A feminist collective has taken over the Mexico City headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) and turned it into a shelter for victims of gender-based violence.
The Ni Una Menos (Not One Woman Less) Collective seized the historic center offices of the CNDH on Thursday and later knocked down the building’s sign and replaced it with a banner that reads, “Ni Una Menos Mexico Shelter House.”
The collective’s members claim the CNDH has failed to defend women’s rights and provide adequate assistance to those in need.
The commission’s Mexico City headquarters are “now our property, we’re not going to hand it over, it’s a squat for victims,” said Yesenia Zamudio, a collective member whose daughter was murdered in 2016.
She told the newspaper Reforma that victims of gender abuse who have nowhere to live will be welcomed at the CNDH offices, located a few blocks from Mexico City’s zócalo, or central square, on Cuba Street.
“We’re more suitable … for these premises than the parasitic people who were here before. We’re going to provide … legal advice and even accompany [women] to prosecutor’s offices,” Zamudio said in a separate interview with the newspaper El Universal.
She said that women from other parts of the country who have suffered sexual abuse as well as family members of victims of femicide and other gender crimes will also be welcomed.
“We want them to come with the peace of mind that they won’t have to pay for accommodation and that we’ll accompany them so that their demands and needs are met,” Zamudio said.
According to members of the collective, about 100 women have sought legal advice and psychological help at the CNDH offices since the takeover late last week. Legal and medical professionals who belong to the group are attending to the requests for help, they said.
Some 30 people who are direct or indirect victims of abuse are currently staying on the second floor of the CNDH offices, the members said.
One woman who made her way to the human rights headquarters-cum-shelter is Karla García, who told El Universal that authorities failed to follow up her complaint against an ex-partner who abused her and even tried to run her over in his car.
“The despair of not having results is what makes me come here. … Between us [victims of gender abuse] we understand each other, we know the needs we have and that we must support each other. If the government isn’t doing anything, we’re going to show that we can defend ourselves,” she said.
García said she was afraid that her ex-partner might try to harm or abduct her 2-year-old son.
“I feel stronger here knowing that there are many of us. They [the authorities] ignore me individually but they’ll have to take notice of so many of us,” she said.
Another woman who arrived on Calle Cuba is Neztli Granados, who said that her ex-partner abducted her daughter about six weeks ago. She also said that authorities, including the CNDH, failed to look into the case.
“There’s no other choice, the CNDH has never spoken out in favor of our rights, the rights of victims of femicide and of children. We have no choice but to form a front and [try to] seek justice,” Granados said.
On Monday, members of the feminist collective and victims of gender violence called for the resignation of CNDH president Rosario Piedra, who was also criticized late last year after she claimed to be unaware that journalists had been killed during the current government’s term. (At least 13 journalists had been murdered when she made the remark just after she was sworn in as the new human rights chief last November).
“The head of this organization hasn’t met with us even for one minute,” said Zamudio. “If she can’t manage this work, [she should] resign. We demand justice.”
Activists said that if the CNDH doesn’t attend to their demands, they will call for a takeover of all its offices across the country.
“We’ll continue taking over [CNDH] premises because this [building] won’t be sufficient for so many families,” Zamudio said.
El Universal reported that the federal Interior Ministry was seeking to enter into dialogue with the disgruntled collective members so as to restore government control of the CNDH offices.