08/31/20 (written by kheinle) — Femicides continue to increase in Mexico, registering their highest monthly total on record. According to data from Mexico’s National Public Security System (Sistema Nacional de Seguridad Pública, SNSP), 101 cases were reported in June. This brought the total for the first six months of the year to 566. This comes on the heels of a 130% increase in cases of femicides documented from 2015 to 2019.
Mexico has long grappled with the problem of targeted killings of women. Nearly half (45%) of all women in Mexico reported being victims of violence at the hands of their partner, according to a 2018 survey by Mexico’s National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Geografía e Informática, INEGI). More recently, another 18% specified that they were victims of physical abuse. Since the pandemic began in March 2020, the National Network of Shelters, a group that supports at risk women and children, reported an 80% increase in calls and a 50% increase in the number of women and children to their shelters.
The Government’s Mixed Response
With the rise in femicide cases, there has been increased attention from national and international critics imploring the Mexican government to step up its efforts. However, the reaction from President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his administration is mixed.
The Right to Demonstrate
On the one hand, the administration is at least superficially backing women’s rights and the public’s constitutional right to protest in support of protections for women. For example, following several demonstrations in Mexico City and León, Guanajuato in August, the president used his platform to denounce efforts to silence the public. He vocally supported the protestors’ right to protest, but urged them to do so peacefully. “We have to respect the right to dissent and the freedom to protest, to respect and to be tolerant, but more than anything to respect [the right],” he said. “There should not have to be repression.” [Author’s translation]. He then stressed upon demonstrators to protest and gather non-violently, drawing on non-violent icons like Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. to drive home his point.
An Insufficient Response
Yet President López Obrador has also come under fire for what protestors have long argued has been his insufficient response to the inequities that women face. In 2020, there have been numerous public protests denouncing the government’s ineffective and inadequate response to femicides. Critics argue that the president is dismissive of both the femicides and protests that have ensued this past year. He often undermines the severity of the issue, attributing the violence to a loss of values and morality, notes media reports. In fact, he recently claimed that “Mexican women have never been as protected as now,” a point against which demonstrators continue to push back.
Reports also show the López Obrador administration proposing to cut funding to women’s shelters in July of this year, the same shelters that support the women facing femicide, domestic violence, and other targeted violence. As The Guardian reports, in early July, “the government approved a 65% budget cut for the federal women’s institute, and the president has also proposed to withdraw state funding for women’s shelters operated by NGOs, suggesting that women fleeing violence could instead be given a cash payment.”
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
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.
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.”
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
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,
cars and setting fires, and spray painting “Femicide
state” on the exterior of the National Palace, among
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.
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
Quintana. “They destroy their bodies, they disappear
them. Don’t forget their names, please, Mister President.”
‘A Day Without Us’
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.