International Women’s Day and #ADayWithoutUs

07/02/20 (written M MacGregor)- A day without any women in Mexico was the idea of feminist leaders on #UnDíaSinNosotras (#ADayWithoutUs), in which they showed their power through their absence in society. This strike took place after International Women’s Day on March 8th, 2020. During International Women’s Day, over 80,000 women took to the streets of Mexico City to call for the end of gender-based violence. They marched from the Revolution Monument to Constitution Plaza, carrying signs that said “We aren’t numbers, we’re lives”, and “living with fear is not living”. According to Remezcla, dozens of feminist organizations such as the Autonomous and Independent Feminist Assembly organized and informed women and allies of the march, which took months to plan.

The very next day, women stayed at home in a 24-hour strike carried out in the 20 largest cities in Mexico, with the capital being the epicenter of the movement. These strikes were in response to the staggering number of femicides that occur each year. According to Telemundo, this strike was estimated by the Mexican Confederation of Employers (Confederación Patronal de la República Mexicana) to have had an economic impact of more than 6,000 million pesos ($290 million USD) on the country, given that in Mexico City alone women represent 44% of the working class population. Mexican women from all walks of life were visibly absent from workplaces and cities, and many businesses gave them their blessing to do so. According to the New York Times, Claudia Sheinbaum, the mayor of Mexico City, specifically instructed all department leaders in the city government not to penalize any employee who missed work on the day of the strike. The march and strike made an economic impact on the country, but violence against women continued to happen despite these important events. According to El Sol de Mexico, 11 women were victims of femicide during the events on March 8th and 9th.

In an interview with AA Noticias, prominent activist Sofia Sánchez Calderón described the movement as both a “political and economic strike” and a “call to action to the Mexican people to denounce the misogynist violence in the country that is in all spaces: private, intimate, and public”. As mentioned by Teagan McGinnis in her recent article on the Justice in Mexico News Monitor, Exploring the Legal Context of Femicide in Mexico, this protest was in response to the failure of the Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) to address the problem of domestic violence and adequately protect women’s lives. It is also a part of the larger transnational #NiUnaMenos movement. According to The Globe Post, the current president has angered many women and activists by claiming that their protests and strikes are an attack on his regime. He blames past neo-liberal administrations for the femicide crisis although they have been steadily increasing during his regime, with Milenio reporting that 320 women were murdered in January 2020 alone.

The #NiUnaMenos Movement

Comprehending the origins of the #NiUnaMenos feminist movement is essential to understand the current climate regarding women’s rights in Mexico. According to The Globe Post, the movement’s slogan #NiUnaMenos, which means “Not One Less” in English, was adapted from the words of activist and poet Susana Chávez. After an outbreak of violent femicides in Ciudad Juarez in 1995, Chávez called for “ni una muerte más!” (not one more death), before she herself was murdered in 2011. After a string of violent femicides in Argentina in 2015 in which women were burned alive, hacked to pieces with machetes, even a pregnant woman was killed by her boyfriend, public protests erupted in the country under the new slogan of #NiUnaMenos. According to the #NiUnaMenos website, in particular, the whole country was shocked by the death of a 16 year-old student. In response, tens of thousands of protesters converged in Plaza de Mayo under the rain, waving portraits of women murdered echoing the slogan “we want to stay alive”. Since then, according to The Guardian, the #NiUnaMenos hashtag went viral and mobilized the masses against gender-based violence. It has grown rapidly into a transnational movement, in which millions of women and their allies have participated in more than 50 countries around the world.

According to the North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA), #NiUnaMenos has not been without controversy and contestation in the region. The protests have received backlash on social media, where there have been “ferocious debates between those who want to protect male privilege and those who want to protest it”. Additionally, the backlash has affected women with more than just words. According to NACLA, In March 2018, Afro-Brazilian city counselor and lesbian activist Marielle Franco was shot on her way home from consulting with women’s organizations. Her death, along with those of women human rights activists in the Amazon and Mexico, demonstrate a violent cultural reaction to women’s attempt to participate in public life and challenge the status quo.

However, Marta Dillon, a founder of the #NiUnaMenos movement, told The Guardian that she has seen important progress in these past five years, stating that “blaming the victim in these cases is no longer possible”. Dillon explains that although AMLO has been criticized for his inaction towards gender-based violence, he appointed the first cabinet with gender parity in Latin America. Mexico in particular has seen a wave of assertive protests by women’s groups, who credit #NiUnaMenos with the amplification of their voices. However, many Mexican activists still feel like they are not being heard. “As a first step, we want authorities to recognise there is a problem and that violence against women is increasing,” says Arussi Unda, who belongs to a Veracruz-based organization called Brujas del Mar. Dillion agrees there is still a lot of work to do. She told The Guardian, “Femicides are still happening because it’s a form of disciplining,” she says, “in general, the killer acts when a woman says: ‘enough is enough’.”

Sources:

“AMLO Announced His Cabinet in December; This Is Who They Are.” Mexico News Daily, 3 July 2018.

Boesten, Jelke. “Ni Una Menos Stares Down Conservative Reaction/ Ni Una Menos Enfrenta Una Reacción Conservadora.” NACLA, 8 May 2018.

“Brujas Del Mar.” Twitter , twitter.com/brujasdelmar?lang=en.

Caraballo, Ecleen Luzmila. “Why 80,000 Mexican Women & Allies Protested on International Women’s Day.” Remezcla, 9 Mar. 2020.

“Feminicidios y Violencia Contra Las Mujeres Provoca El Grito De #NiUnaMenos.” El Sol De México, 10 Mar. 2020.

Giugni, Lilia, et al. “Mexican Women Aren’t Just Fighting for Equality – But Survival.” The Globe Post, 25 Mar. 2020.

McGinnis, Teagan. “Exploring the Legal Context of Femicide in Mexico.” Justice in Mexico, 15 June 2020.

McGowan, Charis. “#NiUnaMenos Five Years on: Latin America as Deadly as Ever for Women, Say Activists.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 4 June 2020.

Melgoza, Alejandro. “’Un Día Sin Nosotras’: Mexicanas Realizan Paro De Labores Este 9 De Marzo.” Anadolu Ajansı, 9 Mar. 2020.

“#NiUnaMenos Mexico.” Twitter, twitter.com/niunamenosmx?lang=en.

Reza, Abraham. Feminicidios: Cómo 10 Mujeres Al Día Mueren En México (Enero 2020), Grupo Milenio, 26 Feb. 2020.

Semple, Paulina Villegas and Kirk. “Un Día Sin Mujeres En México Como Señal De Protesta.” The New York Times, The New York Times, 27 Feb. 2020.

Tegel, Simeon. “While the U.S. Has #MeToo, Latin America’s ‘Ni Una Menos’ Spotlights Femicides, Violence against Women.” NBCNews.com, NBCUniversal News Group, 17 May 2018.

Telemundo. “‘De Verdad No Están Aquí’: Así Es Un Día Sin Mujeres En Ciudad De México.” TELEMUNDO.com, 10 Mar. 2020.

“The Movement.” Ni Una Menos.

Univision. “’Un Día Sin Nosotras’: La Inédita Protesta Que Dejó Sin Mujeres Las Calles De Ciudad De México (Fotos).” Univision, 10 Mar. 2020.

Exploring the Legal Context of Femicide in Mexico

Photo: ROCIO VAZQUEZ/AFP via Getty Images

06/12/20 (T McGinnis) – 2019 represented the most dangerous year on record for women in Mexico, according to Mexico’s Secretary General of National Public Security (SESNSP). Femicide, a crime that deprives a woman of life as a result of her being female, remains a long-standing and protracted issue with which the Mexican public, policymakers, and legal actors have struggled. With the López Obrador administration declaring an “end to the war” against drug cartels and trafficking, the question remains whether this proclamation will lead to more adequate responses regarding gender violence, responses in which answers and accountability stand at the forefront of the government’s plan of action.

General Overview

What the Available Data Suggests

The Secretary General of National Public Security (Secretariado Ejecutivo del Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SESNSP) reports that between 2015 and 2019, cases of femicide rose from 411 to 983, representing an increase of approximately 139%, as shown by the graphic on the right. This parallels, if not surpasses, Mexico’s broader trend of recorded record-high numbers of murders in 2019. According to Milenio, in January alone of this year, 320 women were murdered (247 victims of intentional homicide and 73 victims of femicide), making an average of 10 cases per day.

Figure 2: Center for Studies on Impunity and Justice & the University of the Americas Puebla

However, the aforementioned figures may be much higher when one accounts for shortcomings and biases in the collection and conceptualization of femicide data. For example, Mexico’s elevated levels of impunity compound this issue further. According to the Center of Strategic & International Studies and the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía), “93 percent of crimes were either not reported or not investigated in 2018.” Furthermore, the Congressional Research Service details that the prosecutor general’s office remains underfunded. As specified by the GII-2017 Global Impunity Index (Índice Global de Impunidad), this means that preventive actions with respect to intelligence and the preparation and integration of information into investigative files (carpetas de investigación) remain stifled and ineffective. Thus, the perpetrators of violence are further motivated by the unlikelihood of conviction. With stark gender inequalities and pervasiveness of machismo culture in Mexico, one observes reduced levels of priority for investigations of gender-based murders. When observing the legal context of femicide, penal codes on femicide can vary by state, resulting in “a lack of comparable data and agreed definitions” that make prosecuting cases more difficult. Frequently, for both genders, victims of violence are battered and further discriminated against when trying to access the justice system. For women, the motivation to seek legal recourse or help diminishes significantly, seeing that “77 percent of Mexican women report not feeling safe.” These shortcomings and biases reflected in the available data will become more evident when the legal aspects of femicide are explained in greater detail.

High-Profile Cases in 2020

Mexico has grappled with the issue of gender-based violence and more specifically, femicide for many years, which became a major concern in the early 2000s with the high-profile serial murders of women in Ciudad Juárez. However, recent statistics indicating a nation-wide increase in femicides, as well as three high-profile cases in the first few months of 2020, led to protests and major demonstrations condemning violence against women. The first of the three cases involved Isabel Cabanillas, a 26-year-old artist and feminist who was murdered in Ciudad Juárez, Chihuahua on January 18, 2020 while riding her bike. According to NBC, although the dimension of the Mexican federal government tasked with combating violence against women, INMUJERES, classified her death as a femicide, law enforcement authorities described the motive as unclear. This elucidates one of the most apparent issues with the legal category of femicide. In order to classify a crime as femicide, there have to be qualifying characteristics and motives working in tandem with the act of homicide. Some of these characteristics and motives may be clear upon the start of an investigation, while others may not become evident until the case is adjudged. Weeks later, 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla was murdered by her male partner in northern Mexico City. According to Al Jazeera, her remains were discovered on Sunday, February 9, 2020 with certain organs removed and portions of her body skinned. The next day, the national newspaper Pasala published images of her body, sparking further outrage in the public and an overall repudiation of the way in which the government handles the dissemination of information on femicides. In an El Universal column entitled “Who killed Ingrid Escamilla?”, Alejandro Hope, a political science professor, presents his answer. “A violent and machismo culture killed Ingrid, our indifference killed her, our failure to demand that things change killed her.” The third case involved the murder of 7-year-old Fatima Cecelia Aldrighett Anton, who went missing on February 11, 2020 in Santiago Tulyehualco, Xochimilco. According to El Universal, she was believed to have been abducted at school, where she was left outside and unsupervised as she waited for her mother. Her naked body was discovered on February 15, 2020 in a plastic bag near Los Reyes, Tlahuac.

2020 Protests (International Women’s Day and “A Day Without Us”)

Each of the aforementioned cases resulted in protesters urging president Lopez Obrador to publicly acknowledge his administration’s lack of strategy in protecting the female population, and calls to stop criminalizing women who are victims of femicide. Following International Women’s Day (Mar. 8th), in which 80,000 individuals marched through Mexico City, displaying banners that stated “I’m marching today so that I don’t die tomorrow,” tens of thousands of women furthered the sentiment by participating in a national strike. What was soon deemed “A Day Without Us” strove to demonstrate what life would be like without women as more and more fall victim to femicide every day.

Government Response

In November 2019, Mexican officials had vowed a “zero tolerance” approach to the problem, as they observed the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, in partnership with the United Nations. According to the Council on Foreign Relations, the government has also made a point of emphasizing the existing measures in place, such as gender sensitivity training for armed forces. Additionally, after Escamilla’s murder, president Lopez Obrador joined protesters in denouncing the behavior of the media in leaking the explicit photos and soon praised their efforts in passing a bill that would increase prison sentences for those who commit femicide.

However, although lauded as a socially-progressive leader for perhaps, some of the reasons explained above, The Center for Strategic and International Studies regards president Lopez Obrador’s response to the issue of femicide and more generally gender-violence as “tepid at best.” Critics and activists note that AMLO appears indifferent to the reality of the situation and gendered context, calling himself a “humanist” and not a feminist. In reaction to the March 9th strike, he accused political opponents for the situation of unrest. Furthermore, according to the Council on Foreign Relations, his administration faced backlash when the Attorney General suggested removing femicide from Mexico’s criminal code, even though AMLO later said that he did not support the change. Claiming that the media manipulates the issues surrounding gender-based violence, the CFR reports that president Lopez Obrador also claims that the current crisis remains “tied to his predecessors neoliberal economic policies” and believes that what the country needs is a “moral regeneration.” Moving forward, it remains to be seen whether his public pledges translate into concrete action.

A Deeper Look into the Legal Context of Femicide in Mexico

As the surfacing of the aforementioned data and high-profile cases sheds a greater light on this national epidemic and mobilizes the public to place considerable pressure on Mexican officials, it remains critically important to understand the legal context of femicide in Mexico and how its process of prosecution could affect the data, media, rate of occurrence, etc. Prior to 1992, the term “femicide” had been used by the media and greater society in a colloquial manner to indicate the death of a woman. According to the Organization of American States Inter-American Commission of Women, that same year, Diana Russell and her colleague Jill Radford redefined femicide as “the murder of women, committed by men, for the simple reason of their being women.” In elucidating the gendered motives of men in killing women, which include “attempts to control their lives, their bodies and/or their sexuality, to the point of punishing through death those women that do not accept that submission,” Russell and Radford provided both legal and social contexts to the concept of femicide.

According to El Universal, the concept garnered significant notoriety in Mexico when Marcela Lagarde took the aforementioned notion of femicide advanced by Russell and Radford and further developed it as “feminicidio,” rather than femicidio (which constitutes the literal translation). The OAS Declaration on Femicide reports that “Lagarde’s position was that femicide could be understood as the death of women without specifying the cause, whereas feminicide better encapsulated the gender-based reasons and the social construction behind these deaths, as well as the impunity that surrounds them.” She subsequently used the term feminicide (feminicidio) to analyze a wave of gender-motivated murders in Ciudad Juárez, Mexico, which started around 1993, and continued to substantiate its importance in her professional research.

Before the classification of femicide as a social construct and category of crime, many of these murders were wrongly labeled as “crimes of passion.” According to El Universal, crimes of passion are defined as “a crime committed because of very strong emotional feelings, especially in connection with a sexual relationship.” The same term has also frequently been used to describe violent crimes against LGBT persons. However, once the term “femicide” was coined and the phenomenon was further explained and adopted by the media and public, different facets of the Mexican state began to grasp the gender-based implications of this type of violence against women. Nevertheless, bias and sexism still permeate media reporting of violent crimes against women. For example, “after Ingrid Escamilla was murdered by her partner in early 2020, a newspaper titled the article ‘It was cupid’s fault’ and printed a photograph of her skinned and dismembered body on its cover.” While femicides often occur between romantic partners, it should not constitute the defining aspect of this phenomenon. As previously elucidated by anthropologist Marcela Lagarde, “the explanation of femicide lies in gender dominance: characterized by both the male supremacy and the oppression, discrimination, exploitation and, above all, social exclusion of girls and women.”

According to the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Mexico began counting and including femicide data in 2012. The General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence (Ley General de Acceso de las Mujeres a Una Vida Libre de Violencia) proposed by the Party of the Democratic Revolution (PRD) in 2007 was one of the legislative measures that predated and influenced the current Federal Penal Code (CPF):

English translation:

Article 325.

The crime of femicide is committed by a person who deprives a woman of life for reasons of gender. It is considered that there are gender reasons when any of the following circumstances occur:

  1. The victim presents signs of sexual violence of any kind;
  2. Inflammatory or degrading injuries or mutilations, before or after the deprivation of life or acts of necrophilia, have been inflicted on the victim;
  3. There are antecedents or data of any type of violence in the family, work or school environment of the perpetrator against the victim;
  4. There has been a sentimental, emotional or trust relationship between the asset and the victim;
  5. There are data that establish that there were threats related to the criminal act, harassment or injuries of the perpetrator against the victim;
  6. The victim has been held incommunicado, whatever the time prior to the deprivation of life;
  7. The victim’s body is exposed or displayed in a public place.

Anyone who commits the crime of femicide will be sentenced to forty to sixty years in prison and a fine of five hundred to one thousand days.

In addition to the sanctions described in this article, the perpetrator will lose all rights in relation to the victim, including those of a successional nature.

In the event that femicide is not accredited, the homicide rules will apply.

A public servant who maliciously or negligently delays or hinders the prosecution or administration of justice shall be sentenced to three to eight years and a fine of five to fifteen hundred days, and shall be removed and disqualified from three to ten years to perform another public employment, office or commission.

In Nexos magazine, Elizabeth V. Leyva notes that although a fair majority of Mexican federal entities adhere to the federal norm as outlined above, “the truth is that legal classification of femicide is not the same in all laws: each state recognizes this problem with various characteristics with which it can be identified.” As a federal republic with the current criminal law system, states (32 in total) can individually regulate crimes and classify them as they deem appropriate. Thus, it is critically important to analyze and detail the similarities and differences in the classifications of these penal codes in an effort to elucidate whether certain legal provisions impact the number/level of femicides in each respective state.

It is important to understand how the Mexican Federal Penal Code on femicide parallels or differs from legislation at the state level. Firstly, both federal and state penal codes define femicide as a crime that deprives a woman of life for reasons of gender. Because this definition is potentially problematic (“gender” is not the same as a female person), Leyva describes current legislation having an “androcentric” view that disregards the death of a woman occurring as a result of her being female. As a result, critics point out that the legal definition of femicide is flawed by a male-dominant perspective and can lead to an ineffective understanding and enforcement of the law.

The essential qualifying circumstances for femicide are described in the penal codes as “gender reasons,” which can be divided into two categories: 1) The various forms the act of violence can assume and 2) the types of acts that occur before or after the death of the woman. The first category includes the following circumstances:

1.The victim presents signs of sexual violence of any kind

Circumstance one describes that femicide can occur through a nonconsensual sexual act aimed at the subordination and domination of women. Observing trends more generally, according to UN Women, “1 in 3 women over 15 years of age has suffered sexual violence” in Latin America and parts of the Caribbean, which is categorized as an epidemic by the WHO. Additionally, UN Women states that “femicide and sexual violence are closely linked to deficient citizen security, to general impunity and to a macho culture that undervalues women,” all of which are pervasive in the state of Mexico.

5. There are data that establish that there were threats related to the criminal act, harassment or injuries of the perpetrator against the victim

Circumstance five establishes that femicide is not an isolated act that happens without prior signs, but also the result of continuous acts of violence against the victim by the perpetrator. In other words, the perpetrator of a femicide is someone that has sexually or violently abused the victim prior to the murder. A 2019 National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía) report based on data from Chihuahua details that “43.3% of women have faced assaults from the current or last husband or partner throughout their relationship.” Critics highlight that the Mexican state has been negligent in stopping these chains of attacks before they result in the deaths of women.

2. Inflammatory or degrading injuries or mutilations, before or after the deprivation of life or acts of necrophilia have been inflicted on the victim

Circumstance two discusses the physical characteristics of the violent acts, which include scratches, bruises, cuts, stab wounds, or gunshot wounds, etc. With this reason, one can observe certain ambiguities with respect to operationalizing “inflammatory” or “degrading.” In essence, these injuries and mutilations are expected to be either of the aforementioned designations without having an explicit definition and/or reference point to classify them as such. This could contribute to an ineffective understanding and enforcement of this portion of the law.

The second category of gender reasons encompasses the types of acts that occur before or after the death of the woman.

6. The victim has been held incommunicado, whatever the time prior to the deprivation of life

Circumstance six states that during this crime, women may not be in a position to communicate or request third-party help, leaving them rather defenseless. Leyva notes that “the temporal nature of this sentence is ambiguous because it does not define how long ‘the time prior to the deprivation of life’” actually is. With this, one observes states, like Colima and Sinaloa expanding this notion in a more concise manner, isolating what they are actually attempting to legislate:

When the victim has found herself in a state of defenselessness, this should be understood as the situation of real helplessness or incapacity that makes her defense impossible. Either due to the difficulty of communication to receive help, due to the distance to an inhabited place or because there is some physical or material impediment to request help.

7. The victim’s body is exposed or exhibited in a public place

According to Leyva, though this may appear circumstantial to the crime of femicide, it possesses a powerful significance. In her text Women and the Public Sphere: A Modern Perspective, Joan Landes, a professor of Women’s Studies and History at Pennsylvania State University, postulates that women were denied status as a political subject when conceptions and definitions of political subjectivity, and more generally, politics were shaped in the pre-modern era. As actors in the private sphere, their treatment and struggle for human rights was, and still is, made invisible. With women now occupying positions in the labor market and public sphere, men often confuse female liberation as an intrusion of sorts with respect to previously solidified gender roles. Thus, when men commit femicide and display the body in the public arena, they are sending a psychological message for women to stay home. This aspect of femicide is often made worse when the public and political actors blame the victim for walking home alone or not being home as the patriarchal narrative expects.

Once convicted of committing femicide, punishments vary decidedly between states. In comparing the penal codes, the minimum sentence for femicide is 20 years in prison, while the maximum constitutes 70 years. Additionally, beyond the previously discussed, basic components observed in the entities’ penal codes, certain states present interesting additions and considerations worth noting. For example, in Jalisco, the penal code accounts for a variant of femicide known as “lesbofeminicidio” (the murder of a woman because she loves/loved another woman) and “transfeminicidio” (the murder of because she is a transgender or transsexual woman) by including the circumstance of “when the perpetrator acts for reasons of homophobia.” These variants are not popular in other states’ penal codes due to their lack of exposure in the media. In Puebla, one of the additional circumstances constituting a gender reason is “if the victim is pregnant.” This circumstance acknowledges that the perpetrator of the violence is often the biological father and that the crime of femicide may be committed to avoid the responsibilities of parenthood and alimony.

Many critics argue that the statutes for each state’s criminal code on femicide are not uniform, making it especially difficult for third-party groups to ensure effective, nation-wide implementation. For example, there is still no general agreement on whether the act of femicide is a separate category of crime or an aggravated form of homicide. In March and February 2020, many Mexican media outlets, like La Jornada highlighted the danger in a proposal by the Office of the Federal Attorney General (Fiscalía General de la República) to eliminate the designation of “femicide” as a crime and to treat it as an aggravated form of homicide. This would allow for easier facilitation of investigations and prosecutions, the Office of the Attorney General argued. However, the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) objected, stating that the elimination of femicide as a category of crime would constitute a “setback” because of “the specificity of the content, implications, and meaning of this crime, (because) it makes invisible the essential component of hatred against women, as well as through it seeks to perpetuate the cultural patterns of subordination, inferiority, and oppression of women.”

With the aforementioned analysis on the legal context of femicide in Mexico and the possible threats to its legal standing, it is important to quantitatively determine whether certain legal provisions are responsible for lowering the rates of femicide in certain states. In acquiring this information, the Mexican government could more effectively tailor its federal policy and response to the crime.

Sources

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La Oficina Regional de ONU Mujeres. “Declaración oficial de ONU Mujeres frente a los casos de feminicidio y los niveles de impunidad en la región.” ONU Mujeres. 20 Oct. 2016.

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.