Headlines, Human Rights, Latin America & the Caribbean

SPORTS: Women Boxers in Mexico Winning Major Battle in the Ring

Diego Cevallos

MEXICO CITY, Apr 15 1998 (IPS) - Mexican women boxers are about to win a legal battle that will allow them to compete at a professional level.

The draft law resulting from a lawsuit filed in March against a 1947 law prohibiting women’s boxing is ready and will soon overturn the ban, lawmakers reported this week.

“This is a question of justice and human rights, because there is no reason to keep us from exercising the profession we have freely chosen,” Laura Serrano, world champion in the category up to 57 kgs, told IPS.

Serrano, a Mexican boxer managed by the almost legendary U.S. promoter Don King, won the support of parliamentarians in the lower house of Congress and expressions of solidarity from women’s groups when local authorities refused to grant her permission in early March to defend her title in Mexican rings.

Don King complained that the refusal cost him 65,000 dollars that had gone into training the women boxers and promoting the fight, which was scheduled to warm up for the match between Mexican champions Julio Cesar Chavez and Miguel Angel Gonzalez.

“If women are allowed to participate in other sports like wrestling, judo and karate, I don’t see any reason why boxing, thanks to a law that does not reflect our current condition as a country, is still banned,” said the president of the Sports Commission of the Mexico City legislature, Guillermo Hernandez.

“A typical ‘machista’ argument to prohibit women from practicing boxing would consist of an appeal to aesthetics and its laws, but that is not applicable,” he added.

Serrano stressed that boxing is “a central part of my life, and no one can keep me from practicing it.”

Boxing is a popular sport in Mexico, where it has a long tradition.

The law banning Mexican women from professional boxing says the activity denigrates the female gender and can cause severe physical damage.

The American Medical Association in the United States is pushing for boxing to be abolished as a sport, arguing that it is an inhumane activity that poses serious health risks.

More than 500 boxers have died as a result of blows received in the ring since international matches with uniform standards began to be held in 1892.

Dr. Hart Cohen at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles, California said “pathological studies show that boxers suffer brain damage and enormous loss of neurons during the fights, which cause speech problems and even mental retardation.”

But according to Serrano, that “business about physical damages is a myth, because there is a lot of protection in the fights.” Moreover, she added, men and women are at equal risk of any supposed negative effects, and no one has the right to deny women the freedom to choose their activities.

“This is a question of ethics and constitutional norms, because men and women are equal before the law, although in practice we suffer discrimination,” said the boxer.

Mexican trainers say that more and more women, especially from lower income sectors, are coming to the gyms to train professionally alongside male boxers, or simply to learn how to defend themselves.

“We will win this battle against discrimination, even though women continue losing other battles,” said Serrano.

Unemployment among women in Mexico is double that of men, the average salary of women is 25 percent lower than that of men, and illiteracy affects 15 percent of women compared to 9.6 percent of men.

 
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