Her Body Is a Battlefield: The Applicability of the Alien Tort Statute to Corporate Human Rights Abuses in Juarez, Mexico

Grace C. Spencer, Her Body Is a Battlefield: The Applicability of the Alien Tort Statute to Corporate Human Rights Abuses in Juarez, Mexico, 40 Gonz. L. Rev. 503 (2005).

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In the ever-expanding landscape of the global market-place, there are serious casualties mounting in the effort to produce consumer goods quickly and cheaply.  This paper explores the contours of the possible legal solution presented by the Alien Tort Statute to the growing problem of human rights abuses perpetrated by American-owned corporations operating abroad–particularly those abuses that occur in the export factories located in Juarez, Mexico.

Global markets can expand cross-cultural and economic relationships, and the export factories that accompany this expansion provide jobs and other significant benefits for many economically depressed areas.  Such expansion is to be lauded, but what is deeply problematic is the imbalance that occurs between business and human rights as global markets develop. In the clash to reconcile a “compassionate” capitalism and an efficient, profit-driven capitalism, not everyone gets out alive. Some of these global market fatalities are workers at the bottom end of corporate hierarchies;  some victims are of a more amorphous variety, such as the never-realized promises of economic independence made by multi-national corporations to foreign host nations.
It is women who almost exclusively comprise the export-workforce worldwide.  It is women’s bodies that frequently serve as the battlefield for the struggle between human rights and an expanding corporate presence abroad. Poor working conditions and low wages take their toll on women’s health, safety, and lives.  The convergence between political and economic exploitation and women’s bodies is not a new theme. Unfortunately, it is one that continues to have relevance, especially as the discussion of corporate accountability abroad takes on a distinctly gendered element….Read More

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