This is the story of how Mexican organizers and lawyers were able to free six women incarcerated for homicide for terminating their pregnancies. 

In 2008, I attended the School of Authentic Journalism in Mexico as a student for the first time. Last week, I attended the school for the 5th time and for the 4th time as a teacher. Every year I’ve attended, I’m blown away by the people I meet. Karina Gonzalez and I met when we were both students in 2008. And as we caught up this year, I was thrilled to learn about what she had been up to.

1977478_748933588470314_273431848_n Karina works for Las Libres, an organization which educates and   advocates for women’s human rights in Guanajuato and greater Mexico. One of the organization’s projects has been the fight to free six women — four from Guanajuato and two from Guerrero — who were imprisoned for homicide after terminating their pregnancies. The women were sentenced to between 20 and 30 years in jail.

In addition to facing a cruel and unusual punishment, the two women from Guerrero, Virginia Cruz and Adriana Manzanares, literally had no idea what was happening to them. They couldn’t even communicate, because they didn’t speak Spanish when they were prosecuted and imprisoned. They only spoke a Tlapaneco dialect and were not provided with an interpreter. It was only after serving two years and learning Spanish that the women learned what they had been accused of.

The case of Adriana Manzanares is a especially frightening example of the way different forms of sexism interact. Adriana didn’t actually terminate her pregnancy. She miscarried. And when her community found out, they threw stones at her. Even more perverse is the fact that Adriana miscarried because she had already been hit with stones and rocks for committing adultery. Adriana’s husband had been gone for years working in the United States, so she started a relationship with a man who would become her boyfriend and became pregnant. When her husband came back he beat his pregnant wife. Then Adriana’s father beat her. And finally, members of the community beat her. So some of the very people who beat Adriana and caused her miscarriage would later throw stones at her for miscarrying.

Luckily, Las Libres publicized the cases in the media and worked with lawyers at the CIDE (Center for Research and Teaching in Economics) who represented the women. Thanks to their hard work, as well as the resolve of the imprisoned women, the government released the six from jail.

Filmmaker Gustavo Gustavo Montaña made a documentary about the struggle called Las Libres, (The Free). Karina says the film — as well as members of her organization and some of las libres — will be coming to show the film in New York City this summer. We’ll keep you posted. In the meantime, enjoy the trailer above.

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