MEXICO CITY (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Money intended for a national program to combat violence against women has been misused, a top Mexican official said on Tuesday, confirming a media probe saying the funds were spent on key-rings and refrigerator magnets as promotional tokens for the campaign.
Such use of funding intended for national, state and local governments to help support arrests and lower murder rates is “unacceptable,” said Interior Minister Olga Sanchez Cordero at a daily news conference in Mexico City.
Some $4.5 million was allocated last year for the gender violence alert system, aimed at areas with increases in attacks against women.
Local magazine Sin Embargo published an investigation last week saying the money was used to purchase magnets, piñatas and key-rings in the State of Mexico, which borders Mexico City, one of the most dangerous states for women in the country.
The tokens were meant to be part of an effort to raise awareness and prevent violence against women, it said.
Sin Embargo also said some municipalities complained of never getting the money at all.
“Neither the money nor the resources are being used where they should be,” Sanchez Cordero said.
“On the contrary, they’re being used for key-rings.”
The danger is a nationwide problem in Mexico, where the government said on Monday that 125,000 women had been reported as victims of violence this year.
Between January and August, 638 women were killed because of their gender in a crime known as femicide, up 16% from the previous year.
The gender violence alert system was approved by the nation’s lawmakers in 2007 as a tool to mobilize law enforcement and judicial officials.
The country’s 31 states and the capital district of Mexico City can get the funding when they activate the alert, typically if there is a spike in violence against women.
But it was only activated for the first time in the State of Mexico in 2015 and then in 16 more states.
The national statistics agency (INEGI) has said about 45% of women in Mexico have experienced some form of violence by a partner, with almost 18% suffering physical abuse.
The persistence of the violence has prompted some politicians to question the value of the alert system.
“Right now, there are 17 states that have a gender violence alert, and there hasn’t been an improvement,” Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum said in a speech last month.
“We need to discuss ... what the gender violence alert mechanism means, what are the measures we need to take and not simply declare it to pretend like we’re doing something.”
A Mexico City judge last month ordered authorities to enact the alert in the capital city, but it has been delayed in the courts.
Reporting by Oscar Lopez, Editing by Ellen Wulfhorst. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org