Human Rights Watch welcomes the opportunity to provide input into the Committee’s review of Mexico’s report, in compliance with article 35 of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.
In 2019, Javier, a 27-year-old man with cerebral palsy living in Jalisco, told me that he wanted to be admitted to an institution for people with disabilities so he could flee from everyday abuse and humiliations he endured from his mother and sister. “They think I’m not good at all, that I like to be the center of everything. When I was younger, my mother used to pull me by my hair and dragged me around in our living room. I have nowhere else to go”.
In that same year, Oscar, a 33-year-old man with a physical disability living in Oaxaca told me -lowering his voice to prevent his family from hearing- he was neglected and confined to the living room in his home. “What irritates me the most is that they won’t allow me to bathe daily, only once a week. I feel filthy.” The living room, where I met him, had a strong stench of urine. “The only thing I do is watch old Mexican films on the TV without any possibility to go outside. I haven’t been out for months.”
Accounts like these were common among people with disabilities I interviewed in several cities in Mexico, both men and women, between 2018 and 2019 to document domestic violence. People trapped with no options but to endure domestic violence and abuse because of the lack of alternatives. Abuses range from physical and sexual violence, psychological abuse, neglect, shackling, and verbal threats. Some adults who live with their parents have faced abuse since childhood. Mexico, at all levels of government, lacks policies and a comprehensive plan to ensure people with disabilities can live independently and be included in the community, placing them in a situation of dependency on their families and significantly increasing the risk of abuse and neglect.
There is an entrenched romantic notion in Mexico that families of people with disabilities are heroic and that they should take “care” of that person. In many states in Mexico, it is even defined as a criminal offense not to provide family support. Instead of placing responsibilities on families, Mexico should comply with its international obligations to support people with disabilities to live independently and in the community.
Mexico also needs to create institutional conditions to ensure effective remedies are available when violence occurs. The justice system is systematically failing to provide adequate solutions for violence against people with disabilities, reporting crimes is nearly impossible because of the lack of accessible procedures and protection measures, shelters for women are underfunded and inaccessible for those with disabilities; for men with disabilities, who are also victims of violence, as the experiences of Javier and Oscar show, there is no system at all. We urge the Committee to press the Mexican government to address these gaps so people with disabilities can live in dignity and be free from abuse. Thank you.