“The women passing through here know that they’re going to be raped”
— Father Pedraza, director of a shelter for migrants in Altar
MEXICO CITY – For Fox News Latino, David Agren reports: As a priest in the town of Altar, near the Arizona border, the Rev. Prisciliano Pedraza sees migrants stocking up on supplies such as food, water and medicine for treacherous treks through the desert.
[Also see – Rape tree found near Mexico border]
But he sees female migrants stocking up on something else: contraceptives, which they take preventatively to protect themselves against sexual violence all too common as they make the journey through Mexico to the United States.
“Migrants are a vulnerable group, and the most vulnerable among them are women.”
Thousands of Central Americans travel through Mexico every year attempting to reach the United States. But because they make the trip illegally, they are vulnerable to kidnappings, extortion and robbery – with organized criminal groups such as Los Zetas often acting in cahoots with law enforcement authorities.
“They go to the pharmacy and buy emergency contraception for their trip to Mexico.”
In the case of women, the crimes include sexual assaults, forcing them to take precautions. They often take alternative routes through Mexico, feigning friendships with men in their group to stay safe while traveling. Increasingly, they are buying and consuming contraceptives before they make their trip.
“It’s on the increase,” says Marta Sánchez Soler, an advocate with the MesoAmerican Migrants Movement. “The first ones (doing it) were women from El Salvador, but now it’s everyone.”
Many contraceptives are sold without a prescription in Mexico, including the morning-after pill. Sánchez says some women receive injections before leaving or wear patches.
“They go to the pharmacy and buy emergency contraception for their trip to Mexico. This is they would tell us.”
Most church groups don’t supply the contraceptives – or condone what the women do, but they do help the women in other ways.
“They’re not giving it out, but they’re offering advice,” Sánchez said.
A network of shelters for migrants stretches the length of Mexico – with most run by Catholic priests and religious, who report being queried about contraceptives by women arriving as guests.
“They’ll arrive at the shelters and ask the priests or people that work there” about buying contraceptives, says Alberto Xicotencatl, director of the diocesan-run migrant shelter in Saltillo, 195 miles from the Texas border at Nuevo Laredo.
[Also see Jude Joffe-Block’s report – Facing Risk Of Rape, Migrant Women Prepare With Birth Control]
But women are less likely than men to stay at migrant shelters, which are often established near railway lines and frequented by Central Americans stealing rides on northbound trains known as “La Bestia,” or, “The Beast” – so named for the way it maims migrants who fall on the tracks and lose limbs.
Women attempt to avoid La Bestia, which organized crime now charges $100 to climb aboard, according to Xicotencatl. Criminal groups also prey on migrants while they wait in railway yards for trains to arrive.
“They would rather risk the immigration authorities than organized crime,” he says. Read the rest of this entry »