In a welcome move, this week Mexico’s Chamber of Deputies amended the General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence to strengthen the 44 justice centers that provide services for women survivors of violence. But legislators failed to include any language ensuring that the centers, which in some cases include shelters for survivors and their children, are accessible to women with disabilities.
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Guadalupe Huerta Mora in 2016.
The amendments fail to address systemic barriers women with disabilities face in accessing services. Human Rights Watch documented these barriers in four states in Mexico in 2019 and 2020 in relation to family violence against people with disabilities. Justice centers I visited and learned about through my research lacked physical accessibility, accessible communications, and clear standards on providing reasonable supports to women with disabilities. Women with disabilities face pervasive violence in Mexico, but the law does not currently ensure justice centers or other mechanisms respond to their specific needs.
Take Guadalupe Huerta Mora, from Mexico City, who was beaten severely by her three sisters-in-law, with whom she lived, with the acquiescence of her husband. The attack caused a spinal injury that left her unable to walk. In the absence of an accessible shelter, support services, or other options to keep her safe, Huerta Mora was compelled to return to live with her abusers.
As the draft law goes to the Senate, senators should ensure that emergency, preventive, and protection measures for victims of violence are accessible and provided for women with disabilities, including women with high support requirements. Amendments to the law should address the fact that women with disabilities may depend on perpetrators economically and for support in their daily activities, making it very difficult for them to flee abuse.
Congress should not miss this important opportunity, while amending this law, to close the gap in assistance to women with disabilities who are experiencing violence.