By Marti Quintana
Mexico City, Mar 7 (EFE).- Mexico is approaching International Women’s Day with incessant violence against females and more than 1,000 femicides in 2021, as well as failures in the security strategy of a government with such an ambiguous stance on the issue that it is inflaming the women’s movement even more.
Since November 2017, Maria del Carmen Volante has been looking tirelessly for her daughter, Pamela Gallardo, who disappeared at age 23 after attending an electronic music festival with friends in Mexico City.
“The only thing the authorities want is for us mothers to get tired, sick and in the end to die without having found our missing daughters,” she told EFE, referring to the ongoing struggle in Mexico.
Maria del Carmen’s story is just like that of many mothers. They feel neglected by the authorities. Treated like dirt and with no progress in the investigations into disappearances or femicides, the women support one another and it’s their sense of sisterhood and their activism that sustains them.
“They stigmatize things from the moment your daughter disappears. … It took me two years to get to the disappearance investigation. Two years of insisting that Pamela was kidnapped, Pamela was raped. Because, for the authorities, she was gone and missing, (they said she was) someone who wanted to leave the nuclear family,” Volante said in front of the Mexico City roundabout dedicated to Christopher Columbus, now renamed by activists the Women Who Fight Roundabout on the Paseo de la Reforma.
Her pain is just like that of so many women in a country with almost 25,000 missing females, where each day more than 10 women are murdered and which last year officially registered more than 1,000 femicides – that is, women killed because of their gender – an increase of 2.66 percent over the tally for 2020.
In addition, according to figures from the 2016 National Survey on the Dynamic of Household Relationships (Endireh), 66.1 percent of Mexican women have experienced some type of violence during their lives.
As a reflection of the gap existing between men and women, the rate of participation by women in the labor market is 44 percent, while for men the figure is 75 percent.
The inability of the authorities translates into the elevated level of impunity that exists in Mexico, in excess of 95 percent for the majority of crimes.
“A stop must be put to impunity. Because what this does is send a message of permissiveness,” the head of the National Institute for Women (Inmujeres), Nadine Gasman, told EFE, adding that the organization is working hand in hand with prosecutors’ offices.
Nevertheless, the Mexican government has been criticized for the cutbacks in a number of its activities – and Inmujeres has experienced a budget reduction – along with the elimination of some of the entities that disbursed resources to assorted groups and causes.
Gasman said that the general budget to a great degree seeks to narrow the gap in gender inequality with priority programs amounting to more than 232 billion pesos (some $11.5 billion) like universal pensions or scholarships for young people.
But this explanation does not convince the majority of victims of violence or the experts.
“They’ve done away with the budgets for dealing with the problems of violence, health, safety and justice. And so we have a very large amount of impunity,” attorney Patricia Olamendi told EFE.
Olamendi, who was an international consultant to United Nations Women, denounced the cutbacks in – or elimination of – budgets for issues such as women’s shelters, medical attention for cervical-uterine cancer, vaccines to prevent human papillomavirus and even daycare facilities.
From 2019 to date, the feminist movement has become progressively more radicalized, especially after media protests in Mexico City that devolved into clashes and the vandalization of various monuments.
The occupation of the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission, denunciations of police abuse of women, protests broken up with the use of force and the proliferation of accusations of abuse against well-known figures have all served to inflame the issue even more, despite achievements such as greater gender parity in politics and the Mexican Supreme Court ruling that criminalizing abortion is unconstitutional.
Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has fanned the flames with some of his remarks such as his assertion that conservatism lurks behind the movement.
On Monday, the president asked that no “violence” occur at the marches, saying “We have information that they’re preparing with sledgehammers, blowtorches, Molotov cocktails.”