On Sunday, countries around the world celebrated International Women’s Day not only to reflect on the progress toward gender equality, but also all the work that still needs to be done. In Mexico, women decided to take the latter one step further. After 80,000 women flooded the streets of Mexico City on Sunday to protest violence against women, they proved, in solidarity, that women cannot be silenced against surmounting sexual-based violence in their country.
Following the mass protests in the streets, thousands of women all over the country stayed home on Monday as part of a 24-hour strike against staggering levels of gender-based crimes in Mexico. Referring to it as “A Day Without Women,” many women skipped work, school, and social gatherings to illustrate what it would be like without them. Several big companies including Sears, L’Oreal, and Walmart as well as the Mexican government gave women employees a paid day off to participate in the strike.
“In Mexico, it’s like we’re in a state of war; we’re in a humanitarian crisis because of the quantity of women that have disappeared or been killed,” María de la Luz Estrada, coordinator of the National Citizen’s Observatory of Femicide, told the Associated Press.
Femicide, the killing of women because of their gender, is rampant and on the rise in Mexico. According to government data reported by AP, 3,825 women suffered violent deaths last year, marking a 7% increase from the year before. That equates to roughly 10 women a day in Mexico, which doesn’t begin to account for the thousands more who have gone missing in recent years. These figures make Mexico one of the most dangerous countries in the world for women. In the last five years, reported femicides have increased by 137%, according to NPR. That is four times the general homicide rate. Often these crimes go without convictions. And, only about 10% of femicides in Mexico are solved.
The recent, violent death of Ingrid Escamilla in February intensified the growing sense of outrage when her body was found stabbed, partially skinned, and with organs missing. To add to the injustice, gruesome photos of Escamilla’s body were leaked to tabloids and later published. Her husband later confessed to the crime.
The most recent gender-based violence statistics for Mexico reported by Amnesty International estimates that 66% of women and girls aged 15 or older have experienced gender-based violence at least once in their lives and that 43% have experienced gender-based violence at the hands of an intimate partner. Worldwide, 35% of women have experienced physical or sexual violence, according to UN Women.
In November 2019, 19 of Mexico’s 32 states as well as the nation’s capital, Mexico City, issued a gender violence alert that triggered emergency measures to address the problem as well as to raise awareness. Declaring a “zero tolerance” stance on femicide, Mexico’s Security Minister, Alfonso Durazo signed a memorandum that month with United Nations Women promising to “strengthen actions against gender-based violence.”
President of Mexico López Obrador gave conflicting messages in response to the protest on Monday. When asked about the government’s plan for addressing violence against women, he said that his administration is working on the issue every day. “I maintain that the main thing is to guarantee the wellbeing of the people,” said Obrador. While he acknowledged that things like tougher criminal penalties and harsher prosecutions can help, he also said that some of the anger directed at him and his administration regarding gender-based violence “is conservatism disguised as feminism.”