Publication Date



46 p. ; This student paper has been awarded the 2006 Helen S. Carter Prize.


This paper examines the phenomenon of gender-related violence in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and surveys what legal mechanisms exist to protect the human rights of the women who are being targeted there. The first section of the paper presents background information regarding the violence in Ciudad Juarez. This section first explores the historical and economic developments in Mexico that led to the migration of thousands of young, rural women to Ciudad Juarez. I then discuss the nature of the violence against these women in Ciudad Juarez as it has been reported by human rights agencies, journalists and scholars. Finally, I survey some of the theories that have emerged to explain the pattern of violence against women in Ciudad Juarez. The second section of the paper probes what legal remedies are available through local, state and federal authorities in Mexico to protect the women of Ciudad Juarez from violence. This section also discusses Mexico\'s human rights obligations under international human rights instruments to which it is a party and to what extent those obligations translate into real protection for the women of Ciudad Juarez. The data and commentary presented in this section establish that: (1) Mexico has failed to protect the women of Ciudad Juarez by its inadequate investigation of the murders, its inability to locate and prosecute the perpetrators, and its failure to implement preventive measures; and (2) the international human rights regime, while raising the profile of the murders and exerting considerable pressure on the Mexican government to take meaningful steps to eradicate the violence, is not an effective mechanism for protecting the women of Ciudad Juarez. The third section of the paper examines what relief might be available under United States asylum law to women who are actual or potential victims of the violence in Ciudad Juarez. This section presents an overview of U.S. asylum law, followed by a step-by-step analysis of whether and under what circumstances these women could make successful asylum claims. The paper concludes with a general assessment of the "rule of law" in Mexico with respect to the human rights of the women of Ciudad Juarez. This assessment is broken down into three categories: (1) efficacy of the Mexican local and federal legal framework; (2) efficacy of the relevant international human rights organizations; and (3) efficacy of international refugee law as applied in the U.S. context. I also suggest topics for further research.


University of New Mexico School of Law

Document Type

Student Paper

Included in

Law Commons



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