Content note: this post contains references to rape
On August 16, thousands of women marched in various cities across Mexico. One particular case may have triggered them, but these marches were an answer to the systematic violence against women and girls in our country. If you’ve seen news or photos through social media recently, you might be wondering what really sparked this mass-mobilization across the Mexico.
We are writing this article to inform you and encourage you to get involved in the Mexican fight against gender-based violence. Here are the facts.
On August 6, news started circulating of a 17-year-old girl making a legal complaint against four policemen who raped her in a patrol car in Azcapotzalco, Mexico City. Over the next week, the case went viral on social media because security forces were directly involved in the crime. Public outrage escalated due to the lack of professionalism in the response from local authorities.
On Monday 12th, around 300 women marched to the attorney’s office. Their placards read: “No nos cuidan, nos violan” (they don’t look after us, they rape us). The protest was not only to demand the legal prosecution of the policemen involved, but also the strengthening of public policy against gender-based violence, and the correct implementation of the General Law for Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence. This law is supposed to ensure correct practice for any victim presenting a gender-based violence claim.
Later, it was confirmed by the local attorney general’s office (PGJCDMX) that the victim had opted out of the legal process due to a leak of her personal information – including her name and her home address. This left her and her family vulnerable to retaliation.
During the protests, demonstrators smashed the glass door of the PGJCDMX building and sprayed Jesus Orta, Mexico’s local security minister, with pink glitter.
In the midst of all of this, another sixteen-year-old girl was raped by a policeman inside the Museo Archivo de la Fotografía (Museum of Photography) in Mexico City’s historic center, and a 70-year-old woman was sexually assaulted and beaten to death in her house in Iztapalapa, Mexico City. And that’s only in the capital and only the cases that made it to the news.
In fact, from August 17 to 21, at least 17 women have been killed across Mexico.
In response to the demonstrations of August 12, Claudia Sheinbaum, Mexico City’s first female elected mayor, asserted that the protests were “a provocation for local authorities to use force.” She confirmed that an investigation would take place.
Days later, PGJCDMX stated that the victim’s initial statement did not match the now public footage from two security cameras. The same footage from private houses in the area was acquired by the media and shared through various outlets. It was said that the investigation “could not continue” because the girl had opted out of the legal process, and that the officers would be released to their duties.
This further fuelled the outrage. Although the mayor announced that six policemen related to the crime had been suspended, the damage had already been done.
In response, various feminist organizations and groups planned a new march across the country. The ‘glitter protest’ was held on Friday 16 August in Mexico City.
Like many other women across the country, we were part of the glitter protests. Bita marched in the city of Aguascalientes and Mariana marched in Mexico City.
We both agreed that at a time like this, being among women was where we felt the safest. It was only the possibility of retaliation from security forces that we feared.
After the march, a new source of dread appeared. The media response to the rally was to call it vandalism. They criticize the spray painting of the historical monument “El Angel de la Independencia” and focused on the fact that a reporter was attacked (by a man who was later arrested).
Suddenly, the violent ways of the march were all that mattered. In fact, according to DataPopMX, there’s a higher number of posts mentioning the trashing of the monument than the actual rape case.
Some dared to say that “rioting is not the answer.” But in a country where ninewomen are murdered every day, where over 80% of women don’t feel safe, where 56% of the nation is under a Gender Alert, and where girls make up about 40% of sex crime victims, it seems that rioting might be the only way to get anyone to listen.
So here it is: this is why we marched, why we broke glasses and sprayed monuments. Because revolutions can be peaceful, but when they keep killing us and raping us – sometimes all that is left is anger and pain.
Join Mexican women’s fight against gender-based violence and use the hashtags #NoNosCuidanNosViolan and #FuimosTodas to learn more.