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Opinion | "Don't congratulate us, join our fight": Why we shouldn't ignore the femicide epidemic in Mexico

For most, International Women's Day is a celebratory event. Yet, Isabel discusses that in Latin America, instead of celebrating, women took to the streets to protest.

Photo by Michelle Ding / Unsplash

By Isabel Valenzuela, First year, Social Policy and Politics

Every year on March 8th, the world celebrates what is known as International Women’s Day. As the celebration becomes more globalised, its growing presence on social media platforms has captured the attention of our digitally native generation. However, we mustn't overlook the stories that do not make it to mainstream media. What most will not encounter on social media is that while the United Kingdom is making strides towards gender equality, women in Latin America - especially Mexico - are fighting for their lives and freedom. This International Women’s Day, thousands of women protested the endemic culture of femicide that is dominating various Latin American countries. International contribution and awareness about the substantial, but often overlooked issue of femicides and gender-based violence in Latin American countries is vital, and here’s why. 

Regardless of international laws regarding female protection and equality, the alarming reality is that levels of violence against women in Latin America are the highest in the world. Amongst various factors that may aggravate femicides in Latin American countries, the most arguably prominent is the continued presence of deep-rooted “machismo” culture.

‘Machista’ culture can be equated to the tactical encouragement of male dominance in the home and intended violence against female spouses/partners. A case of particular interest is Mexico, home to some of the leading femicide rates occurring each year. 

Throughout the years, girls as young as three and women as old as 74 have been frequently abused and domestically killed by the men close to them. In this Latin American country, 10 women die every day as a result of femicide, a rate that has increased by 137 per cent since 2015. In recent years, femicides in Mexico have become gradually more public, with corpses left visible to citizens, often with clear signs of torture and beatings. 

When confronted, Mexican President, Lopez Obrador, has attributed the wave of femicides to the “neoliberalist values” of his predecessors, a regular point of critique made by his administration. Long-term governmental neglect, alongside a profoundly weak criminal justice institution, has only paved the way for perpetual impunity for violence against women. In a country where 93% of crimes are not investigated or reported, women equitably do not feel they can confide in law enforcement officers, with the majority of women who are detained in Mexico being victims of abuse.

On March 8th 2024, a crowd of 180,000 protestors were drawn to the streets of Mexico, urging President Lopez Obrador to act on the appalling systematic impunity and neglect of the femicide epidemic. 

Whilst this protest broke records regarding public involvement, the largely leaderless movement known as #niunamenos (not one woman less) has been ubiquitous throughout Latin America since it was founded in 2015. The originally Argentinian feminist movement has allowed women in Mexico to audaciously demand protection and justice, despite tirelessly being silenced by apathetic positions of power. 

However, the issue remains largely localised and unexposed beyond Latin America. Femicides in Mexico have received minimal international attention in mainstream media. It has become gradually difficult for governments to note the disconnect between Mexico’s rhetoric on an international stage, and its domestic inaction in response to gender-based violence.

Relatedly, the University of Bristol community can also make efforts to positively impact the cause. Like in the case of all humanitarian matters, education and knowledge are the first steps in creating any form of social change. Simply by understanding the intricacies of violence against women, the impact, and the relevance- we encourage dialogue and challenge inflicted silence. With social media at the hands of our generation, international communities can command attention to this abuse of human rights simply by spreading awareness. 

grayscale photo of group of people performing rally on street
Photo by Giacomo Ferroni / Unsplash

Unlike hate crimes that often become eminent on social media, the essence of Mexico’s criminal impunity is the manipulation of fear and silence. Consequently, countless stories of femicide and abuse remain unprecedented, and victims are discouraged from coming forward. As an international community, we hold the responsibility of lending our attention to the deserving and brave women protesting in Mexico, and various other Latin American countries. As quoted by many in protest this International Women’s Day; “On March 8th don’t congratulate us, join our fight.”

Feature Image: Michelle Ding / Unsplash