The fight against gender-based violence and femicides in Mexico culminated on September 12th, 2020 when activists occupied and later set fire to the Mexican Human Rights Commission Offices in Mexico City. Their outcry for justice stemmed from a brutal history of gender-based violence throughout the country. Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, better known as AMLO, has long been criticized for his lack of action towards femicides in Mexico. According to the World Health Organization, femicides (feminicidios) are defined as the “intentional murder of women because they are women.” In the first half of 2020 alone, instances of gender-based killings in Mexico rose by 7.7%.
Femicides fall under several categories, including incidents of domestic violence, gang violence, human trafficking, and violence against ethnic minorities and LGBTQ+ individuals. Rates of gender-based killings can be impacted by a variety of societal and legal factors. In Mexico, two main issues have been pinpointed as the reason for this alarming rise in gender-based killings. Firstly, it has been widely attributed to a culture of machismo and misogyny further perpetuated by the current Mexican president, AMLO. The politician has been quoted diminishing the urgency of femicides in Mexico, announcing that, “Mexican women have never been [more] protected.” Secondly, there is a lack of accountability for perpetrators of femicides – perpetrators have essentially been exempt from punishment for their crimes. In 2018, for instance, it is estimated that 93% of all crimes went unreported or were not properly investigated.
Femicides are routinely underrepresented. Several Mexican states, including Chihuahua and Oaxaca, do not distinguish between gender-based killings and homicides in their criminal code. This makes it difficult to fully grasp and diagnose the extent of the crisis. Even with incomplete numbers and unreported cases, femicide rates have risen a shocking 137% in the past five years. According to the Ministry of Public Security, from January to August 2020, there were already 645 cases of femicide across the country.
As of May 2019, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the department responsible for American foreign aid, outlined their goals for “preventing and responding to femicide cases [in Mexico].” These include increasing participation from civilians and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and reinforcing litigation skills to improve justice sector performance.
In February, Amnesty International requested to meet with the Mexican president to discuss human rights concerns within the country. Above all, their open letter pressed AMLO to accept responsibility for the ongoing human rights crisis, and “to position human rights as a central focus for the remainder of his presidential term.” The Mexican government has yet to respond to the organization’s concerns. The aforementioned attempts to prevent and reduce instances of gender-based killing in Mexico highlight the need for the international community to continue to denounce AMLO’s diminishment of femicides.
Additional internal and external pressure should be put on AMLO to fully acknowledge the severity of gender-based violence. This includes bringing awareness to his recent 75% budget cut of the National Women’s Institute and withdrawal of funding for women’s shelters run by NGOs, which play a crucial role in preventing violence and reducing femicides. In addition, current demonstrations occurring within the country should be supported and upheld. Public support for protests and demonstrations against AMLO’s harmful policies could be the next vital step towards protecting women across Mexico and Latin America.
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