7, January, 2014

Tackling Institutional Violence: The Protocol for Harassment and Sexual Harassment in the Mexican Federal Public Administration

The Intervention Protocol for Harassment and Sexual Harassment is a pioneering attempt from the Mexican Federal Government to transform the structural causes of institutional violence within the public administration. Initiated in 2009, the Protocol has been implemented in over 30 state institutions, with replication now taking place at local level.

Institutional violence against women refers to violence that is sanctioned implicitly or explicitly by governments and public administrations in their organisations, systems and procedures. It generally manifests itself at two levels: when public officers or structures impede women from accessing public services or exercising their rights in key areas such as healthcare, education or access to justice, or within the organisation of a public agency through either abusive behaviour in the workplace or in denying women access to equal opportunities. Sexual harassment in the workplace is a particularly pervasive, yet hidden form of institutional violence experienced by women in countries where public institutions are dominated by patriarchal and discriminatory relationships that often place women in situations of extreme vulnerability. In fact, workplace surveys have shown that as many as 50% of women from industrialised and developing countries have suffered from some form of sexual harassment.

While many countries have adopted laws on sexual harassment in the workplace, the focus of this Case Study Brief is the Intervention Protocol for Harassment and Sexual Harassment developed in Mexico by the National Women's Institute, INMUJERES, in 2009. The Protocol represents an innovative strategy to transform unequal and discriminatory structures within public institutions and promote workplaces free from violence against women. Starting with a brief overview of institutional violence in Latin America and Mexico, this Brief goes on to provide an analysis of some of the more innovative features of the Protocol, its implementation and initial impacts. Finally, the Brief identifies enabling factors and key lessons for other countries interested in understanding practical ways to tackle institutional violence.

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Lecciones clave:

  • The creation of an independent and confidential complaints procedure is fundamental if victims are to come forward and denounce abuse in the workplace.
  • Given that institutional violence is deep-rooted in social behaviour and cultural attitudes, training and seminars represent appropriate mechanisms through which to transform the perception of institutional violence from controversy into professional commitment.
  • The existence of decentralised Women’s Offices responsible for mainstreaming gender at the sub-national level are key to local-level replication of such a protocol.

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