtually impossible for a Mexican woman to escape from violence and to make it into Canada, a country known to offer protection to people who are being persecuted, including those who experience gendered persecution. We have learned of several migrant Mexican women who have been deported and murdered in Mexico upon their return.  A number of Mexican women who seek refuge in Canada have been rejected because according to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), “Mexico has a system of functioning democratic institutions”. Nevertheless, according to a UN report Mexico was ranked first globally in sexual violence against women, reporting 120, 000 violations in 2010. The Ministry of Health estimates that in Mexico one woman every four minutes is raped, yet to date there is no comprehensive care for the victims, because there is no effective follow-up cases. In Ciudad Juarez, Mexico, since 1990 women continue to be murdered and go missing.  2012 was one of the years with the highest femicides in that city.

Rosa Elena Arteaga, BWSS Manager, Direct Services and Clinical Practice is attending the inquest and was present yesterday when it became clear from witness testimony that Lucia Vega Jimenez’s experience in the Immigration Holding Center at Vancouver International Airport raises issues regarding violence against women, particularly women who have precarious immigration status in Canada. It remains to be seen if the Coroner’s inquest will address the issues that Ms. Vega Jimenez and other women have faced in detention, such as isolation, emotional distress, risks of self-harm, and safety planning. These issues and emotions are further exacerbated by their pending deportations and the dangers of fleeing violent situations.

“Did anyone care? In just day one of Lucia Jimenez Coroner’s inquest and it seems that she was objectified and dehumanized by bureaucratic discriminatory systems. However, there were a couple of women inmates who assisted her, supported her and advocated for her. I want to honour them.” Rosa Elena Arteaga, BWSS Manager, Direct Services and Clinical Practice.

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Media Contacts:

Rosa Elena Arteaga

BWSS Manager, Direct Services and Clinical Practice

Tel. (778) 996 5993 E-mail: [email protected]

Angela Marie MacDougall

Executive Director, Battered Women’s Support Services

Tel. (604) 808 0507 E-mail: [email protected]