Women in the Oaxaca municipality of San Pedro Quiatoni aren’t permitted to vote because “they don’t know how.”
That was the opinion of San Pedro’s customs and traditions council in April, but state officials have signaled they are not in agreement.
The Oaxaca Electoral Institute has declared invalid the elections held earlier this year after the municipality refused to let women vote, despite having been warned last January that women must be allowed to participate.
The Zapotec community of about 10,000 people, located 125 kilometers east of Oaxaca city, is governed under ancestral indigenous customs and traditions, known in electoral and political parlance as usos y costumbres.
In March, the state election authorities met with the local assembly members, all men, who were informed that women have the right to vote and run for office. But electoral officials weren’t able to finish the discussion because they were expelled from the meeting.
“According to their customs and traditions, women can’t participate in elections because there is no pay for those in public office and furthermore those positions would be too difficult for them, as most women in San Pablo don’t have the necessary education,” said a report by the electoral authority.
Municipal authorities did discuss the matter with local women, but only after the elections were over. And the municipal administration said the women didn’t want to vote.
The electoral authority said those discussions should have taken place before the election.
Even if the people of San Pablo Quiatoni “are not used to women voting, and much less being part of the government . . . we find it appropriate to declare the election invalid,” said the institute.
The municipality will have to hold new elections and guarantee the conditions necessary for women to exercise their vote.
Just last week, the women of Guevuea de Humboldt, also in Oaxaca, were able to vote for their local authorities for the first time after winning a three-year legal battle.
Last December a San Pablo Quiatoni resident was detained after he took photographs of a municipal assembly where local authorities were being chosen. He was fined 2,500 pesos and the cell phone with which he took the photos was destroyed.