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Protesters light a fire Friday at the Insurgentes Metrobús station.

Mayor apologizes to protesters, pardons vandalism that followed marches

Activists denounce government’s criminalization of the women

Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum has apologized for describing last week’s protests against gender violence as acts of “provocation” and pledged that authorities will not seek to prosecute women who vandalized buildings and public places.

Dana Corres, an activist and human rights defender, said the mayor made the apology and promise at a closed-door meeting yesterday with 40 women from a range of collectives that participated in the August 12 and 16 protests.

Thousands of women took to the streets last Monday and Friday to demand the prosecution of police officers accused of raping a teenage woman and a 17-year-old girl, and to urge the government to do more to prevent gender violence.

The glass doors of the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office were smashed during the former protest while at the conclusion of the latter, the Insurgentes Metrobús station was trashed, a fire was set inside a police station and the base of the Angel of Independence monument was defaced with graffiti.

After both protests, the government said that it wouldn’t fall into the “provocation” of using force against the protesters, which it charged is “what they are seeking.”

Women criticized the use of the word “provocation,” noting that it is sometimes used to blame victims for sexual assaults committed against them.

At the meeting with Sheinbaum, activists denounced the government’s “mistaken narrative” about the protests and its criminalization of the women who participated in them, Corres said.

The government’s characterization of the protests gave rise to threats on social media against the women who took part, the activists told the mayor.

According to Corres, Sheinbaum accepted that describing the protests as “provocation” was wrong.

The mayor said she will make a statement this week calling for the threats and aggression against women to stop and “also committed to sitting down with other groups of affected women as well as family members of victims [of gender-based violence],” Corres said.

She explained that the mayor gave her word that the Mexico City Attorney General’s Office has not opened and will not open any investigations into the acts of vandalism committed last week even though the government said in a statement Friday that it had already done so.

Participants in Friday’s march spray-paint a bus in Mexico City.

However, the Sheinbaum administration remains committed to prosecuting those who attacked journalists covering Friday’s protest.

In an interview with the newspaper Milenio, the mayor said her government will not criminalize social protests and pledged that she is committed to taking “effective action” aimed at the eradication of violence against women.

Sheinbaum conceded that public policy in the area is insufficient and called on civil society to collaborate with the government to develop strategies that will contribute to making the capital a safe city for women.

“The door to the government is open to citizens for dialogue and always will be . . . The demand [for the eradication of gender violence] has to be addressed and public policy is needed for that,” she said.

President López Obrador expressed support for the mayor’s actions, telling his morning press conference she “acted well although the conservatives will say the situation requires a firm hand because that’s how they are — with all respect — very hypocritical. But it is not necessary to use force.”

According to Human Rights Watch, Mexican laws “do not adequately protect women and girls against domestic and sexual violence.”

In a report published this year, the organization said that provisions in Mexican law, such as those that make the severity of punishment for sexual assaults contingent on the supposed chastity of the victim, “contradict international standards.”

Source: Milenio (sp) 

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