Protesters clash with police in Mexico City on Feb. 14. (Pedro Pardo/AFP via Getty Images)

'This is our everyday Mexico': Brutal murders of woman and girl fuel mass protests

Protest organizer Erika Yamada says the government must confront systemic issues
CBC Radio • Posted: Feb 21, 2020

The gruesome murders of a woman and a young girl have pushed Mexicans into the streets, with protesters criticizing the government for not doing enough to prevent and punish violence against women.

Ingrid Escamilla, a 25-year-old woman, was stabbed to death late last week. Police released photos of her mutilated body and they were published by local newspapers.

Days later, seven-year-old Fatima Aldrighetti was abducted from school. Her remains were later found stuffed in a garbage bag.

"This is our everyday Mexico," said Erika Yamada, one of the organizers of this week's protests and member of the feminist group Colectiva Digna Hijas.

"Yesterday a baby was killed, and another girl in Puebla was murdered just like Fatima.... It happens all the time."

Feminist groups started demonstrating in August 2019 to protest the rise in the number of women killed, Yamada told As It Happens host Carol Off.

More than 1,000 women and girls were killed in Mexico last year, according to the government's records — a 10 per cent increase from 2018.

I think everyone in Mexico knows girls and women who are victimized, who have been victims of rape or even murder. Yamada says protesters are calling on the government to better train police to respond to violence against women and to stop "re-victimizing" complainants.

"It involves training public officials with gender perspective. It's internal institutional work, not just the legislative."

Amid the recent surge in protests, Mexico's lawmakers in lower Congress approved a reform that would increase the prison sentence from 60 years to 65 — for femicide, which has a specific definition in the Mexican justice system.

"Femicide is killing a woman for gender-based reasons, for being a woman. And normally the victim shows signs of sexual violence, strangling, torture, burning, lacerations," Yamada explained. "And normally the bodies are exposed, naked or in public places."

But Yamada says this policy, which still needs to be passed in the Senate, would do nothing to reduce violence against women because it doesn't address underlying structural problems.

For one, she says, in Mexico police and prosecutors rarely pursue femicide cases, "unless they get media attention," she said.

According to Yamada, Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has framed the increase in violence against women in Mexico as a morality issue.

"So he's proposed to moralize and purify the country alongside religious groups and churches as a solution to stop the violence against girls and women, and we feminists say that is completely unacceptable," she said.

"The sensors not only attack the secular state but also put women and girls into more danger by showing a lack of willingness as an empathy with us.

"He has to work public policies to eradicate the violence," she said.

Yamada says this fight is personal for her, like so many others on the front lines of these protests.

"I think everyone in Mexico knows girls and women who are victimized, who have been victims of rape or even murder," she said.

Going forward, Yamada says protesters are looking for the government to work with them.

"We want the attention of the government," she said. "We need specific strategies and actions."

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