Neoliberalism Does not Kill Women, Short-sightedness Does

It is estimated worldwide than approximately 35% of women have experienced some sort gender violence at some point in their lives. Mexico where women and girls total to just over 63 million, around 60% of the population is not an exception. An average of 11 women are killed per day in Mexico, and there are hundreds, if not thousands of cases that go unreported due to the high levels of impunity; the stigmatisation of the victims; the male-dominated justice environment that perpetuates the victimisation of women: and the utter inability of the state to strengthen the rule of law.

Gender violence is pervasive at national level. According to the Mexican National Institute of Statistics and Geography (INEGI) nearly 76% of women over the age of 15 have faced some sort of emotional, sexual, physical or economic violence in their lives; 43% have been abused by husbands or partners; and 53% have faced violence perpetrated by strangers. As shocking as these statistics are, very little is being done to ensure this trend stops.

In 2007, Mexico passed a gender law that identified feminicide as a crime with a mandatory sentence of 20 to 60 years in prison. Along with this legislation, a Programme against Gender Specific Violence was issued, and since 2015 it has been instituted in 18 out of the 32 states in Mexico. This means that 56% of the country is considered unsafe for women.

Mexico lacks enforcement of laws against gender-based violence. While there are laws on the legislation to address and stop violence against women, these are very rarely if at all enforced. The simple task of petitioning of justice in Mexico is daunting, tiring and it is often met with misogyny and sexism from government representatives. The women that decide to denounce a crime are often met with humiliating questions, tests, hours of paperwork and incredulity from authorities. This alone plays an important role as to why women sometimes prefer to keep quiet than speak out about cycles of violence than sometimes have lasted decades of their lives. While it is true that ensuring the enforcement of law does happen, active measures to prevent not only to punish gender violence are also required. Violence against women is not only becoming normalised, but it is also occurring more frequently and with more brutality than before. Mexico has gone through decades of mishmash responses and impunity. Governmental policies should also aim to actively protect and empower women. It is not enough to issue tougher legislation if feminicide can still be committed due never-ending social and economic disparities. Feminicide can be prevented if the government does what it is supposed to do: protect, deliver, prevent and penalise.

The current administration has taken no clear actions on this issue, it has however,  exacerbated the problem: the president has substantially cut aid to programmes aimed at helping women, and to hundreds of organisations that helped protect victims of gender violence. This has practically eliminated the once available assistance to women that permitted them to break up patterns of economic dependence. Any measure aimed at preventing gender violence will be rendered useless when women are still institutionally powerless.

In 2019, Andrés Manuel López Obrador´s first year in office, killings reached a record, and the pace at which women were being killed has more than doubled in the past 5 years. Marches against women’s violence have become commonplace throughout the country. Last Friday February 21st,  when the president was questioned about his plans to reverse such trend he failed to commit to concrete, specific actions and he grew defensive on the subject claiming the media was exaggerating the topic and asking reporters not highlight only news related to feminicide. Members of his political party MORENA, currently occupying seats in the National Congress went on to say it is neoliberalism that is to blame for the current surge in women’s violence. The president and his party fails to realise that neoliberalism does not kill women, but the bunch of patchwork initiatives and short-sightedness of his and previous administrations that have been simply unable to ensure laws are enforced; policies go beyond a 6-year presidential term expiry date; and there is a real commitment to solve the issue and not simply make promises that will help political parties win votes.

The president has failed to realise that such topic is worth talking about when more than half of the Mexican female population suffers sexual harassment, physical violence, unwanted touches and looks, rape, and murder on an everyday basis. The president has failed to realise that more than half of the country is not considered to be safe for women in this country. The president has failed to realise that women do not feel safe walking down the streets, using public transport and even in places that are supposed to be safe spaces: education establishments and their own homes. When the president realises this, then he will understand why Mexican women are taking the streets and demanding concrete actions to offer them what they are legally entitled to: protection.

Violence against women should not be seen as an isolated incident but as part of a larger pattern of machismo and patriarchal relations that characterises societal structures in Mexico; therefore, addressing violence should go beyond tougher laws, it is necessary to dismantle social structures that enable widespread misogynistic thought and behaviour. Not one more family should have to go through the agonising pain of a daughter, mother, sister, wife, cousin, aunt, partner or friend murdered, raped or disappeared because of the ineptitude of the government and the perpetuation of policies that simply do not yield positive results.

Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza
Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza
Lisdey Espinoza Pedraza is a politics and international relations tutor at the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She gained her Bachelor's in International Relations at the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City and her MA in International Relations and World Order at the University of Leicester, England. She holds a PhD in Politics and International Relations from the University of Aberdeen, Scotland. She has spoken at numerous international conferences and has written on topics such as democracy, migration, European politics, Contemporary Mexican Politics and the Middle East. Her research interests include: Democratisation processes, governance and theories of the state, contemporary Mexican politics, Latin American politics, political parties, international relations theories, contemporary USA-Latin America foreign policy.