Τα κολαστήρια στα μεξικανικά σύνορα με την ονομασία "Maquiladoras"

Katie Pantaleo, California University of Pennsylvania, 2006)

"The official name for sweatshops in Mexico is “maquiladoras,” which can be defined as “foreign-owned assembly plants in Mexico [where] companies import machinery and materials duty free and export finished products around the world” (CorpWatch 1999). Eighty percent of the billion dollar maquiladora industry is owned by the United States and lies along the U.S.-Mexico border (Portillo 2001).

While maquiladoras employ both men and women, the number of women working in maquiladoras has increased in recent years. Mexico presently has over 4,000 maquiladoras with around one million workers. Out of these workers, greater than half are women (Mexican Labor News and Analysis 1999) who are typically between the ages of 16 and 28, although some have been as young as 12 and older than 28. Those who work in the maquiladoras usually come from a family of 6 or more members, with one or more of the women work in the maquiladoras (Young 1994). These women are also poor and since they are unable to find work near their rural homes, they travel long distances to work in the maquiladoras in Ciudad Juarez. Wages may vary, but the typical wage that women workers in maquiladoras earn is between $25 and $50 per week (Kamel and Hoffman 1999). Customarily, the management of the maquiladoras chooses to hire women and young girls. 

Sexual Harassment in the Maquiladoras - Demeaning Practices:

One of the problems that many Mexican women face while working in maquiladoras has less to do with discrimination in hiring and more to do with discriminating practices in the workplace. While there is no discrimination against women working in maquiladoras, there is pregnancy discrimination in the workplace. Women who are pregnant are turned away immediately, while those who are hired can be subject to established practices designed to discourage and prevent pregnancy. These practices are as follows: pregnancy testing, proof of menstruation, and physical harm. First of all, women can be forced to undergo pregnancy testing throughout their work term (Abell 1999). This occurs randomly and without notice and usually consists of a urine test. A second practice is more painful for the women, psychologically and emotionally. Each month, women may be mandated to demonstrate proof of their menstruation by showing sanitary napkins to managers. Also a series of intrusive questions are asked to each female employee, such as the date of her last period, what kind of contraception she uses, and when the last time was she had sex (Koerner 1999). The third practice adds physical harm to the existing emotional and psychological stress. Women may be deliberately punched in the stomach and abdomen by managers to make sure that they are not pregnant or to damage any unborn child. Because of these practices, female maquiladora workers suffer numerous consequences. In relation to reproduction in general, maquiladora workers are likely to have irregular menstruation, miscarriages, fertility problems, and to bear children with birth defects such as premature births or low birth weight (Abell 1999).

Other forms of sexual harassment of women workers are also used by male coworkers and managers. In some instances sexual harassment is used to intimidate; in others, sexual favors means less work (Abell 1999). Additionally, a woman’s appearance often receives more attention that her actual work skills, particularly at the time of hiring. Women employees are then encouraged to wear sexy, revealing clothing to work and to “utilize [their] sexuality” (Livingston 2004). Clothing such as miniskirts, low cut shirts, high heel s, and makeup are common accessories to women who work in the maquiladoras. Livingston describes this process in the following way. “Supervisors often stalk assembly lines playing favorites and asking for dates. Maquiladoras persuade workers to participate in beauty contests, [and other contests in dance clubs, such as] ‘Most Daring Bra’ and ‘Wet String Bikini’ contents with cash prizes...”

Murder, torture, and rape are three things that many women today might fear. However, for the women working in the maquiladora industry around Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua City in Mexico, this is a nightmare that becomes a frequent reality.
It has been suggested that the demeaning practices and activities emphasizing women’s bodies that take place in the maquiladoras ar
e closely related to the murders. After working their shift, women workers leave the sweatshops very late at night and it is then that they sometimes disappear, never to be seen alive again. While walking through dimly lit areas in order to get home or to the nearest bus stop, many young women and girls are attacked, raped, and frequently murdered. The description of a typical female victim varies, although most are poor, slim, and have dark shoulder length hair.

According to Diego Cevallos (2003), a reporter for CorpWatch, “[The average fatality is a] woman between the ages of 15 and 30 [who works in a maquiladora]. Most of the victims’ bodies have been found in outlying areas of the city and usually bear signs of torture and rape. In some cases they have been burned, and many have had their nipples bitten off. The murder victims have been found ‘semi-nude, their panties twisted around their ankles, mouth open in a scream, eyes protruding...’”

After being subjected to such torture, the lifeless bodies of the young women are discarded in deserts where they are left to decompose.
By the time they are found, sometimes weeks later, the bodies are unidentifiable (Livingston 2004).
Despite the rising number of murders, few investigations have been completed and most requests to do so are ignored.

Why does this violence and harassment of women continue?

The sexual harassment and violence towards women who work in the maquiladoras and the reason why it continues can be explained using sociological theory. The intersection of two major sociological theories, patriarchy and capitalism, produce a theory known as intersectionality theory. Evaluating these theories leads to an understanding of how social and cultural characteristics of Mexico influence the violence towards women and affect the responses of officials to this violence. 


In summary, the maquiladoras along the northern Mexico border are not only sites of gender inequality but also violence towards women. The murders of young women in Mexico are closely tied to their jobs within the maquiladoras. Elite male members of society, principally the government and those with influence have encouraged the ideology that the murders are by fault of the women themselves. Therefore, changing the societal views of men and women, i.e. Mexico’s machismo and marianismo, may be the key to ending and preventing the murders of women who work in the maquiladoras."


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