The Cotton Field case in Ciudad Juarez, northern Mexico, is illustrative
of the structural causes of discrimination and violence against women in
Latin America. After the violent abuse and murder of three women,
investigative processes were marred by institutional prejudices and
inconsistencies, representing a grave failure by the Mexican government
to protect women’s rights and provide adequate access to justice for the
victims’ families. The case made its way up to the Inter American Court
on Human Rights, which ultimately delivered a ruling ordering the
government to implement actions aimed at preventing the future
reoccurrence of these events, including changes to search and
investigation protocols. Civil society groups have played a vital role
in calling for justice and overseeing the implementation of the ruling,
which is helping to set standards beyond Mexico, particularly in Central
American countries with comparable socio-cultural contexts.
Strategic litigation can be used as a tool for achieving changes with a
country-level and regional impact.
The Cotton Field case has set regional standards when it comes to the
obligation of states concerning the prevention, punishment and
eradication of violence against women.
The regional adoption of a protocol for the search for or investigation
of disappeared or murdered women can help governments confront the
problem in a more coordinated way.
In order to eradicate violence against women, governments must implement
public policies to change the prevailing culture of discrimination, and
also educate civil servants with a gender perspective.
Sáenz Andujo, J. ELLA Policy Brief: The Cotton Field Case in Mexico: Setting Legal Precedents for Fighting Gender-Based Violence. ELLA, Practical Action Consulting, Lima, Peru (2013) 5 pp.