Meet ANDRÉA MEDINA ROSAS—feminist human rights lawyer and independent consultant. Andréa courageously works towards defending murdered and disappeared women, many who come from Ciudad Juárez, a city on the border of Mexico and the United States.
Starting in the 1990s, Ciudad Juárez earned the nickname “capital of murdered women” due to the endemic violence targeted at women. The official death toll of women killed since 1993 is about 400. But local activists would put it up to 5,000. And this figure does not take into account all the women disappeared, raped and tortured.
When Andréa was just a teenager her feminist mother created a civil society organization in Mexico with the idea of advancing women’s rights. Andrea says that they did not set out to work on sexual violence—the issue landed right on their doorstep. The first woman who came to seek their help had experienced rape. Fifteen years later, Andréa says that this is her life: working with survivors of sexual violence and legally advocating for an end to the high levels of violence being targeted against women.
One of Andréa’s biggest challenges was the Campo Algodonero case. This case, filed at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2007, held Mexico responsible for the disappearance and murders of Claudia Ivette González, Esmeralda Herrera Monreal and Laura Berenice Ramos Monárrez. The bodies of the women, two of whom were minors, were discovered in 2001, in an abandoned cotton field known as Campo Algodonero.
On December 10, 2009, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued an opinion finding Mexico in violation of human rights conventions under the American Convention of Human Rights and the Convention Belém do Pará. The Court ordered Mexico to comply with a broad set of remedial measures including a national memorial, renewed investigations and reparations of over $200,000 each to the families in the suit. Andréa and her colleagues continue the fight to get Mexico to comply with the ruling.
Andréa says throughout the case she drew inspiration and courage from Irma Monreal, the mother of one of the murdered girls. Andréa found it remarkable that despite all that she had suffered, Irma chose to focus on her joyful memories such as swimming with her daughter in a local river. Andréa says it was reminder that she, too, needed to sometimes focus on the beautiful moments to keep going in her work.
Andréa stresses the importance of women from different cultures coming together to talk about gender violence. She says that through this process women realize the ways in which all of our societies contribute to gender injustice—and then together they move forward to work together on solutions.
The work of Andréa and her colleagues is moving us all closer to a time when governments will take responsibility for their part in sexual violence and other crimes committed against women.