On 15 September, which marks the Mexican independence day, a different kind of observance was held at the central Human Rights commission of the country. The building of the commission was seized by women's rights activists on September 7 and they have vowed to occupy it until the Mexican government, led by Andrés Manuel López Obrador takes decisive action to stop the relentless toll of rape, murder and forced disappearance. Until then, they say, the building will be repurposed as a shelter for women survivors of violence. Already around 100 victims have come to seek lodging and legal counsel.
President Obrador has repeatedly alleged that the feminist activists have a partisan agenda. He also expressed outrage that the protesters had defaced portraits of historical presidents in the building, taking particular offence over an image of the revolutionary leader Francisco I Madero, which was embellished with lipstick and a purple forehead tattoo spelling out “ACAB” (All Cops Are Bastards).
Rising Femicide in Mexico
Femicide is the intentional murder of women because of their gender, for control, domination and possession. Femicides rose by 5.4 percent between January and July in Mexico from the same period last year, according to official data. In July 2020 alone, 74 women were murdered. Various women's rights activists and feminists are currently protesting against the high rate of femicides, lack of investigation and how these crimes go often unsolved, delay in justice and also the forced disappearances. In response to Obrador's comment, one of the protestors responded, “The president was indignant about a portrait – but why wasn’t he indignant when my daughter was abused?”
Frustrated with the Obrador administration’s inaction on rising gender violence against women in the country, women activists have seized the government building as part of a string of direct action protests to signal their intolerance over women’s rapes, murders, and forced disappearances that have claimed the lives of 3,825 women. Many of the protesters have focused their anger on the president, who has repeatedly downplayed the country’s human rights crisis.
How did the protest start
This wave of protests was triggered in August 2019 after the alleged rape of a woman by a police officer in Azcapotzalco. Mexican feminists attempted a “Revolución Diamantina (Glitter Revolution),” in which they dumped pink glitter on public monuments, ‘defacing’ them. In March 2020 the first-ever women's strike, Un Dia Sin Mujeres, was held in Mexico, where women attempted to shut down the country by stepping away from their workplaces, homes to protest the high rates of femicide in the country.
An average of 10 women are murdered per day in the country; nearly 4,000 women total were killed in 2019 alone, mainly targeted by male relatives for their gender, the Associated Press reports. The problem worsened after the current administration, in response to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis, cut funding for women’s shelters and organisations tackling gender-based violence, a move particularly infuriating during a time when domestic violence rates increased all around the world.
Protests on 15 September
Female activists in Mexico City held a protest on Monday at which they called for justice with an antigrita, or anti-cry, to draw attention to the situation women's safety in Mexico. It was their version of the grito, the September 15 cry of independence that celebrates the anniversary of the start of the Mexican independence struggle against Spanish forces. Women in Chihuahua, Quintana Roo, Jalisco, Morelos, Baja California, Tamaulipas, Oaxaca and Puebla followed suit and mounted their protests on Tuesday and Wednesday with antigritas and declarations that there was little to celebrate.
"For all the mothers, all the victims, it is not a cry of joy, it is a cry of despair," the activists declared from the balcony of the headquarters of the National Commission for Human Rights (CNDH), in Mexico City.
Anureet Watta is an Intern at SheThePeople TV.