A Mexican woman who was compelled to kill a man defending herself when he ruthlessly attacked and raped her in 2021 has been outrageously sentences to more than six years in prison with rigorous imprisonment. Her legal defense has called this court verdict “discriminatory” and vowed to appeal.
The court verdict against Roxana Ruiz prompted anger from experts, rights activists and feminist groups who said it speaks to the depth of gender-based violence and Mexico’s poor record of bringing perpetrators of sexual violence to justice, reports Associated Press.
“It would be a bad precedent if this sentence were to hold. It’s sending the message to women that, you know what, the law says you can defend yourself, but only to a point”, said Ángel Carrera, her defense lawyer. “He raped you, but you don’t have the right to do anything”.
The Associated Press does not normally identify sexual assault victims, but Ruiz has given her permission to be identified and participates in public demonstrations led by activists who support her.
While the Mexico State court found that Roxana Ruiz had been raped, it said the 23-year-old was guilty of homicide with “excessive use of legitimate defense”, adding that hitting the man in the head would have been enough to defend herself. Ruiz was also ordered to pay more than US$16,000 in reparations to the family of her rapist.
According to AP, in May 2021, Ruiz was working selling French fries in Nezahualcoyotl, one of the 11 municipalities in the Mexico State with an ongoing gender alert for femicides and another one for forced disappearances of women.
While having a beer with a friend, Roxana Ruiz, an Indigenous Mixteca woman and a single mother from the state of Oaxaca, met a man she had seen around the neighborhood. After hanging out, he offered to walk her home and later asked to stay the night because it was late and he was far from home.
Roxana Ruiz agreed to let him sleep on a mattress on the floor. But while she slept, he climbed onto her bed, hit her, tore off her clothes and raped her, according to Carrera, Ruiz’s legal defense. Ruiz fought back and hitting him in the nose, and he threatened to kill her. In the struggle to free herself she killed him in self-defense, Carrera said.
In a panic, Roxana Ruiz put the man’s body in a bag and dragged it out to the street where passing police arrested her.
Despite telling police she had been raped, Carrera said a forensic exam was never taken, a crucial step in prosecuting sexual violence cases. Instead, an officer responded that she probably wanted to have sex with the man at first and then changed her mind, he said.
“I regret what I did, but if I hadn’t done it I would be dead today”, Ruiz told the AP in an interview last year, adding, “It’s evident that the state wants to shut us up, wants us to be submissive, wants us closed up inside, wants us dead”.
Women’s rights groups have repeatedly accused Mexican authorities of revictimizing survivors and failing to judge cases with a gender perspective.
Ruiz spent nine months in jail on charges of homicide with excess of legitimate self-defense, and was finally released to await trial.
The court responded to public outcry of the sentencing, saying the judge did examine the case with a gender perspective. It also noted that a blow to the head during the struggle left the man unconscious at one point, saying the court found that was “enough to contain the physical aggression”.
The woman’s lawyer said the court’s defense “is totally false.” Carrera said that while there was some evidence the attacker received a blow to the head, it was never proven the man lost consciousness. He said the defense hopes to challenge the court’s statement in its appeal.
In 2022, the Mexican government registered a total of 3,754 women – an average of 10 a day – who were intentionally killed, a significant jump from the year before. Only a third were investigated as femicides.
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