Pain turns to rage as Mexican women fight to stop femicide

Sept. 28, 2020. During a protest on International Safe Abortion Day in Mexico City, members of a feminist collective clash with a wall of police in riot gear. PHOTO: Carlos Jasso / Reuters
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As Mexico’s femicide numbers rise to more than 10 per day, resistance to domestic violence, rape, and murder of women and girls grows stronger. Protests have increased in size and fury since the “Day Without Women” general strike in March 2020.

That strike arose in outrage over leaked photographs of the violated body of Ingrid Escamilla, who was raped, murdered and mutilated by her boyfriend. Protests outside the newspaper that published the photos resulted in quick passage of a law prohibiting unauthorized release of judicial files.

In August, new protests erupted after a 17-year-old woman was raped by four police officers. A Mexico City police station was set on fire and statues were doused in red paint. Angry women denounced prosecutors for only putting two percent of rapists in jail. In Cancún, police fired semi-automatic weapons at demonstrators and reporters covering the protest.

The next month, feminists took over the federal Human Rights Commission building in Mexico City, the country’s capital, as well as offices in several other major cities. Occupiers have turned the 200-year-old Human Rights building into a women’s shelter. Many are associated with anarchists of Bloque Negro (Black Bloc). Unfortunately, fighting over political differences has led to some loss of support from mothers of murder victims.

AMLO sells out women. Vicious attacks on women have gone on for decades in Mexico. Gender violence cost the lives of 3,825 women in 2019 alone. And Covid-19 lockdowns have increased the brutality. Feminists are fed up with President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) who has failed to deliver on promises to expand women’s rights.

Instead, soon after his election, AMLO closed thousands of government-subsidized childcare centers, suggesting that aunts or grandmothers should care for the children. He also announced the shuttering of all women’s shelters, but public furor caused him to back down. Later, however, he cut funds, resulting in closure of a third of the shelters.

When called out on his anti-woman actions, AMLO claimed 90% of hotline calls are false. He advised angry men to simply “count to ten and calm down.” AMLO accused political opponents of fomenting the uproar and condemned protesters’ radical tactics.

Eréndira Munguía, a college mathematics professor and activist in the Partido Obrero Socialista (POS), explains, “It has been the constant mobilizations that have kept the problem of femicides in the public debate. AMLO with his disdain has been a disappointment for those who trusted in his promises of social justice. Ultimately the AMLO administration will not be the one to stop the growing trend of femicides in Mexico.”

Feminists vow to end sexist violence. Activists are committed to stopping misogynist brutality and ending impunity for rapists, murderers, and police. There are, however, disagreements on tactics and policies. Black Bloc feminists are separatists who refuse the participation of men or transgender women and engage in provocative attacks on property. Other groups, such as Ni Una Menos (Not One More), welcome LGBTQ folks and men in the fight.

Such divisions were expressed at November 25 actions marking the International Day Against Violence Against Women. A 1,000-person procession was held in Mexico City, but many supporters stayed away out of worry over safety. LGBTQ folks did not participate due to Black Bloc transphobia. When marchers reached Mexico City’s Zócalo Square, planned speeches were canceled after anarchists initiated confrontations with police.

The rally would have been stronger with a united front welcoming all and open to support from workers and leftists. It takes a massive, united movement to make deep changes.

Mexican feminists vow to continue. As Fanny González, an activist with Aborto Legal Mexíco and POS says, “The government of Mexico can in no way call itself feminist. Despite claims to fight violence against women, it is the state itself that creates the conditions that violate our life and rights. It clearly has no interest in radical measures to combat the structural inequality that causes violence.”

Her passion is echoed by Yesenia Zamudio, mother of a murdered 19-year-old daughter: “We demand to live in a country free of violence … if we don’t see a solution, we are going to take over the whole country.”

Radical Women National Offices — United States: 206-722-6057; radicalwomenus@gmail.com. Australia: 03-9388-0062; radicalwomen@optusnet.com.au. Website: radicalwomen.org

Also see the FS editorial  Mexican women strike over femicides

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On March 13, Radical Women (RW) will host an international Zoom celebration of International Women’s Day bringing together feminists from Mexico, the U.S. and Australia to discuss the massive cross-border upsurge against femicide. For more info and to register, see Radical Women on Facebook.

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