Last year, I wrote an article called Are Victims Ever to Blame? I talked about how I have been raised in a society that perpetrates ‘rape culture’. Women are taught to avoid getting raped instead of men being taught not to rape. Victims are routinely blamed for sexual violence.
It feels like the perfect time to write a new post on this topic. For those of you who don’t know, Mexico is experiencing a feminist revolution. On this year’s International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, thousand marched in Mexico City demanding justice and a safer country.
Mexican women are fed up with the fact that 9 of us are killed every day.
We are also fed up with the fact that at least 6 out of 10 women have faced a violent encounter. Of these, 41.3% were of sexual nature. And because it’s the only thing we can do, we protest.
The media is encouraging victim blaming. There has been a total lack of empathy shown towards these anti-violence protests. Graffiti art painted on city monuments by protestors has received far greater indignation than the gender-based violence we are fighting against. In fact, to correct myself, there has actually been indignation about the grafitti. The vast majority of the population doesn’t seem to care about the violence their wives, daughters, sisters and mothers face every single day.
I listen to a lot of women discrediting the movement taking place in Mexico and it makes my skin crawl. Victim blaming hasn’t changed one bit since I wrote that post last year. We are going to be fighting this battle for many years to come.
The government is not paying attention to one of the biggest security threats faced by our country. If this is the only way to get their attention, then so be it. I also listen to men dismissing the protests and think how I would love to be in their shoes for just one second. I would love to know how it feels not to be scared of being raped, burned, kidnapped or murdered because of my gender.
We need to join together and demand that this ends now. All of us. Privilege must not make you immune to empathy.
I support my feminist sisters because I am terrified to go out on the street alone. I support them because I fear taking a cab by myself and because every time I go out I experience sexual harassment. And I support the feminist revolution in Mexico because paint comes off monuments and statues, but the 3,578 women brutally murdered since 2015 alone are never coming back.
Last weekend, women followed the Marea Verde and took over the streets of Mexico. Our goal? To demand laws that respect and protect our reproductive rights.
What is the Marea Verde?
‘Marea Verde’ literally means ‘green wave’, but that doesn’t explain the full meaning. There is much more behind those two words. Marea Verde is a feminist movement advocating for the decriminalization of abortion. Women deserve the right to choose if and when they want to become mothers – and to make that choice without fear.
First, it is important to understand that in Mexico, not all women have access to sex education. Furthermore, many women live in fear of violence, and then there are the women who do not feel ready, or simply do not desire motherhood.
Supporters of the Marea Verde movement carry green scarves tied on bags, purses, backpacks, etc. as a symbol of change. Each time women mobilize for this cause, wrists, necks, heads, walls and whole streets turn green.
In Latin America, like the rest of the world, lawmakers have historically been mostly men – so we continue to live in systems created by and for them. In many countries, women have begun to win equality in representation and decision-making. Systems should belong to both men and women, but still there is a long way to go.
The background of the Green Wave is extensive, but it has received more attention since 2018 when huge movements to decriminalize abortion took place in Argentina. Although it came close to becoming a reality, the Senate eventually voted against changes in the law. The news was heartbreaking for all of us who followed the Argentinian fight. The disappointment hurt our pride, fueled our anger and led the Green Wave to spread all over Latin America.
September 28 is the Day of Global Action for Legal and Safe Abortion, otherwise known as the Day for the Decriminalization of Abortion. The goal is to make the problem visible and demand the recognition of abortion as a right. #GritoGlobalPorAbortoLegal (Global Shoutout for Legal Abortion) gathers Latin American feminists, collectives and allies in an annual march to demand laws in favor of women’s reproductive rights.
Lawmakers need to add our needs to their agenda. All women need the freedom to choose to become mothers and the freedom to choose not to. Abortions happen even when there are laws against it. Are we willing to accept that the only option is to be forced to be a mother? The outcomes of this include abandoned and neglected children, women dying because of unsafe abortions or women going to jail.
“(…) Legal restrictions, together with other barriers, mean many women induce abortion themselves or seek abortion from unskilled providers. The legal status of abortion has no effect on a woman’s need for an abortion, but it dramatically affects her access to safe abortion.”
This matters because worldwide, an estimated 25 million unsafe abortions occur each year. 97% of these occur in developing countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. We are protesting a global public health issue.
We need to break the myths that limit and hurt women’s freedom. It is not okay to impose moral rules and religious beliefs over what should be a human right. Safe abortions do not kill women. In the contrary, they empower women through their independence and autonomy.
What’s happening in Mexico?
The Marea Verde took over Mexico last weekend. There are many reasons why we need a movement to raise women’s voices and put pressure on our legislators here. For the past 12 years, Mexico City was the only place where women could access a legal and safe abortion. Recently, Oaxaca decriminalized abortion too, which is a step forward.
In Puebla, there are lawmakers who support the pro-choice cause, but Congress keeps delaying the votes. In the past few years, at least 1183 women from this state travelled to Mexico City to get an abortion. The situation, including teenage pregnancy and violence against women, is challenging and complex, but we keep moving for change.
Women are complete human beings, whether they are mothers or not. Motherhood should be a personal decision. It is our right to choose what happens to our bodies. This is why we are turning our cities green and asking for sex education, contraception, and legal abortion.
Anyone, anywhere, anytime can join the ‘Marea Verde’ movement. Being pro-choice means being pro-women. We can achieve change, step by step, by informing ourselves, choosing representatives who are truly advocates for human rights, supporting each other as women and by proactively promoting a society governed with a gender perspective.
Diana Meneses took over the Girls’ Globe instagram Stories on September 28 from Puebla, Mexico. Watch her takeover here.
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.
Mexico is among the 20 worst countries in the world to be a woman, according to the 2019 US News & World Report.
This says a lot about the country’s social dynamic. There’s a lack of justice, human rights, safety and equality. Truly, there’s a lot of work to do.
Most recent estimates warn that up to 9 women in Mexico are killed every day and many more suffer violence. The data is scary. What’s even scarier is that the Mexican justice system allows impunity. Safety and security in the country is not good enough for anyone, and for women it is particularly bad.
The Mexican government ‘try’ not to ignore this issue. Thanks to international attention and efforts, Mexico has shown growing commitment to preventing violence against women. We do have some laws in place, such as Ley General de Acceso de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia (General Law on Women’s Access to a Life Free of Violence). This law includes an interesting and unique mechanism – referred to as the ‘gender alert’.
“The gender alert is a mechanism for the protection of women’s human rights, unique in the world (…) It consists in a set of emergency governmental actions to confront and eradicate feminicide violence and / or the existence of a comparative grievance that limits the full exercise of the human rights of women, in a given territory.”
The goal is to guarantee safety for women in areas where violence is particularly pervasive. The problem? It’s not a preventive policy. There are multiple risks facing women and girls every day and yet our authorities wait until things are out of control to activate the alert.
The ‘gender alert’ could do so much more if it were used differently.
Things are not getting better. Femicides continue. Violence continues. Women and society at large are begging authorities to take real action.
There is no way to pretend the ‘gender alert’ is effective. It has now been activated in more than 13 states. We continue to activate this policy in more and more states, while ignoring the causes and reasons. We must innovate and commit to finding solutions to gender violence in Mexico.
Sex education is the teaching of knowledge and understanding of our bodies in their natural sexuality. It’s important for many reasons. Many privileged sectors of society have access to this knowledge and understanding, but in many parts of the world, it can’t be taken for granted.
There is a huge problem with sex education worldwide.
In the United States, a survey showed that of 1000 participants between 18 and 29 years, only 33% reported having had some sex education. In the United Kingdom, a similar poll proved that from the same number of participants, 16-17 years old, only 45% felt confident to define their sex education as ‘good’ or ‘very good’.
Meanwhile, in South Africa, the adolescent pregnancy rate is 30%. Mexico has the highest rate of teen pregnancies among the 34 member countries of the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD).
Sex education simply means teaching young people to know how their bodies work and how to take care of them.
A sex education of quality provides us with the tools to respect our own bodies and the bodies of other people. It enables us to be conscious of the respect sexuality deserves, to prevent sickness, and to value the importance of open, shame-free dialogue.
Sex education should be part of every education. Sadly, many cultures still think that sex education is not a priority matter. Many people believe it shouldn’t be included in basic education because for them, talking about sex is a synonym for shame.
Consistent, high-quality sex education must not be only an option.
The importance of the subject goes beyond the individual. It matters deeply because a correct education can actually save lives. According to The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), sex educations is:
“[…] teaching and learning aspects of sexuality. It aims to equip children and young people with knowledge, skills, attitudes and values that will empower them to realize their health, well-being and dignity; develop respectful social and sexual relationships…”
Sex education can:
Prevent sexually transmitted diseases
Provide knowledge of how to use contraceptive methods
Prevent unwanted pregnancies
Create understanding of the menstrual cycle
Reduce stigma and shame
A thorough sex education also gives young people an understanding of the boundaries of their body’s intimate space. This helps them to identify sexual abuse.
With the correct information, people are more able to make responsible decisions.
Sex education must be a right. It is about more than just sexual life. Education helps young people to take decisions about their bodies, health and lives in their own hands. This can, in turn, create a better lifestyle for all.
It’s important to visualize the body as the natural thing that it is. If parents and textbooks would teach about the naturality of our bodies, it would be easier for people to demand respect over their own.
In the world I envisage for the future, everyone will receive high quality sex education. They’ll understand what sex is about, and there won’t be more fear or taboo. No child, woman or man will be limited in speaking about sexuality as a personal and social priority.
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Today, my period came a couple of days earlier than usual so it caught me off guard at work. I asked a co-worker if she had a pad or tampon I could borrow. She handed me a case that she expected me to take to the bathroom and return.
Instead, I opened it and took out the pad. She looked at me and asked, “don’t you mind walking around with it?” I replied, “I don’t, it’s perfectly natural.” When I returned to my desk I started thinking…why is being in your period still frowned upon? God forbid someone hears you say the word ‘menstruation’, because it is ‘rude’ to talk about the topic in public.
It’s 2019 and the cashier at the drug store still looks at me strangely when I buy tampons and say no thank you when she offers me a plastic bag. How dare I walk down the street without hiding my malign purchase?
This experience I had at work came at a very convenient moment since last week the documentary Period. End of Sentencewon an Oscar. This brilliant documentary shows us how women in rural India fight for menstrual equality. But our sisters in India aren’t the only ones battling with this issue.
At least 500 million women and girls globally lack space and supplies for handling their periods.
In Mexico, where 44% of our women live in poverty, many don’t even have access to decent period care, let alone healthcare supplies. This lack of healthcare access causes them to live in hygiene crisis and at risk of infection.
In some countries, menstrual supplies are no longer taxed and in others they are totally free of cost. Governments needs to be on our side with these initiatives so women from more vulnerable social situations don’t have to choose between food on their plate or menstrual supplies.
As women, we need to empower other women to speak freely about their periods without embarrassment or shame.
We need to speak our minds when we are faced with stigma and taboo.
Men need to stop ignoring or repelling us whenever we talk about menstruation and get involved in listening to what this process means to us and how we get through it.
It’s 2019. Menstruation is natural. Let’s end period taboo once and for all.