According to government statistics, sexual violence against women has occurred in over half of Mexican women. Representational image. Representational Image/Blimmigration

Prosecutors in Mexico announced on Saturday night that they are withdrawing the charges against a woman who was given a six-year prison term for killing a man as he was raping and attacking her.

A court in Mexico State declared in a verdict last week that although it acknowledged Roxana Ruiz, then 23, had been raped in 2021, it had judged her guilty of homicide with "excessive use of legitimate defense."

This decision sparked widespread outrage. It also ordered Ruiz to repay her attacker's family more than $16,000 in reparations.

Feminist organizations, who had backed Ruiz's defense, vehemently objected to the decision, claiming it criminalized victims of sexual assault while shielding the offenders in a nation with a high rate of femicide and gender-based violence.

After the court's decision, Ruiz, an Indigenous woman, and single mother told reporters that she had received death threats due to the case and that she was concerned for her family's safety, especially the life of her 4-year-old son.

"This isn't justice," she said. "Remember I am the one who was sexually assaulted by that man, and after he died because I defended myself ... because I didn't want to die by his hands."

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador had announced at a morning press conference that he would seek to pardon Ruiz in response to the outcry.

However, her attorneys claimed that receiving a pardon would mean Ruiz had to plead guilty despite being 100 percent innocent.

Ruiz is a member of a vulnerable group, therefore the state prosecutor's office said in a news release Saturday night that it had looked into the matter and determined she was "exempt from guilt."

The prosecutor's office also stated that they believe she acted in self-defense.

The announcement was celebrated by Ruiz's defense lawyer, Ángel Carrera, though he noted that he had not been formally notified of the charges being dropped.

"It means that they're recognizing her innocence," Carrera told The Associated Press. "It's a recognition that she simply defended herself."

In May 2021, Ruiz was working selling french fries in Nezahualcoyotl, one of the 11 municipalities in Mexico State.

Mexico State borders Mexico City on three sides and has ongoing warning signs alerting women about femicides and forced disappearances of women.

According to the defense, Ruiz went out for drinks in the area with a friend and a man she knew.

The man volunteered to walk her home, but as it became late and he couldn't go home, he asked to stay the night. The man attacked and raped her as she slept in a different bed.

Ruiz retaliated and the man threatened to kill her; however, during the struggle, Ruiz was able to shoot and kill the attacker in self-defense, according to Carrera.

The male was allegedly struck in the head and rendered unconscious, which the court ruled was sufficient for Ruiz to protect herself.

According to Carrera, that assertion, is "totally false," as it has not been established that the assailant was rendered unconscious.

Carrera claimed that Ruiz put the man's body in a bag and hauled it out onto the street before being apprehended by the police, AP News reported.

Even though Ruiz told police she had been raped, Carrera said that a forensic examination, which is an essential stage in sexual violence prosecution was never conducted. Instead, the officer indicated that she probably first desired intercourse with the man before changing her mind, according to the lawyer.

According to government statistics, sexual violence against women has occurred in over half of Mexican women.

A considerable increase from the previous year, the Mexican government recorded a total of 3,754 women who were killed in 2022, or 10 on average every day. Only one-third of them were looked into as femicides.

Carrera expressed his hope that the case's dismissal may serve as a precedent for other instances of gender-based violence to be thoroughly investigated and handled with greater care.

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