On the 9th of March tens of thousands of women took part in a 24-hour strike against feminicide and gender-based-violence across Mexico. Lawyers, teachers, students, cleaners, bank tellers, and women from all walks of life skipped work, school and social activities to join the strike which denounced gender-based violence and impunity for perpetrators. Named the “Day without us”, the strike highlighted the importance of women in society.
The strike took place the day after International Women’s Day; some 80,000 Mexicans protested against government inaction on the catastrophic issue of feminicide within the country. Growing anger and frustration had been building for months due to the government’s ineptitude to deal with the issue, which reached a head after the horrific murder-mutilation of Ingrid Escamilla and the killing of a 7 year-old Fatima. Both incidents occurred last month in Mexico City. This fueled a movement dubbed “Ni una más” which translates to “not one more”, meaning no more deaths related to gender violence will be tolerated. This has all culminated with the protest on the 8th of March and the strike the following day.
Feminicide is a rampant issue which afflicts numerous Latin American countries, most notably Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico. Women are being killed simply because they are women. The governments of these countries have done very little to help quell the issue; the protests do not only condemn the violence directed towards women, but also the lack of substantial effort to bring cases to justice. The United Nations found in 2018 that “98 per cent of gender‑related killings go unprosecuted,” throughout Latin America. According to official figures, 3,825 women met violent deaths in 2019, an average of more than 10 a day and a rise of seven percent over the previous year in Mexico alone. This is without the unofficial figures, leaving the accurate figure unknown.
The response by the Mexican government to this widespread 24-hour strike has been poor and all indications point to there being no official change to government policy on the issue. The Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, known widely as AMLO, said last Tuesday that “recent protests against rising killings of women in Mexico would not change his government’s long-term, ground-up approach to dealing with the problem,” as reported by Al Jazeera. In a speech made to the public addressing the strike President AMLO stated that he would reinforce the same strategy which has been in place since he took office in December 2018. Natalie Galon, a CNN Reporter, found that a total of 1,006 gender-related deaths were reported in 2019, compared with 912 the year before, which shows that the current measures taken by President AMLO are not combating the violence.
President AMLO has been routinely criticized for his responses to feminicide and violence against woman. This type of crisis deserves better than a government which has routinely shifted blame or focus from the movement to other issues. A “machismo” culture has allowed for a toxic mindset to reverberate through society, starting right at the top with the government. The way forward is through a thorough reassessment of the educational system; there is a dire need to improve awareness of the role women play in society. The education system needs to develop a culture which focuses on a greater respect for women and for the promotion of equitable social norms and values.
Regrettably the current Mexican government are not listening to these cries. The protests and strikes must continue on to ensure that the calls to end feminicide are heard. The government may be refusing to change their tactics now, but this strike has been estimated to cost the Mexican economy around 9 billion pesos, which approximately equates to 450 million US dollars. Sooner or later the government will have to respond. While the situation should not have reached this point, this could be the way to force the government to address the issue.
One of the biggest concerns, which needs to be addressed, is the lack of justice for the perpetrators. Most cases go unpunished, and there have been a number of incidents where police have neglected to follow up on a reported crime. This problem may partially stem from the fact that there are many migrants from Central American nations in Mexico; these victims have no loved ones or relatives to fight for their justice, and the police refuse to investigate further. As there are little to no penalties for the crime in most cases, there are limited deterrents for would-be-perpetrators.
The situation in Mexico is dire as this widespread crisis continues, however these new protests mean the problems are being voiced, and finally being heard. While there will likely be no movement towards a solution for the time being on the part of the government, there is progress through social avenues. This strike has proven the power of the people. Greater change will come, with more strikes focused on shutting down the economy, which in turn will force the government to redirect their focus onto the issue of feminicide.