A woman holds a pink cross during a protest to mark International Women's Day in Mexico City

A woman holds a pink cross during a protest to mark International Women's Day in Mexico City on Sunday. (Raquel Cunha/Reuters)

'Femicide is the tip of the iceberg': Mexican women hold national strike to protest rising gender violence

Government figures show an average of 10 women killed per day in Mexico in 2019
CBC Radio · Mar 09, 2020

Women in Mexico are staging a one-day general strike Monday to protest gender-based violence, but one participant isn't sure how long it will be before she feels safer on the streets.

"I find it hard to be confident about that," said Raquel Lopez, who works for an NGO in Mexico City but will not be attending work Monday.

As a woman in Mexico "you're constantly looking around you, aware of your surroundings, trying to avoid certain interactions — especially with men," she told The Current's Matt Galloway.

But she said "at the same time, this is why we're doing this."

"Hopefully sometime in the future — maybe for our daughters or our nieces — we can start to change this."
Male employees attend customers after their female colleagues stayed away from work during the A Day Without Women protest Monday in Mexico City. (Gustavo Graf/Reuters)

Strike participants will stay away from schools and workplaces Monday, a day after tens of thousands marched through Mexico City to highlight the rising levels of femicide, a specific crime in Mexico where a woman is killed because of her gender.

Cases of femicide have more than doubled over the last five years to more than 1,000 in 2019, according to Mexico's Secretary General of National Public Security. That number is even higher when added to the deaths of women not counted as femicides by police; government figures put the number of women killed in Mexico at an average of 10 per day in 2019.

"I think it's something that we experience since we are very, very young," said Lopez.

"We start to learn certain things to do: never say that you are home alone ... even as an adult, planning your day around not being in the street, walking alone at night."

"Sometimes that's not enough, because in broad daylight I've had men come up to me and grab me."
President 'misunderstood' movement

Lopez hopes the strike action can start a conversation about stopping the violence.
Women walk past an elementary school, closed in solidarity with a nationwide women's strike in protest at gender-based violence. (Gustavo Graf/Reuters)

"It starts really with just the general culture of misogyny and disrespect, and this idea that they have control over our bodies and the way they just undervalue women in general," she said.

"I am hopeful that this will bring about at least more conversation, and hopefully this will also bring around a better response from the authorities, which for now have not really responded, I think, in a positive way."

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has faced criticism for his response to the violence, which he has said is being manipulated by the media and his own political rivals, while saying the solution lies in a return to traditional morality.

The president "has misunderstood the feminist movement," said Maricruz Ocampo, a feminist activist and human rights lawyer in Mexico City.

The problem existed before he came to power, she explained, and their protest is about wider structural inequality rather than the actions of one government.

"This is not just femicide. Femicide is the tip of the iceberg, and so we're going for the whole enchilada," she said.

"We're fighting for every other right: the right to get to work for equal pay, the right to walk on our streets without being bothered, the right to get into a university, the right to actually just be us."

She hopes the protest will change the president's mind.

"It's calculated 6.6 million women will stay at home," she said. "So if that doesn't make you think, then I don't know what will."

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