Femicides in Mexico have been increasing at an alarming rate, the government’s failure and impunity are to blame.
Recently, I saw a twitter thread with thousands of retweets informing about what is currently happening in Mexico, it was the first time I saw this problem get so much international attention. It seemed like people outside of Mexico understood the magnitude of this problem more than some Mexicans. However, it seems like people aren’t talking about it anymore.
I did some research and, in this post, I cover the most important things, but it is important to keep in mind that we should fight for the lives of women every day and bring awareness to this problem as much as possible.
WHAT IS A FEMICIDE?
A femicide is the most extreme form of violence against women. It is not a simple homicide but a deliberate gender-based attack, where the perpetrator’s principal motive is hatred towards women for being women. They are often committed by men who knew the victims like family members or partners.
I often see people saying that “men get murdered too” so it is important to know that yes, of course men get murdered too but not for gender reasons. The main difference between a femicide and homicide is that a femicide is a gender-based crime, while a homicide is not.
Systemic impunity—defined as the failure to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice—also impacts femicides. In Mexico, 93% of crimes were either not reported or not investigated in 2018, and investigation and prosecution of femicides follow that trend.
A large majority of cases involving violence against women aren’t properly investigated nor sanctioned by the justice system. Furthermore, the lack of reliable data, the underreporting of femicides and the fact that some states still not distinguish them as separate crimes from homicide, prevent us from knowing the magnitude of the problem (the number of femicides is likely higher than what the figures estimate).
Camila Rodriguez, a specialist in this topic from the Autonomous University of Mexico, explained that the rise in femicides is a result of the sensation of impunity. Perpetrators know it is unlikely that they will be captured, and even if they are, they feel the punishment won’t be severe and they could continue their lives outside of prison.
Claudia Pedraza, specialist in gender issues at the University of La Salle, believes gender violence is structural since there is a system (the patriarchal system) that creates it, upholds it and reproduces it, which starts in the different ways we educate girls and boys. She believes that even femicides are an issue that stems from education, since sometimes at home or in the media, it is repeated that a woman’s life has less value.
Two cases served as the catalysts for major demonstrations. On February 9, a woman named Ingrid Escamilla was skinned and killed by her partner. Later, a 7-year-old girl named Fatima Aldrighetti was kidnapped, tortured and murdered. Protesters went to the Palacio Nacional in Mexico City, where they splashed red paint on the main door to demand justice for them.
In August 2019, after the alleged rape of a 17-year-old girl by a group of police officers, thousands of women joined the so-called “revolución diamantina” (glitter revolution). Demonstrators marched to the attorney general’s office, smashing windows. Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City’s head of government and an AMLO ally, called this protest a “provocation”. This sparked outrage and a the surge of a second protest, on August 16, which also turned violent and resulted in the Angel of Independence being scrawled with graffiti.
Instead of focusing on the discrimination against women and femicides, much of the media’s focus was on the defaced monument. It seemed like everyone cared more about a monument (which was quickly cleaned and restored) than the lives of women.
Eventually, the AMLO administration agreed to make femicide and gender-based crimes a priority, and Mexico City and other 19 states declared a gender violence alert.
On January 11, 2020, activists placed hundreds of red women’s shoes on the Zócalo, Mexico City’s main square, to call attention to violence against women. Elina Chauvet, who first made the piece of performance-protest art in 2009, after her sister was killed by her husband in Ciudad Juarez, said “Those pairs of shoes are missing their owners, the women who have been torn from us”
On March 8, 2020, in honor of International Women’s Day, women took the streets to protest the rising gender violence and impunity. The next day, millions of women took part in a movement where they disappeared for 24 hours from schools, shopping malls, public transportation, jobs etc. The movement known as “Un Día Sin Nosotras” and “Paro Nacional” was intended to be a reminder that every day, 10 women in Mexico are killed. This impacted the economy and caused a loss of 37 mil millones de pesos (approximately 950 million dollars).
RESPONSE FROM THE GOVERNMENT
In a press conference, Frida Guerrero—activist and journalist who investigates femicides in Mexico City—asked AMLO if he was going to do anything about the femicides that happen every day, he responded that, and I quote “We are against femicides. Every day we are doing things… everyday, to guarantee peace and tranquility… I am not evading my responsibility.”
AMLO has said he is a “humanist” and not a feminist, and in response to the strike on March 9, he accused his political opponents of inciting the strike and unrest. He said women were free to protest but claimed that some “wanted our administration to fail.” While he has done some things about this issue, like releasing a plan to combat gender-based violence, policy movement has been slow and mostly reliant on rhetoric and blaming previous administrations for a “corrupted” system that allows for femicide.
Activists such as María Salguero fight to give femicide victims a voice.
Salguero created a map of femicides, which includes categories like the ages of the victims, the relation of the victim and the one who murdered them and possible femicides, to understand the roots of violence against women, and to find policy solutions that can stop the slaughter. Each day, Salguero spends up to four hours tapping details of the latest murders into her laptop.
She names the victims to remind people they are not only figures; they have names too. She also tries to write as many details as she can, like the way the victim was killed, the reason why she was killed, whether she was pregnant or not, whether she was alone or not, whether she was raped, the kind of gun that was used, and how many knife wounds did she suffer. “Sometimes you see victims who have been stabbed more than 100 times,” Salguero said. “Just imagine the level of viciousness. It just shows how much rage these men feel towards women.”
This year, she has been targeted on social media. She says some of the most venomous attacks came after she published the tally of women killed since AMLO took office in December 2018: 3,835. She shrugged off the attacks and vowed not to abandon her map.
“If the president plays down the problem then what can you expect from the rest of society? I feel that if I don’t do something then it could be my nieces next. It could happen to any woman around me” she said.
It is important to never be silent about femicides, to realize the magnitude of this problem (not only in Mexico but in other parts of the world, specially in Latin America) and to always spread awareness.
As what you could do, you could sign petitions (I will link them below) but I do think the most important thing to do is share, and use hashtags on twitter like #NiUnaMasNiUnaMenos and #NiUnaMenos to pressure the government into doing something to stop this massacre.
- Amnesty International:
- Amnistía Internacional:
- We ask for femicides to stop: https://www.change.org/p/andres-manuel-l%C3%B3pez-obrador-presidente-de-m%C3%A9xico-exigimos-cese-a-los-feminicidios-en-m%C3%A9xico?signed=true
- Violence against women: https://www.change.org/p/hacienda-mexico-los-feminicidios-y-las-violencias-contra-las-mujeres-no-est%C3%A1n-en-cuarentena?recruiter=979586896rue
- Justice for Ingrid Escamilla: https://www.change.org/p/laprensaoem-diariopasala-sanci%C3%B3n-a-quienes-publicaron-fotos-de-ingrid-escamilla?utm_content=cl_sharecopy_20261814_es-419%3Av3&recruiter=1128680716&recruited_by_id=fb157550-c022-11ea-9f92-c95335d33259&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=copylink&utm_campaign=psf_combo_share_abi
- Save The Children: https://app.savethechildren.mx/feminicidios/stc/especiales/2017/feminicidios-en-mexico/index.html
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