Anger among women over gender violence and a perception that government is doing little to address the issue has been surfacing once again, spreading across Mexico into at least eight states this week.
Female activists in Mexico City demonstrated their anger with a boisterous protest on Monday at which they called for justice with an antigrita, or anti-cry, to draw attention to the security situation for women in Mexico.
It was their own version of the grito, the September 15 cry of independence that celebrates the anniversary of the start of the independence struggle against Spanish forces.
And it was was heard beyond the historic center of the capital where their protest took place.
Women in Chihuahua, Quintana Roo, Jalisco, Morelos, Baja California, Tamaulipas, Oaxaca and Puebla followed suit and mounted their own protests on Tuesday and Wednesday with antigritas and declarations that there was little to celebrate.
In Chihuahua, about 50 women managed to get past police and break down security barriers to enter Plaza Hidalgo in the state capital where Governor Javier Corral was presiding over a cry of independence ceremony on Tuesday night.
Shouting “murderer!” they asked him what he was celebrating given that more than 200 women have been victims of femicide in the northern border state this year.
In Quintana Roo, women protested Tuesday night at state Human Rights Commission offices in Chetumal, Cancún and Tulum, where they called for justice for daughters, friends and mothers who were murdered or disappeared.
In Guadalajara, hundreds of women called for justice with an antigrita as they marched through the city streets on Wednesday afternoon.
As they passed the metropolitan cathedral the women chanted, “Remove your doctrine from our vaginas, get your rosaries off our ovaries,” according to a report by the newspaper La Jornada.
In Cuernavaca, Morelos, members of several feminist collectives protested at the state Attorney General’s Office where they declared that they were fed up with the violence women face in the state and the country as a whole.
They said they had nothing to celebrate despite it being Independence Day, saying they were all victims of successive bad governments.
“We’re tired of government authorities not assuming their responsibility [and] being incapable of guaranteeing our security,” the women said.
Members of women’s collectives in Tijuana, Baja California, also said that they had nothing to celebrate as they gathered outside a cultural center on Tuesday night. The women graffitied part of the spherical Tijuana Cultural Center and its forecourt with messages that denounced gender violence and the government.
In Tamaulipas, women protested in Ciudad Victoria and Reynosa on Tuesday because they were not consulted about a new law that sets harsher penalties for cyber-harassment and the online dissemination of intimate photographs. They argued that the law doesn’t do enough to protect women from online abuse.
The protests over the past two days came as activists in Mexico City continue to occupy the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH) in the capital’s downtown. The Ni Una Menos (Not One Woman Less) Collective took over the building two weeks ago and converted it into a shelter for victims of gender-based violence.
Monday’s antigrita event, attended by at least 300 protesters, was held outside the CNDH headquarters, located a few blocks from Mexico City’s central square.
According to The Guardian newspaper, one woman whose daughter and sister have disappeared held up documents from their CNDH case files as she denounced the authorities’ lack of action against those responsible for the crimes.
“I did this correctly,” she said of the effort she made to follow official protocols. “I sat here for hours and nothing happened,” she shouted before tearing the documents up and throwing them off the CNDH building’s second floor balcony. “The institutions can go to hell, because they don’t respect people’s human rights.”
About 10 women per day were killed in Mexico last year, while the murder of a 7-year-old girl earlier this year and the particularly brutal killing of a 25-year-old woman by her partner – as well as a newspaper’s publication of her mutilated body – triggered massive protests and Mexico’s first ever national women’s strike in March.
A lot of the anger then and now has focused on López Obrador, who has refused to acknowledge the full extent of the crisis.
In May he claimed that 90% of calls made by women to denounce domestic violence and seek help are false, and after the takeover of the CNDH building claimed without evidence that the activists have a partisan political agenda and are backed by “conservatives,” a byword the president uses for his political opponents.
López Obrador also criticized the activists for defacing portraits of erstwhile presidents that hung in the CNDH building, taking particular umbrage at the embellishment of revolutionary hero Francisco Madero’s likeness with lipstick and an anti-police message.
The mother of a 7-year-old girl who was unable to get authorities to investigate abuse against her daughter promptly hit back at the president with a response that went viral.
“The president was indignant about a portrait – but why wasn’t he indignant when my daughter was abused?” Erika Martínez asked.
Emboldened by the activists’ success in seizing control of the CNDH headquarters in Mexico City, a group of women last Thursday took over the offices of the México state Human Rights Commission in Ecatepec, a municipality that borders the capital that is notorious for violence against women and crime in general.
But in the early hours of Friday morning, police entered the building and “beat the women and children with them,” The Guardian said, before taking them in unmarked vehicles to a prosecutor’s office in another México state municipality.