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Juarez ramping up services for women

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City agency tasked with looking into sexual harassment ordinance, need for more shelters

Veronica Corchado Espinoza (center) talks about the work of Juarez’s Municipal Women’s Institute. (Photo courtesy Juarez city government)

JUAREZ, Mexico (Border Report) ⁠— Juarez officials are pondering a new sexual harassment ordinance and looking for funds to build a new women’s shelter.

Juarez “has only two women’s shelter, but one can only accommodate 15 women and the other one closed for lack of money,” said Veronica Corchado Espinoza, director of the Municipal Institute for Women.

The city is trying to get the Chihuahua state government and the federal government to contribute money for a new shelter for women fleeing domestic violence.

“We don’t need just one shelter, we need at least six shelter for a city our size (1.5 million inhabitants),” said Corchado, adding that between 100 and 200 women a month are victims of domestic violence each month. “We provide services for them, but, right now, many are forced to remain in the cycle of violence” because they don’t have anywhere else to go.

Juarez officials said they have spent almost $3 million in the past three years in women’s services, including the hiring of psychologists and the training of several police officers to assist victims of domestic and sexual violence. A new shelter, however, would cost $1.5 million to build and half a million dollars a year to staff and maintain, Corchado said.

Juarez Mayor Armando Cabada has also tasked Corchado to work on a draft of a sexual harassment ordinance — a first for the city.

In a public presentation last week of the services the Institute provides, Corchado explained that a number of incidents of sexual harassment ⁠— and some attempted assaults ⁠— have been reported in the past few months, mostly in the Downtown Juarez area.

“For some men, it’s easy to make lewd comments. In the past, we could not keep track of that, but now with social media we know when it happens,” she said. The city also has installed “panic” buttons in designated areas of Downtown, which have led to six arrests. “It was mostly women who were being followed, and in two cases, who had their purses stolen.”

Cabada said he would support the sexual harassment ordinance if the Institute determines that it is needed. Other city officials said they have mixed feelings about it.

“Juarez is a border city, we have people from different places here, and not just from Mexico. Some may think they’re giving out a compliment,” said Juarez City Council member Alfredo Seanez.

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