Tuesday, June 25, 2024

Gender Unit finds that, even among police, sexual harassment is a problem

The response to the recently created Mexico City police Gender Unit has revealed that sexual harassment and assault are problems even among those meant to protect the public from such crimes.

The office already has 205 open cases looking into internal reports of assault or machista violence. There were 130 such reports in 2019.

Gender Unit director Sahara Sánchez Nieto told the news website Animal Político that the force has always investigated internal reports of gender violence, but having a specific office for such complaints has encouraged more victims to speak out.

“Now with this unit that was created, women feel safer when filing reports,” she said.

Government watchdog group Causa en Común, or Common Cause, reported on Tuesday that 68% of female police officers have been the victims of lascivious comments or worse forms of sexual harassment or assault.

Its data also revealed that 21% said that they had not reported the incidents because they either didn’t know they could or where to do so.

The Gender Unit was created to address the problem in November of last year in honor of that month’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women.

The Mexico City Attorney General’s Office reported that month that it had received 117 complaints of sexual aggression by police.

The new unit is specially designed to deal with reports of gender violence, both from civilian women who are assaulted by police and female police officers who have been victimized by their peers or ranking officers, both on and off duty.

In the first months of 2020, 13 such cases have been sent to the city’s Council of Honor and Justice, which analyzes the evidence and determines sanctions, and disciplinary actions have been taken against several officers.

Sánchez said that the strength of the sanctions has not changed since the creation of the unit. They can be anything from a written reprimand to 24-36 hours in jail to a department transfer, and serious cases can lead to dismissal.

“It depends on the gravity of the conduct. For example, for rape, it’s dismissal. Sexual assault, the same, dismissal when there are ways to prove it. That’s why we work with the Attorney General’s sexual crimes unit,” she said.

She said that her office aims not only to remove guilty officers from their posts, but also to bring criminal charges against those whose crimes call for it.

The Gender Unit has the ability to open investigations even when there is no report of a crime.

“There are several ways that complaints come to us,” said agent Judith Escobar. “They come to us directly or we go out for them, we go to different sectors, we do field work.”

She and her colleagues perform random interviews and review the city’s security cameras to detect any irregular behavior.

Aside from officers specifically trained to deal with gender violence, the unit also has two lawyers, three psychologists, two human rights specialists and two gender violence educators.

The office is also conducting a public relations campaign to show women that they shouldn’t be afraid to file reports against their aggressors.

Source: Animal Político (sp)

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