He was only arrested after Local media coverage of the perpetrator being ‘slapped with loaves of bread’ in place of recognized sanctions led to a public outcry and widespread outrage in the state. The Oaxaca state attorney general’s office said that police arrested the man Friday morning on charges of aggravated rape.
Pro-choice protesters in Mexico City. when 13 year old rape victim was denied the right to abortion
The case has highlights Mexico’s poor record at prosecuting sex crimes, and a unique form of government in Oaxaca state, where many indigenous communities are ruled by an idiosyncratic system popularly known as usos y costumbres (“traditions and customs”).
The Ruta 135 website reports the Santiago Quetzalapa area has a history of abuses which have been handled locally and not attracted the attention of outside authorities.
“There are cases in which there was impunity, there’s no investigation and local prosecutors never receive a criminal complaint,” he said.
The system is supposed to enshrine the traditions of local populations in a state with diverse indigenous populations, but it has been criticized for allowing local leaders to settle disputes according to their own beliefs rather than the written law.
“The argument in these municipalities is that they are governed by their own traditions and customs, but they ultimately end up committing human rights abuses,” Ruta’s editorial director, Helder Palacios said.
Graciela Zabaleta, director of the Mahatma Gandhi Human Rights Center in the city of Tuxtepec, points out that in situations of sexual violence “a lot of cases are settled this way: with a bottle of liquor”
Victims and their families, she says, rarely report sex crimes committed against them nor do they bring their cases to the attention of judicial offices.
Of note is the fact that officials in usos y costumbres communities have previously hid behind the unique framework they operate to exclude women from local government.
In one case, an indigenous woman named Eufrosina Cruz Mendoza won the mayoral election, but was denied office by local leaders because of her gender. Cruz later went on to serve as speaker of the Oaxaca state legislature.
A constitutional amendment in 2015 mandated that women be given equal say in electing and participating in governments in indigenous communities, which have the right to run their own affairs. However for Zabaleta, whose human rights center works on gender equality issues in indigenous communities, there have been improvements over the last 25 years on rights issues.
“When I started, girls were sold for a piece of land or donkeys or for money,” she says. “Things have gotten better.”