Women in Mexico to ‘disappear’ in protest against rising femicide rate

Staying indoors is intended to ‘simulate’ death of women, group says

Women across Mexico have been protesting against femicide in recent months
Women across Mexico have been protesting against femicide in recent months

Don’t go out. Don’t shop. Don’t go to school. Don’t consume. The urging from women’s activists is clear, but it remains unclear whether Mexico will really go a day without women on Monday.

After a year of increasingly heated and frequent protests over gender violence in Mexico, the call for women to strike has captured growing interest in recent weeks.

It has also generated an intense debate about whether becoming “invisible” for a day will be a political statement, a diluted effort because some bosses have authorised paid time off or an ineffective way to push for change.

The discussion has gone beyond the usual circles of feminist collectives, public figures and social networks to become a conversation topic in the streets of Mexico, even for those who don’t feel empowered to skip work.

Marta Patricia Ramirez, a housewife, said the national call to strike has inspired her to take action in her own neighbourhood. She has organised an event on Monday with neighbours to discuss harassment and abuse because one of them is “having a bad time”.

Jesica Solis, a dentist, won’t open her office. Marta Perez told her husband that she won’t do any household chores on Monday and that their 18-year-old daughter will stay off social media.

A Facebook group called “A Day Without Women” has more than 320,000 Mexican members who debate and inform each other about the possible consequences of not going to the office, hospital or school that day.

A message to the group says a woman staying indoors on Monday is meant to “simulate” her death – to show those close to her what would happen if she were to suddenly disappear or die at the hands of a man, like the thousands who are killed each year in Mexico.

Government data say 3,825 women met violent deaths last year, 7 per cent more than in 2018. That works out to about 10 women slain each day in Mexico, making it one of the most dangerous countries in the world for females. Thousands more have gone missing without a trace in recent years.

Murders of women in Mexico are often accompanied by sexual violence and stunning brutality. Some women are burned. Some are mutilated. The ferocity of the killings has earned them a special label: femicide. Very few cases result in convictions.

“We don’t want more simulation, we want action,” said Maria de la Luz Estrada, coordinator of the National Citizen’s Observatory of Femicide. “Enough already.”

Ms Estrada expects more than 20,000 women to march against the violence in Mexico City on Sunday, which is International Women’s Day, with smaller marches and demonstrations throughout the country. She also endorses the strike.

“We are going to strike out of indignation but also as a memorial and because we hope this can change,” she said.

Women in countries such as Argentina and Chile have staged strikes in previous years and will do so again Monday.

In Mexico, major banks, media companies and law firms have joined the call to action. The Coparmex business confederation encouraged its more than 36,000 member companies across the country to take part.

Some private schools have cancelled bus services that depend on female nannies to walk children to their front doors, and some enlisted fathers of schoolchildren to give classes in the absence of female teachers.

It appears public hospitals and schools that heavily depend on female personnel will open, perhaps with fewer employees on hand.

President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador at first accused conservative political opponents of being behind the strike as a way to criticise his government. But he later invited federal employees, including men, to participate in the strike, promising no reprisals.

Not all women support the action. Some say it is pointless or part of a feminist agenda that seeks to legalise abortion throughout the Roman Catholic country.

“I’m not interested in the strike, it won’t change anything. Men haven’t changed in years,” said Maria Isabel Garcia, who works as a cleaner.

Veronica Tebar, an accountant, said she was unsure what to do Monday. She is put off by efforts to seek “permission” to strike, saying the idea is to show employers what happens when a valued worker doesn’t show up.

Millions of Mexican women with precarious employment can’t afford to lose a day’s pay, much less their jobs, and don’t have partners to take on childcare duties for a day.

“I’m a single mother with two girls in my charge – I can’t rest,” Teresa Laguna said while cleaning meat from a bone at the butcher’s shop where she works. “But strike for us, you who can.”

Associated Press

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