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Women march in Guadalajara last year. Women march in Guadalajara last year.

Authorities used excessive force, sexual violence to silence protesting women: Amnesty

NGO says authorities violated their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly

Amnesty International has accused Mexican authorities of using excessive force and sexual violence against women protesting peacefully against gender-based violence at five protests in 2020.

In a report published Wednesday entitled The (r)age of women: Stigma and violence against women protesters, the human rights-focused, non-governmental organization said that authorities repressed women who attended protests in Guanajuato, Sinaloa, Quintana Roo, México state and Mexico City last year.

The authorities violated their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly by using “unnecessary and excessive force, arbitrary detentions and even sexual violence,” Amnesty International said.

Police even opened fire at a protest in Cancún last November against the femicide of a 20-year-old woman.

“The violent response of the various authorities to the women’s protests violated their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. During the arrests and transfers, police officers spoke to the women using violent and sexualized language, threatened them with sexual violence and subjected them to physical and sexual violence. Many women did not know where they were, who was arresting them or where they were taking them, meaning they were at risk of enforced disappearance,” said Tania Reneaum Panszi, executive director at Amnesty International Mexico.

An officer fires his weapon during a protest last year in Cancún.
An officer fires his weapon during a protest last year in Cancún. Eleven officers are awaiting trial in the case.

“The authorities at various levels of government have stigmatized women’s protests, characterizing them as ‘violent’ with the aim of discrediting their activism and questioning their motives,” she said.

“But make no mistake, these protests are a call for women’s right to live a life free from violence. They are a call to combat the impunity that prevails in thousands of cases of femicide and sexual violence that have caused unimaginable pain for so many families in Mexico.”

Amnesty International said it had concluded that police officers arrested more than a dozen women at protests without properly identifying themselves. It said that police held detainees incommunicado for long periods of time and transported them to police facilities using unusual routes without telling them where they were being taken.

The police actions caused women “intense fear” of becoming victims of enforced disappearance, the organization said.

“Deliberately causing suffering and uncertainty among the protesters about the possibility of being subjected to enforced disappearance is a violation of their right to personal safety and infringes upon the absolute prohibition of torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” Amnesty International said.

The NGO also said it had determined that police officers used sexual violence as a tactic to teach women a lesson about “daring to go out to protest in public and for behaving contrary to gender stereotypes.”

Amnesty said that authorities and some media outlets have stigmatized women’s protests by referring to them as violent.

“This stigmatization has created a hostile environment for women’s right to peaceful assembly that discredits their activism and encourages both authorities and civilians to carry out violence against them,” it said.

The organization issued a plea to the authorities to acknowledge the legitimacy of women’s protests and and to refrain from making stigmatizing statements against protesters.

It urged the authorities to carry out prompt, exhaustive, independent and impartial investigations into claims of sexual violence filed by protesters “in order to ensure that those responsible are brought to justice in fair trials and guarantee comprehensive reparation for the damages to the victims.”

The publication of the organization’s report comes just five days before International Women’s Day, a day on which women will hold marches against gender violence in cities across Mexico.

Mexico News Daily

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