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A woman who killed her rapist has been jailed for six years

MEXICO CITY — A Mexican woman who killed a man in 2021 in self-defense when he attacked and raped her was sentenced to more than six years in prison, a decision her legal defense called “discriminatory” and vowed to appeal Tuesday.

The verdict against Roxana Ruiz has sparked outrage from experts and feminist groups who say it speaks to the depth of gender-based violence and Mexico’s poor record in bringing perpetrators of sexual violence to justice.

“It will be a bad precedent if this sentence is upheld. It’s sending a message to women that, you know, the law says you can defend yourself, but only up to a point,” said Angel Carrera, her defense lawyer. “He raped you, but you have no right to do anything.”

The Associated Press does not typically identify victims of sexual assault, but Ruiz has allowed her to be identified and participated in public protests leading activists who support her.

Mexican Femicide

Roxana Ruiz chants during a march in memory of Diana Velazquez, who called outside her home in 2017 when she disappeared, was raped and killed on July 2, 2022, in Chimalhuacan, Mexico. Ruiz, who in 2021 was sentenced to more than six years in prison for killing a man who defended himself while he was attacked and raped, a decision his legal defense called “discriminatory” and vowed to appeal on May 16, 2023.

Eduardo Verdugo/AP

A Mexico state court found on Monday that Ruiz was raped, saying the 23-year-old was guilty of manslaughter with “excessive use of legitimate defense,” adding that hitting the man in the head was enough to defend himself. Ruiz was also ordered to pay more than $16,000 in restitution to the family of the man who raped her.

In May 2021, Ruiz was working selling French fries in Nezahualcoatl, one of 11 municipalities in the state of Mexico, with one ongoing gender alert for femicide and another for the enforced disappearance of women.

While having a beer with a friend, Ruiz, an indigenous Mixteca woman and single mother from the state of Oaxaca, met a man she had seen around the neighborhood. After chatting, he offered her a walk home and asked her to stay the night later because it was late and she was far from home.

Ruiz agreed to let him sleep on a mattress on the floor. But he climbed into her bed while she slept, hit her, tore off her clothes and raped her, according to Carrera, Ruiz’s legal defense. Ruiz fights back, punching him in the nose and threatening to kill him. He killed her in self-defense in a struggle to free himself, Carrera said.

In a panic, Ruiz put the man’s body in a bag and dragged it down the street where the police detained him.

Despite telling police she had been raped, Carrera said forensic tests were never conducted, a crucial step in prosecuting sexual assault cases. Instead, one officer responded that he probably wanted to have sex with the man at first and then changed his mind, she 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. wants us dead.”

Women’s rights groups have repeatedly accused Mexican authorities of reviving survivors and failing to prosecute cases with a gender perspective.

Mexican Femicide

Activists plastered a photo of Roxana Ruiz with the words “Saving my life is not a crime” in Spanish on a wall near the courthouse where the 22-year-old was attending a hearing on charges of manslaughter in addition to lawful self-defense. Chimalhuacan, State of Mexico, Mexico, on April 18, 2022. Ruiz, who in 2021 killed a man defending himself when he attacked and raped her, was sentenced to more than six years in prison, a decision her legal defense called “discriminatory” and has pledged to appeal on May 16, 2023.

Eduardo Verdugo/AP

Ruiz spent nine months in prison on a charge of manslaughter in addition to lawful self-defense and was eventually released to await trial.

The court on Wednesday responded to the public outcry over the sentence, saying the judge had examined the case from a gender perspective. It also noted that a head injury during the struggle rendered the man unconscious at one point, which the court said was “sufficient to constitute physical aggression.”

The woman’s lawyer said the court’s defense was “totally false.” Carrera said there was some evidence of head trauma to the attacker, but it was never proven that the man lost consciousness. He said the defense hopes to challenge the court’s ruling in its appeal.

Despite the sentence, Ruiz remains free to face trial.

Nearly half of Mexican women have experienced sexual violence in their lifetime, government data show.

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 previous year. Only a third were investigated as femicides.

This number is likely a fraction of the true number due to the growing number of disappearances and a lack of reporting of violence in the country.

Angelica Ospina, gender fellow at the International Crisis Group in Mexico, said she worries the punishment could empower victims while discouraging women from reporting gender-based violence or defending themselves.

The case shows how “normal” gender-based violence is in Mexico and other parts of Latin America, Ospina said.

“When a woman defends herself, the system is particularly effective in processing and punishing her without taking into account the circumstances under which she killed the man,” Ospina said.

Meanwhile, outside the courthouse, women carry signs and chant “Justice!” A tearful Ruiz stood before the crowd, thanking feminist groups and the women who supported him through the legal process over the years.

As he spoke to the crowd, he thought of his 4-year-old son.

“My son, I hope to see him again. I hope to be with him, to see him grow up,” Ruiz said.

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