Updated: Dec 31, 2020
In the streets of Mexico, women wave bloodied palms in the air and bare signs that read “¡No nos mates!” — “stop killing us.” They wear ski masks, make signs in the shapes of crosses, and hold pictures of their countless sisters who have gone missing. The protests take the form of a women’s march, but at its core, it is a fight for survival.
Mexico is predicted to have its highest homicide rate in years, with women at the forefront of this violence. While the murder of women is on the rise in the country, Mexico’s president Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (also referred to as AMLO) denies claims that women are being disproportionately killed. “A record 26,171 emergency calls about violence against women were made in March according to the government data."
As reported by ABC, there were 386 reported accounts of femicide as of March 14th. This statistic does not measure how many women were murdered in Mexico since the beginning of the year, but represents how many women were killed because of their gender. Femicide is a kind of gender-based violence wherein a woman is killed because of her gender. Despite the rise in cases of femicide in Mexico, this is not a new problem for the county.
Many of these murders are extremely violent- some victims have been stabbed over 100 times. The perpetrators want to do more than kill, they want to make it so that the women do not exist. The extreme violence exhibited in many cases of femicide is consistent with the ontological theory of overkill, wherein the murder is committed with excess force and violence, more than is needed to actually kill someone. This is another way for investigators to separate murder from femicide- signs that victims experienced excessive trauma can be linked back to the misognyistic intent of the killing.
Yet, the Mexican government continues to deny accountability. This is true for all crimes in Mexico, as 93 percent of all crimes committed in 2018 were never reported or investigated in the country. Complacency is to blame for the rise in cases and for the loss of so many lives due to femicide. The only major stride that the government has made to satisfy the demands of protestors is the recent decision to make femicide a separate crime.
Femicide and similar gender-based violence is known to persist in countries that fail to prosecute perpetrators. Mexico and countries with similar high rates of feminine violence have deeply rooted police corruption, a system that does not seek punishment for criminals. Impunity in the face of femicide — even with calls for justice from activists — allows these murders to continue.
Journalism has been the most accurate at capturing the full scope of the problem; the Mexicon government continually reports false or skewed statistics. For example, the National Map of Femicides in Mexico reported 405 cases of femicide between March and April, compared to the government’s record of only 144 cases. This is what is seen continuously in the governments of countries where femicide rates are rising- denial of the problem. Beyond the actual crime rates, government officals do not want to be held accountable. They find ways to cover up the horrific murders of the citizens, ignore their cries for help, and fail to produce actual change or justice. President Obrador claims that the rise in emergency calls related to gender-based violence are fake. He also asserts that "neoliberal government model" of the past is to blame for the increasing femicide rate.
2020 has seen the most amount of civil unrest from citizens calling for Obrador to stop his apathy. Women in Mexico have began using slogans such as ‘AMLO is killing us.’ The murder of Ingrid Escamilla has sparked outrage in particular. Her boyfriend held a demonstration on February 15th, 2020 after the press leaked photos of Escamilla's mutilated body. Although, the large scale protest held in Tijuana failed to bring about any change.
This will not be the last protest, and surely not the last case of femicide. After years of the crisis becoming more deadly, Mexican citizens are left with no hope because of Obrador's continuous denial of the magnitude of the issue. For many victim's families, they fear they will never see justice. Obrador has proved that the only way that the stories of these unjust murders will be told is through the press.
Izzy Burgess is a pink-haired librarian currently residing in Boise, ID. She is a queer feminist activist. At the Incandescent Review, she serves as the Critical Writing Manager. She is easily distracted by shiny objects.