The new suffragettes: Lydia Cacho - justice for women means the right to live in safety

A leading defender of women’s rights in Mexico, who has been kidnapped, raped and beaten in retaliation for her work, tells Paul Imison why protection from abuse is at the heart of equality

Soon after Lydia Cacho, a Mexican investigative journalist, began reporting and publishing articles highlighting violence against women, she was raped at a Cancún bus station – a crime she believes was a retaliation for her work.

Over the 14 years since, she has refused to let her own experience stop her from campaigning, becoming Mexico’s foremost activist against violence towards women and children.

In 2007, she became the first woman to testify in front of her country’s Supreme Court, when she stood up against a state governor accused of both threatening her life and protecting a child sex ring.

“I come from a family lineage of strong women who lived by the feminist credo long before the term became fashionable,” Ms Cacho writes. “My French grandmother fought to shelter and save political activists pursued and persecuted by the dictatorships of Oliveira Salazar in Portugal and Franco in Spain. My mother was an activist for women’s rights in Mexico’s poorest areas. They are the ones who taught me to take responsibility for and act upon what I witnessed.”

Ms Cacho’s 2005 book The Demons of Eden exposed the depth of the sex-trafficking industry in Mexico and saw a multi-millionaire hotelier from Cancun receive a life sentence for child pornography and sexual abuse. Her latest work, Slaves of Power, investigates the trafficking of women and children worldwide from Palestine to Japan to Argentina.

Some of Mexico’s best-known investigative reporters are women, who continue their work in what Reporters Without Borders has rated the third most dangerous country in the world for journalists. Anabel Hernandez, one of Mexico’s most intrepid drug war journalists, lives with 24-hour protection after threats to both her family and herself; Ana Lilia Perez, who exposed corruption within Mexico’s national oil company, lives outside the country; Regina Martínez, a freelancer with the weekly news magazine Proceso, was strangled to death at her home in May last year.

Sexual, domestic and other forms of violence against women are still a harsh reality in many parts of Mexico. Given the country’s high impunity rate, few of these crimes are solved. Among the most tragic cases was Marisela Escobedo, an activist shot dead on the steps of Chihuahua’s government palace three years ago as she protested the unsolved murder of her own daughter.

In February of this year, the Pacific coast resort of Acapulco made international headlines when six Spanish tourists were raped at a beach house by an armed gang. The country’s Attorney General rushed to bring the perpetrators to justice, and six men later confessed to the crime.

Amnesty International reports that some 14,000 women are raped in Mexico every year, with the caveat that this figure represents as little as 20 per cent of the true number of assaults.

Lydia Cacho writes that her work to draw attention to the plight of young women and children abducted into the sex trade has “been rewarded with incarceration, threats and harassment”.

But she vows to continue, despite this. “I have been beaten and demonised in the public eye. Yet I haven’t taken a step back, not because I am unaware of the dangers surrounding me. Fear is all too real and violence remains an efficient means by which to silence people like me. But my strength comes from girls and their power has become my own.”t

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Management Trainer

£30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Exciting career opportunity to join East...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Scientist / Research Assistant

£18000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious start-up company b...

Reach Volunteering: Chair of Trustees

VOLUNTARY ONLY - EXPENSES REIMBURSED: Reach Volunteering: Do you love the Engl...

Day In a Page

Terry Venables: Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back

Terry Venables column

Wayne Rooney is roaring again and the world knows that England are back
Michael Calvin: Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Abject leadership is allowing football’s age-old sores to fester

Those at the top are allowing the same issues to go unchallenged, says Michael Calvin
Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain

You know that headache you’ve got?

Four years of excruciating seizures caused by the 1cm tapeworm found burrowing through a man's brain
Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?

Scoot commute

Travelling to work by scooter is faster than walking and less sweaty than cycling, so why aren’t we all doing it?
Paul Robeson: The story of how an American icon was driven to death to be told in film

The Paul Robeson story

How an American icon was driven to death to be told in film
10 best satellite navigation systems

Never get lost again: 10 best satellite navigation systems

Keep your vehicle going in the right direction with a clever device
Paul Scholes column: England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil

Paul Scholes column

England must learn to keep possession and dictate games before they are exposed by the likes of Germany and Brazil
Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win says defender as he prepares to return with Hull

Michael Dawson: I’ll thank Spurs after we win

Hull defender faces his struggling former club on Sunday ready to show what they are missing. But he says he will always be grateful to Tottenham
Frank Warren column: Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game

Frank Warren column

Dr Wu has big plans for the professionals yet he should stick to the amateur game
Synagogue attack: Fear unites both sides of Jerusalem as minister warns restoring quiet could take 'months'

Terror unites Jerusalem after synagogue attack

Rising violence and increased police patrols have left residents of all faiths looking over their shoulders
Medecins sans Frontieres: The Ebola crisis has them in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa

'How do you carry on? You have to...'

The Ebola crisis has Medecins sans Frontieres in the headlines, but their work goes far beyond West Africa
Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Isis extends its deadly reach with suicide bombing in Kurdish capital

Residents in what was Iraq’s safest city fear an increase in jihadist attacks, reports Patrick Cockburn
Underwater photography competition winners 2014 - in pictures

'Mysterious and inviting' shot of diver wins photography competition

Stunning image of cenote in Mexico takes top prize
Sir John Major: Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting

Sir John Major hits out at theatres

Negative West End portrayals of politicians put people off voting
Kicking Barbie's butt: How the growth of 3D printing enabled me to make an army of custom-made figurines

Kicking Barbie's butt

How the growth of 3D printing enabled toy-designer to make an army of custom-made figurines