Women Voice Ire, Fear as Femicides Continue to Rise in Mexico

Over 80,000 people particpated in Sunday’s International Women’s Day March in Mexico City. Photo: El Universal.

03/10/20 (written by kheinle) — Mexico just recorded its most dangerous year on record for women, according to the Secretary General of National Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP). Targeted violence against women, also known as “femicides,” has long been an issue with which Mexico has grappled. With the numbers on the rise, critics are turning their ire towards the López Obrador administration to seek answers, action, and accountability.

What the Data Shows

According to the SESNSP, more women were victims of homicide in 2019 than ever before. The number of women who were victims of illicit crimes was also 2.5% higher than in 2018. This included physical injury or assault, extortion, intentional homicide, corruption of minors, femicide, kidnapping, human trafficking, and trafficking of minors. The number of female victims of such crimes reported each year rose from 62,567 in 2015 to 72,747 in 2018, only to be surpassed in 2019 with 74,632 victims. This represents a 137% increase over the past five years in such crimes against women. Women are also murdered at an astounding rate in Mexico, with ten women killed each day, writes The Associated Press. In 2019, more than 1,000 of Mexico’s 35,588 homicides were categorized as femicides. The country’s notorious levels of impunity compound the issue.

The data release comes amidst backlash in Mexico from citizens and human rights advocates demanding the government step up its efforts to protect women. Three specific cases of gender-based violence have thus far caught the country’s attention in 2020, prompting significant protests, a march, and a nationwide strike.

High Profile Cases

The first case surrounds the murder of 26-year-old Isabel Cabanillas, a young artist and feminist who was shot dead in Ciudad Juárez while riding her bicycle on January 18, 2020. Protestors took to the streets of Juárez a week later demanding the government protect women and hold those responsible accountable for their crimes.

A woman mourns at the tribute set up for Ingrid Escamilla who was brutally murdered in Mexico City. Photo: Imelda Media, Reuters.

Then, on February 9, 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla’s body was found in Mexico City, stabbed to death and partially skinned by her partner. Photographs of Escamilla’s body were later leaked by the media, prompting even more protests and demonstrations. Activists demanded that the media stop “re-victimizing” the victim and making a public display of the violence. Instead, activists buried the images by flooding the internet with non-violent pictures of nature and artwork linked with Escamilla’s name.

Less than a week later, Mexican authorities discovered the mutilated, naked body of 7-year-old Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett Antón in a plastic bag four days after she went missing. Fátima disappeared on February 11 after videos showed her being picked up from school in Mexico City by a stranger. The mayor of Mexico City, Claudia Sheinbaum, spoke out, calling the child’s murder an “outrageous, aberrant, painful” crime that would “not go unpunished.” Sheinbaum is the first elected female mayor of Mexico City, who campaigned on eliminating violence against women. In July 2019, she vowed “to avoid and eliminate violence against women… It’s not fighting it,” she said. “The objective is ultimately to eradicate violence. That should be the goal.”

Protests Erupt

The string of femicides culminating in Fátima’s murder launched a wave of protests throughout Mexico. Activists are demanding an end to gender-based violence and brutality against women, calling for the government to act.

President Andrés López Obrador has specifically come under fire for what protestors say has been his insufficient response to the crisis. The president pushed back, “saying that the issue of femicides have been ‘manipulated’ by those critical of his administration,” writes BBC News. A few of the protests have turned violent with activists throwing “flaming projectiles” at a statue of Christopher Columbus, defacing other statues, smashing cars and setting fires, and spray painting “Femicide state” on the exterior of the National Palace, among other acts.

Some protests, like this one in Mexico City, turned violent with demonstrators defacing public and private property. Photo: The Associated Press.

President López Obrador’s calls for protestors to pacify the demonstrations only further angered participants, writes The Washington Post. Critics argue the president has been dismissive of both the femicides and protests that have ensued; the president counters that demonstrations are just serving as a distraction. Still, the president eventually conceded that “the feminist movement was fighting for a ‘legitimate’ cause,” though he held on to the argument that his political rivals “who want to see his government fail” were instigating the demonstrations.

International Women’s Day March

The protests culminated on International Women’s Day, March 8, when more than 80,000 people marched through Mexico City. It lasted nearly six hours, stretching from the iconic Monumento a la Revolución to the Zócalo city center. At least 38 people in attendance – including several police officers – suffered injuries and needed medical attention. Protestors also hung banners with statements like, “We apologize for the inconveniences, but they are murdering us!” and “I’m marching today so that I don’t die tomorrow.”

The march also featured Vivir Quintana, a 36-year-old musician from Coahuila who sang “Song Without Fear” alongside 40 other women at the Zócalo. Quintana wrote the anthem with the intention to inspire justice and serve as a rallying platform for the women not just in Mexico, but generally throughout Latin America. “At every minute of every week, they steal friends from us, they kill sisters,” sings Quintana. “They destroy their bodies, they disappear them. Don’t forget their names, please, Mister President.”  

‘A Day Without Us’

President López Obrador speaks to a room full of male journalists at his daily morning press conference on March 9, the day women went on strike nationwide. Photo: Milenio.

The day after, tens of thousands of women throughout Mexico participated in a strike against gender violence. From classrooms to offices, private to public sector, journalists to street vendors, and beyond, women stayed home during what was dubbed ‘A Day Without Us.’ The strike was meant to show what life would be like without women as more and more become victims of femicide. For the most part, the strike was well supported by places of employment. Mexico City’s Mayor Sheinbum, for example, announced that none of the City government’s 150,000 female employees would be penalized if they did not show up for work on March 9th. According to Mexican business group Concanaco Servytur, had all women participated in the strike the economic impact could have reached $1.37 billion.

As The New York Times summarized, “The unprecedented outpouring of women on Sunday [March 8] and their strike on Monday [March 9] tested the leadership of Mexico’s president.” The events also picked up significant international and social media attention under the hashtags #UnDíaSinNosotras and #ADayWithoutUs. It also paralleled protests and marches throughout Latin America – like the one million-person march in Chile on Sunday – in honor of International Women’s Day.

Read more about cases of femicide in Mexico, violence against women, and underreporting on the crime in these 2019 Justice in Mexico posts here and here.

Sources:

“A Look at Violence in Mexico City: Femicides and Underreporting.” Justice in Mexico. August 7, 2019.

“Allegations of Police Involvement in Rape, Corruption.” Justice in Mexico. August 20, 2019.

Ortiz Uribe, Monica. “Feminist Is Murdered in Mexico, And Protestors Demand Answers.” NPR. January 26, 2020.

Ortiz, Alexis. “2019, el año con más mujeres víctimas en México.” El Universal. February 3, 2020.

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. February 14, 2020.

“Marcha de mujeres exige justicia por feminicidio de Ingrid Escamilla.” Excélsior. February 14, 2020.

Orsi, Peter. “Murdered Mexico City girl buried amid grief, outrage.” The Associated Press. February 18, 2020.

Sieff, Kevin. “The death of a 7-year-old girl in Mexico provokes new outrage.” The Washington Post. February 18, 2020.

“Today in Latin America.” Latin America News Dispatch. February 20, 2020.

Solomon, Daina Beth. “Don’t forget their names’: Women in Mexico sing anthem protesting femicides.” Reuters. March 7, 2020.

Guthrie, Amy and Alicia Hernandez. “Mexican women Paint, march to protest gender violence.” The Associated Press. March 8, 2019.

“Minuto a Minuto. Marcha por el Día Internacional de la Mujer.” El Universal. March 8, 2020.

Stettin, Cinthya et al. “March 8 de marzo en CdMx: minuto a minuto.” Milenio. March 8, 2020.

“Un día sin mujeres: así luce México sin ellas el 9 de marzo.” Milenio. March 9, 2020.

Villegas, Paulina. “In Mexico, Women Go on Strike Nationwide to Protest Violence.” The New York Times. March 9, 2020.

Ni una más: Femicides in Mexico

Source: Femtiden

Source: Femtiden

04/04/18 (written by Michelle Lara Olmos)- The murder of 19-year-old Mara Fernanda Castilla in September of 2017 elicited a fitting response; outraged citizens marched across Mexico demanding government action against the often recognized, but rarely addressed trend of femicide in Mexico. Less than six months later, Mexico’s National System of Public Security (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Publica, SNSP) released statistics ranking January 2018 as the month with the third highest number of femicides in Mexico’s recorded history, with 64 femicides.

Femicide, the murder of a woman, in particular committed by a man, on account of her gender, is not new to Mexico. The majority of femicides victims are stabbed, beaten to death, or strangled. The interpersonal violence against women in Mexico has staggered over the past ten years, catching the attention of many civil society organizations, both inside and outside of Mexico. Human rights efforts are often dedicated to building public-will to address and resolve gender related crimes. According to the Telesur television network, a representative from the United Nations Human Rights to Mexico, Jan Jarab, condemned Mexico’s lack of federal action against rising femicides, which only reinforces a culture of gender-based violence. He commented “Impunity is very high so you can not see the deterrent effect of the [femicide] sanction” (Telesur). Continuing, he urged Mexico’s government to reevaluate its efforts and seek solutions to protect their women.

According to United Nations statistics, around 64,000 women and girls are killed annually. Moreover, 14 of the top 25 countries with the highest rate of femicides resides in Latin America and the Caribbean. Specific to Mexico, UN statistics show that an average of seven women are murdered daily. Some attribute the recent spike in Mexico’s femicides to the rise in violence between organized crime groups. Regardless, Mexico’s rate of femicides reflects the level of impunity characteristic of Mexico’s culture even today.

“Violence against women isn’t an epidemic, it’s a pandemic in Mexico,” said Ana Guezmez, a United Nations Women on behalf of Mexico (Reuters). A 2017 joint report from the National Women’s Institute in Mexico and the UN Women’s agency highlighted the increase of femicides from an annual rate of 3.8 femicides per 100,000 women in 1985 to 4.6 in 2016. Other statistics, like those released by Mexico’s National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence against Women, report that the number of femicides increased by 500 percent between 2001-2010. According to the Guardian, the rise in femicides relatively corresponds to former President Felipe Calderon’s military strategy against organized crime, which led to an overall rise in homicides. Relatedly, the states with the highest levels of femicide are often those with a high organized crime group presence. For example, the state of Guerrero has been particularly affected by organized crime presence and in 2016, the city of Acapulco in Guerrero suffered 107 femicides, the highest number of femicides than any other municipality that year.

Due to international pressures and civil society efforts, Mexico’s chamber of deputies (Cámara de Diputados) passed counter-femicide initiative by way of legislation in 2007. This legislative sanction categorized femicide as the most serious form of gender violence, taking an important step towards preventing violence against women. The legislation also established the practice of gender violence alerts, a tool intended to provide emergency measures to women and also to bring attention to the issue of gender-based violence. In 2017, 10 Mexican states enacted a gender alert for violence against women. Out of the 671 femicides occurring in 2017, 6 out of 10 occurred in a state where an alert was activated.

Unfortunately, the National Citizen Observatory on Femicide (Obervatorio Nacional contra el Femicidio) released figures that out of the 800 femicides between January and June 2017, only 49 percent were investigated. An unidentified Reuters source commented,” Violence against women is so rife that there’s no political cost for those who don’t deal with the issue.” The Citizen Observatory, an alliance of civil society organizations partnered with UN Women, actively campaigns for increased accountability and transparency of information on the issue of femicide. According to UN Women, femicide is often the culmination of widespread gender-based violence.

Source: Daphneé Denis

Source: Daphneé Denis

In a UN Womens’ Report “The long Road to justice, prosecuting femicide in Mexico,” the authors explain a direct correlation between Mexico’s “patriarchal, misogynist mindset and gender violence and girls which can result in death is perpetrated, in most cases, to conserve and reproduce the submission and subordination of them derived from relationships to power.” According to the authors of the report, misogyny is still very relevant in Mexico. A survey released by Reuters ranked Mexico City the fourth most dangerous city for women. According to a collaborative report, La Violencia Feminicida en México, Aproximaciones y Tendencias 1985-2016, there has been little change to the overall cultural mindset, which marginalized women as “disposable” and permeating gender-based violence, and ultimately, femicide. In 2016, there were 2,746 femicides in Mexico and in the last decade there was 23,800.

Notable organizations working towards ending the system violence against women in Mexico include: Nuestras Hijas Regreso a Casa, Red Mesa de Mujeres, El Closet de Sor Juana, Las Hijas de Violencia, etc. These activists organize campaigns, rallies and marches in order to keep femicides in the limelight and seek a solution. For example, Juarez Imelda Marrufo Nava, a women activist, works with the families of the femicide victims in order to get justice for their daughters. She began her organization, Red Mesa de Mujeres de Ciudad Juarez, in 2001, following the discovery of a nearby mass grave. Her organization focuses on attaining legal support for the victims’ families as well as bringing more attention to the issues of impunity and gender violence.
Marches are a particularly effective advocacy mechanism for raising awareness of femicides and impunity in Mexico. Recently, on March 8th, large crowds of women protested in the streets of Mexico City, demanding greater attention and accountability for women’s rights abuses. Women held signs that read, “Not one more femicide,” “I want to live without the fear of thinking that my daughter will not return.”

 

Sources

Díaz, Lizabeth and Anahi Rama.“Violence against women ‘pandemic’ in Mexico.” March 6, 2014.

The long road to justice, prosecuting femicide in Mexico.” UN Women. November 29, 2017.

Femicides Surge in Mexico as Cartel Violence Soars.” December 14, 2017.

Mexico: murders of women rise sharply as drug war intensifies.” Associated Press in Mexico. December 14, 2017.”

Mexico’s first ‘Seduction School,’ Rape Culture and Femicide.” Telesur. January 22, 2018.

Enero de 2018, mes con mas femicidos en la historia de Mexico.” SIPSE Mexico. February 23, 2018.

UN Calls on Mexico Increases Efforts Against Gender Violence.” Telesur. March 7, 2018.

Garcia, Jacobo. “Las mujeres mexicanas se movilizan contra la violencia machista.” El Pais. March 8, 2018.

ONU Mujeres insta a acelerar soluciones para el feminicidio en México.” Diario las Americas. March 8, 2018.