Violence abroad hits Mexican journalists, Peace Corps

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Around the world this week, women were facing violent obstacles to their roles in their communities, including Americans abroad in the Peace Corps as well as two native Mexican female reporters.

Mexican Journalists

This week, two female journalists became the latest victims of increasing violence in Mexico over the past year. The two women were found slain (possibly strangled), naked and bound behind a cemetery in Mexico City, an area previously believed to be a “relatively safe harbor” as reported by the LA Times. It was still unconfirmed if the women had been sexually assaulted.

Ana Marcela Yarce Viveros, a veteran reporter, helped found the news magazine Contralinea and was most recently working in advertising sales for them. The other,  Rocio Gonzalez Trapaga, was a former reporter for Mexico’s dominant TV broadcaster, Televisa and most recently working as a freelance reporter. According to the Associated Press, the women were longtime friends. Although no direct motive was being released, Contralinea has sharply criticized the government in the past. Authorities did not believe the crimes were related to the women’s work as journalists. Mexico City law requires prosecutors to investigate such crimes involving women as gender-related.

Since 2006, more than 60 journalists have been killed in Mexico, mostly in the northern states. The Committee to Protect Journalists ranks Mexico as one of the most dangerous country for reporters due to violence from drug cartels and local governments.

Peace Corps

More than 30 current and former Peace Corps volunteers, mostly women, testified before a Congressional investigation this week about their experience with violence and sexual assault during their time abroad.

The statements said the international volunteer organization failed to take reports of sexual assault seriously, or discouraged volunteers from pursuing justice in the local jurisdictions.

A previous hearing was held in May, when women reported similar stories of discarded complaints. The Huffington Post reported that between 2000 and 2009, an average of 22 women in the organization each year report being victims of rape or attempted rape. An ABC “20/20”  investigation from January found more than 1,000 of the 44,000 who have served in the past decade have reported rape or sexual abuse while volunteering for the organization abroad. The agency acknowledges that the ratio of reports to actual counts of violence is quite skewed.

In September, two former Peace Corps volunteer sued the organization to release annual survey data  on safety and security, staffing, training and the effectiveness of programs broken down by country. Peace Corps volunteers currently work in 77 countries around the world. The group’s 2010 survey data showed 87 percent of respondents reported feeling usually safe or very safe where they live, with 91 percent reporting the same where they work.

Peace Corps statements released said the organization’s top priority is the health and safety of its volunteers: “We are implementing numerous reforms to better protect [them] and provide effective and compassionate support to victims.” The agency has acknowledged that under-reporting is high and that its statistics are incomplete. Legislation pending in Congress would require better staff training, protection for whistleblowers and more complete crime statistics.This year mark’s the organization’s 50th anniversary.

This is the Gender Report’s Week in Review, a weekly post that highlights some of the major stories related to gender issues this week. Some of these stories may have already appeared in our News Feed or in the week’s Gender Checks. We’ll at times include a longer analysis of stories as well as bring attention to stories that may have slipped through the cracks of the week’s news cycle.