MEXICO | Groundbreaking Report Reveals Religious Freedom Violations 


Date:                       April 20, 2022


CSW published a report on violations of the right to freedom of religion or belief (FoRB) affecting indigenous religious minority women in Mexico, the first time these issues have been explored in depth.
In 2021, CSW conducted research into whether the ways in which indigenous religious minority women in Mexico experience FoRB and other human rights violations are gender-specific and/or gendered. The resulting report, Let Her Be Heard, published today, explores in detail the experiences of 25 indigenous women and two mestiza women from religious minority communities in the states of Chiapas, Guerrero, Hidalgo, Jalisco and Oaxaca. These women represent a sector of the population that is marginalized in multiple ways, including by their ethnic and linguistic identity, their socio-economic status, their gender and their religious beliefs.
The report finds that, while many FoRB violations appear to affect both indigenous religious minority men and women equally, some forms of discrimination appear to disproportionately or exclusively affect women and have gone under-reported.
One of the research participants, Maria Francisca Martínez Hernández from La Mesa de Limantitla, Huejutla de Reyes Municipality, Hidalgo, told CSW researchers that after her family refused to sign an agreement renouncing their religious beliefs in January 2019, the local authorities removed their access to water, sewerage services, government benefit programmes and the community mill for one year. In April 2019, after a few months of carrying heavy jugs of water from a nearby river to her house, Martínez Hernández developed an inguinal hernia and a lump under her right arm, which she had removed in two operations in December 2019. However, her post-operation recovery took place without access to water services, a functioning bathroom, or support from friends or family as the local authorities threatened to cut off the basic services of anyone who visited or tried to help her.
Martínez Hernández recalled a local authority leader telling her husband to renounce their religion in order to have their access to water and sewerage restored, reportedly threatening him by saying, “Your wife is dying. Renounce your religion and we will connect your water. You have to renounce [your religion]. Do you want to be without sewerage? … [You] are going to die, and we are not going to let them bury you here. Let the "brothers" bury you. Don't you want your house? Don't you care about your land? You want to be on the streets!”
Documented FoRB violations included in the report include pressured or forced participation in religious majority activities, harassment by the religious majority, threats or attacks on property and land, being unable to access justice, and denial of access to government benefit programmes and basic services. Forms of discrimination that appear to affect religious minority women disproportionately or exclusively include barriers to benefiting from government programs aimed at women, and the denial of prenatal healthcare services to pregnant women because of their religious beliefs.
Some of the women interviewed have accessed justice mechanisms with varying degrees of effectiveness, mostly after their male relatives pursued legal action or assistance from Mexican human rights bodies. However, the persistent lack of intervention by the state governments to uphold FoRB is a clear indication that, in general, government officials, especially at the state level, continue to misunderstand FoRB and view FoRB violations as community issues or minor problems rather than violations of fundamental human rights.
CSW’s Head of Advocacy Anna Lee Stangl said, “Let Her Be Heard shares the often-unheard perspectives of indigenous religious minority women in Mexico. Many of the women who feature in the report have been waiting over a decade for a response from the government, whose duty it is to uphold provisions in the law and to ensure that the local authorities are held to account for illegal actions. The fact that the majority of these cases are ongoing and unresolved shows that the government has essentially abdicated its responsibilities. Interventions by the Mexican government must take seriously the vulnerabilities and barriers facing indigenous religious minorities, and especially the gendered impact on indigenous women, who are often further marginalised, due to limited economic and educational opportunities. The Mexican government at every level must uphold the law and ensure perpetrators of human rights violations are brought to justice, while proactively ensuring that justice mechanisms are understood by and accessible to all indigenous religious minority women in Mexico. Finally, we call on Mexico’s federal and national authorities, and relevant regional and international bodies, to ensure that the right to freedom of belief is fully respected for all Mexico’s citizens, with particular regard for the indigenous religious minority communities mentioned in this report.”

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