Day Of The Dead Women: Hundreds In Mexico City Protest National Femicide Scourge

Following national “Day of the Dead” celebrations, friends and relatives of femicide victims protested in Mexico City on Wednesday, carrying graveyard crosses and chanting “We are your voice.” Near the front of the line, several people displayed a large purple banner proclaiming “Voices of the Absence.” Others carried the names, photographs, and memories of those they had lost to the pervasive, gender-based violence.

“Each cross is a case, a pain,” Consuelo Martínez told Efe news agency. “We really want the authorities to act…We seek justice and truth for each of the dead [women].” Martínez is the mother of Victoria Pamela, a woman killed by her partner.

Cintia Ramírez, a fellow protestor whose niece, Dulce Lilián, was killed by her husband in 2019, echoed this sentiment. “The main demand is to urge the government to listen to us, to arrest people who are at large and for justice to be done,” Ramírez said. “They aren’t going to bring our dead back, but at least they can give us some peace and tranquillity.”

Generally defined by the World Health Organization as the intentional murder of women because they are women, femicide is a nefarious facet of Mexico’s unrelenting impunity. Crimes against women are under-reported and under-investigated, and even though instances of femicide have increased by 130 percent from 2015 to 2020, President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO) has neglected to address it substantively. It is unclear whether AMLO fails to understand the extent of the issue or does not want to direct time and resources toward alleviating it.

I would bet it is the latter. Mexican government data published in October showed that some 762 women were murdered between January and September this year. Compared to the same period, 2020, this is a 5 percent raise. In light of these statistics, the lived experience of millions of women in Mexico, and heightened vulnerability induced by the Covid-19 pandemic, AMLO’s subpar action is not only disappointing but also frankly unacceptable.

Security Minister Rosa Icela Rodríguez recently announced that 73 women’s justice centres had been opened throughout the country. However, introducing these government-sponsored centers without accompanying policy changes will do little to bolster protections for women and accountability for perpetrators. AMLO has previously alluded to creating a special prosecutor’s office to investigate the extent and impact of gender-based crimes, but this has yet to be established. In its absence, citizens and journalists have undertaken investigations of their own, shedding light on specific cases and amplifying the voices of those who have been lost. Frida Guerrera is one such investigative journalist (and I highly recommend The Guardian’s February 2021 profile of her work).

As demonstrated by the various nationally-scaled demonstrations and walkouts over the past years, Mexican women and their allies will not retreat into the shadows. They will make their voices heard. They will make the stories of those lost known. And, they will challenge the impunity that remains simmering across Mexico’s ever-changing security landscape. In tandem, AMLO and his administration must publicly and unabashedly support avenues for early intervention, resources for women and dependents fleeing abusive situations, and policies that ensure investigation, accountability, and prosecution. Cintia Ramírez is right: these actions will not bring the dead back. Yet, they do have the potential to set an example and prevent other women from meeting the fate of femicide in the future.