CITY OF MEXICO – Hundreds of women marched in Mexico’s government seat on Monday, some carrying their children, others blowtorches, bats and hammers prepared for a confrontation they hoped would force the country to crack down on violent violence against women.
The protest against International Women’s Day was fueled by anger at President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who backed a politician accused by several women of rape in a country suffering from some of the world’s worst levels of gender-based violence. Despite a split in the ruling party on the issue, Mr Lopez Obrador backed a policy ahead of the June elections.
At least 62 police officers and 19 civilians were injured late Monday night, according to a security branch in Mexico City.
While Mr Lopez Obrador portrays his presidency as part of a populist movement to raise marginalized people in Mexico, women activists say the president is actually ignoring the needs of half the population. On Monday, the president insisted that his government was committed to equality, but critics said not much had been done about violence against women during the government.
In the approximately two years since Mr Lopez Obrador took office, the levels of violence against women have not changed significantly. Last year, an average of 10 women were killed in Mexico every day, and there were about 16,000 rapes. An investigation by a news site Animal Politico found that from 2014 to 2018, only about 5% of all allegations of sexual violence, including rape, led to a criminal conviction.
It was this impunity that infuriated feminists in Mexico, forcing some groups to see violence as a tactic to force the nation to heed their demands.
“We are fighting today so we don’t die tomorrow,” women chanted on Monday as they marched through the city to the National Palace. Others declared, “It’s not my fault, not where I was or what I was wearing.”
Over the weekend, activists painted the barricade around the palace with the names of women killed by their husbands, boyfriends or alleged admirers.
Yvette Granados, 49, and her 16-year-old daughter, Maria Puente, attended the protest together on Monday. They said they were angry about their daily fight against sexual violence, which many say is a common experience for every woman in Mexico. A mother and daughter take turns listing the attacks they say they have suffered over the years: they are caught on the street, on the subway or at a party, and their husbands light their genitals in public.
Although Ms. Granados disagreed with the use of violence as a tactic to continue the feminist movement, she complained that it seemed to be the only thing that made the nation notice their long-standing struggle for equality.
“I have already seen it in history in the peaceful campaigns of women – they did not give any results,” said Ms. Granados. “I think these things make governments and people turn around. And even if I don’t agree, life has shown me that only then do they turn to see these situations. “
This year’s protests, which cumulatively involved several thousand women, were much smaller than in 2020, when tens of thousands appeared.
Some women cited the coronavirus as the reason for the lower turnout.
Protesters filled the streets of the capital last year after several brutal attacks on women sparked public outrage, including the murder of a 7-year-old girl who was found unearthed in a body bag.
A day later, tens of thousands of women stayed home from work in a national strike to protest the violence.
Mr Lopez Obrador has repeatedly minimized the protest movement or accused feminist groups of political motivation.
He also angered many women in Mexico by refusing to convict a leading member of his own party accused of sexually abusing several women. Candidate Felix Salgado Macedonia is running for governor in the province of Guerrero, pending a poll by the party to confirm his candidacy.
On Monday morning, the president again accused conservative groups of co-opting the feminist movement and said women’s marches had only begun after he took power. He cited his own government as a commitment to his fight for equality, the first cabinet in Mexican history to have half the seats held by women.
Mr Lopez Obrador defended the wall his government had erected around the National Palace. He said that while supporting the feminist movement, he would not tolerate the violence or vandalism seen during the women’s march last year.
Ms Granados and her daughter said the wall felt inconsistent with a president who said he was a man of the people.
“Look, I don’t agree to destroy monuments or damage them, do I?” Ms. Granados said. “But it is also clear to me that the monument is not worth more than a girl’s life.”
Her daughter, Mrs. Puente, is trumpeting.
The wall, she said, “is a contradiction.”
Anna Sosa of Mexico City contributed to the report.