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Updated: May 23


The case of Roxana Ruiz, a woman sentenced to six years for killing her rapist, serves as a chilling reminder of the prevailing impunity and patriarchal oppression in societies worldwide. In Mexico, where only 1 percent of crimes committed in 2021 were resolved and where ten girls and women are killed every day, the prosecution of a rape victim sends a clear message: women's bodies are men's property.

While it is true that men can also be victims of crime, it is crucial to understand the context in which women are victimized. Much violence against women occurs within their homes, often due to intimate partner violence, in spaces where they should feel safe and secure. Such violence reinforces gender inequalities and power imbalances, perpetuating a cycle of fear and harm.

Mexican Impunity and Patriarchal Oppression:

The statistics surrounding crime resolution in Mexico are staggering, revealing an alarming culture of impunity. With only 1 percent of crimes resulting in convictions, survivors are left without justice, and perpetrators continue to operate freely. In a society where femicides are rampant, the failure to address and prosecute violence against women sends a devastating message about the value placed on women's lives and well-being. The case of Roxana Ruiz exemplifies how women who defend themselves against their abusers are often met with punishment rather than protection.

The silencing of women who seek justice and protest for victims' rights is deeply troubling. Mothers of victims who raise their voices for justice are sometimes met with violence and, in some cases, even murdered. These acts of aggression perpetuate a culture of fear and silence and further entrench impunity for perpetrators. The Mexican government must ensure the safety and protection of those who advocate for justice and speak out against violence.

In the United States, significant challenges surround the disappearance, murder, and lack of support for indigenous women. Unfortunately, these cases often receive inadequate attention and insufficient investigation from law enforcement agencies, violating the rights of indigenous women and reflecting broader systemic issues that perpetuate violence and marginalization.

The ongoing battle over women's bodies and reproductive rights highlights the patriarchal grip on women's autonomy, undermining their agency by seeking to control women's reproductive choices, perpetuating gender inequality, and reinforcing the idea that women's bodies are subject to external control.

Femicide in Mexico and the challenges surrounding violence against women in the United States are deeply rooted in patriarchal structures and attitudes that view women as dispensable and reinforce ownership and control over their bodies. These underlying causes play a significant role in perpetuating gender-based violence.

Within the patriarchal framework, women are seen as objects to be controlled, leading to a culture of impunity for acts of violence against them. This mindset contributes to the normalization of femicide and perpetuates a lack of accountability for perpetrators.

Combating Patriarchy and Protecting Women and Girls:

  • Raise Awareness: Education and open dialogue are crucial to challenging patriarchal norms and fostering a society that values gender equality. Sharing stories like Roxana Ruiz's can help shed light on the systemic injustices women face and encourage broader discussions about the need for change.

  • Advocate for Legal Reforms: Women's rights organizations and activists can mobilize efforts to advocate for legal reforms that address violence against women, strengthen the justice system, and ensure the protection of survivors. Pushing for legislation that guarantees comprehensive support services, trauma-informed investigations, and improved conviction rates can help combat impunity.

  • Empowerment and Solidarity: Women must unite to support and empower each other. By fostering solidarity networks, women can amplify their voices, challenge societal expectations, and demand change. Building strong communities and support networks is crucial for collective action against patriarchal oppression.

  • Political Engagement: Women's political representation is crucial for effecting systemic change. Encouraging women to participate in politics, run for office, and support feminist candidates can lead to policy reforms that protect women's rights, including comprehensive reproductive healthcare and legislation that addresses gender-based violence.

  • Education and Empowerment Programs: Implementing comprehensive sexuality education and empowering young girls through programs promoting self-esteem, assertiveness, and critical thinking can help combat patriarchal ideologies early on. By equipping girls with knowledge and tools to challenge oppressive norms, we can pave the way for a more equitable future.

Roxana Ruiz's tragic case is a reminder of the impunity and patriarchal oppression plaguing Mexico and the United States. By raising awareness, advocating for legal reforms, fostering empowerment and solidarity, engaging in political processes, and implementing education and empowerment programs, we can dismantle oppressive structures, protect women and girls, and strive toward a more equitable society where women's bodies and lives are respected, valued, and protected.


The Attorney General's Office of the State of Mexico retracted Ruiz's conviction after several groups of women protested in front of the Attorney General of the State of Mexico, demanding that the sentence of six years and two months against Ruiz be reversed. They declared that Ruiz, imprisoned for nine months in a Mexican prison, killed her rapist in legitimate defense.

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Caridad* (not her real name) worked for the same family for four years, staying in an unfinished room on their rooftop accessed by a spiral iron staircase during rain, freezing, and hot weather. She would wake up at 5:30 am, shower in the bathroom inside the house to have breakfast on the table by 6:30 so she could raise and dress the three children.

Caridad worked until 8 or 9 PM, quietly scrubbing toilets and showers, picking up the children’s toys, vacuuming, sweeping, mopping, and dusting. She washed all the dishes, prepared meals, and kept the kitchen spotless. At least once a week, she would fall asleep on the TV room couch, babysitting while the parents went out. On Sundays, she took the first bus to her hometown, two hours away, to give her mother her wages and help with the chores and children. Her father died five years before. On Monday mornings, Caridad would return to work on the first bus.

Caridad earned below minimum wage without paid vacations, sick leave, or retirement. She ate in the kitchen sometimes with the gardener, whatever was leftover from the family meals or rice and beans.

When her mother got sick, she informed her patrona she would be out for a week. Caridad's mother worsened, so she stayed a few more days even though they needed the income.

When she returned to the house after 12 days, the patrona gave her thirty minutes to pack her stuff and leave. “You’re lucky I didn’t call the police," she threatened, “You had 6 rolls of toilet paper, shampoo, and two bars of soap hidden in your room.”

Caridad left without a chance to defend herself and was sad to leave the children. A few weeks later, a male friend found her another house to clean in exchange for half of her wages. That is how I met her; the “friend" brought her to our house.

President Biden has proclaimed January 2023 as “National Human Trafficking Prevention Month,” hoping to bring an end to human trafficking in the United States and around the world. The UN defines human trafficking as a global crime that trades and exploits people for profit. Traffickers use violence and fraudulent promises to coerce desperate and vulnerable people to perform labor, services, or commercial sex. Human trafficking occurs in every region of the world, targeting women and girls, but the recruitment of boys for forced labor is increasing.

What does this have to do with Caridad’s story?

The UN reports five types of human trafficking: Sexual exploitation, forced labor, domestic servitude, criminal exploitation, and forced marriage. Caridad’s story is an example of domestic servitude, but this doesn’t happen only in Mexico.

During my first year in the US, I worked as a teacher in a new charter school. My two children qualified for free and reduced lunch, and we were below the poverty line. I was fortunate to have kind coworkers and acquaintances pay me to babysit and clean their homes on the weekends and allow me to bring my kids. The US is a more egalitarian society, and I was never treated like Caridad, but it was exhausting work. Before the end of the year, I was lucky to find interpreting work that paid better.

I met Marcela (not her real name) in Washington State. When her Mexican patrones moved to the US, they paid a coyote to bring her. “I worked every day, from morning until night, and was paid $100 weekly. I shared a room with their two children,” she told me. After a year, Marcela enrolled in free English classes at the community college and discovered she was being exploited. A week later, she left the family, found a job and a room, and made a fantastic life for herself. “I was lucky,” she says, “if they had taken my passport, as many do, I wouldn’t be able to leave.” But most undocumented workers, domestic and laborers, aren’t that fortunate and, because of their status and lack of legal resources, are the targets of forced labor and exploitation.

We may not be able to dismantle the systems of human trafficking as individuals, but we can help in many ways. First, become informed. Educate yourself and others on what human trafficking looks like. We also must be brave and evaluate if we participate or benefit from it.

We may be unaware that we are enforcing human trafficking, like in the case of domestic servitude. It is easy to be against sexual, criminal, and labor exploitation, but it’s harder to see our actions contributing to the system when we are “helping” someone by giving them work. Conservative religious people might not understand forced marriage as human trafficking, as countries like Mexico, where domestic servitude is founded on racism and classicism, may be oblivious to how the current practice of domestic workers is a type of human trafficking.

How can we contribute to dismantling human trafficking in all its forms?

1. Become informed, learn to spot the signs, and educate yourself on resources.

2. Accept we are all biased and prejudiced in some way and do not allow it to guide your actions.

3. If you hire a domestic worker, research wages and pay above minimum wage. Draft a mutual agreement regarding vacations, sick days, child care, etc. We can't change our institutions unless we change our actions.

4. In some US states, there are agencies where you can hire undocumented workers that look out for their rights. Choose them when possible.

5. Recognize housework as valuable. Let go of patriarchal ideas that look down on child raising and domestic work.

6. Write to legislators and vote on measures that protect domestic workers and undocumented people in your home country and the world.

7. Support human rights and social justice organizations by donating money and time.

8. Find out more here

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