The culture of impunity in Mexico around the disappearance of thousands of women

Legal expert, Rhea Kneifati, who specialises in sexual and gender-based investigations talks to us on the show this month.

Rhea discusses the significant problem of the disappearance of women in Mexico, where there are currently 27,000 missing women. Rhea was deployed by Justice Rapid Response - an NGO with a roster of experts investigating international crimes and serious human rights violations – to work with a Mexican strategic human rights litigation organisation, Idheas to investigate the disappearance of women in the Mexican state of Guerrero. The state is one of the central points of violence by organised crime and human rights violations in the context of the so-called “war on drugs”.

712 women have disappeared and are missing in the state, to date, however in more than 60 years, not a single arrest warrant has been issued by the Attorney General’s Office of the State of Guerrero nor has a single sentence been handed down for the disappearance of a woman.  

In 2022, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) considered that the phenomenon of enforced disappearances taking place in Mexico was one of the most violent forms of gender-based violence committed against women and that it amounts to discrimination against women. The first time it took such a stance, linking disappearances to gender-based violence (GBV) and to how state authorities tolerated, or even supported it. Rhea describes the move as significant and says it puts international pressure on the state of Mexico.

Multiple state justice actors have been heavily criticised for failing to investigate cases of the disappearance of women in Mexico. The authorities in charge of investigations, particularly in Guerrero, have been accused of stigmatising women victims of disappearance when any of the lines of investigation identify members of organised crime as suspects. They’ve also been criticized for failing to conduct gender-responsive investigations, express gender stereotypes when communicating with relatives, and for blaming women for their own disappearance. This is said to be observed at all levels, including in legislative and judicial branches. Rhea says that crimes against women are not punished in Mexico and there’s a general climate of impunity.



Presented and produced by Evelyn McClafferty.
With thanks to our donors: Irish Aid.
Note: The views and opinions expressed in this episode do not necessarily represent those of IRLI or Irish Aid.



Justice Rapid Response

Idheas - Derechos Humanos

UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

Investigation of disappearance cases of women in Mexico - Amnesty International


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