SIM REPORT: Latin America & Caribbean, Issue 4

MEXICO: Femicides prompt outpouring of anger, protests against president

Two femicides in Mexico City in February have provoked widespread public anger and led to protests against President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and several of the country’s tabloids, which reproduced leaked images of one victim’s mutilated body on their front pages. The murder and subsequent mutilation of 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla, whose body was found on 9 February, by her domestic partner provoked outcry across the country, with images of the young woman’s lifeless body leaked by forensic workers to several local tabloids. Amid widespread condemnation of the killing and the press’s perceived trivialisation of it, dozens of activists demonstrated outside the president’s offices in the historic centre of the capital on 14 February, splashing the building with blood-red paint and chanting ‘not one murder more’.

Public indignation over violence against women following Escamilla’s murder intensified further following the disappearance and murder of seven-year-old Fátima Cecilia Aldrighetti, who was last seen leaving school on 11 February with a woman who was not her mother. The little girl’s body was discovered in a plastic bag on the outskirts of the capital on 15 February, with signs of sexual abuse and torture. On 19 February, Mexico City mayor Claudia Sheinbaum announced that the suspected perpetrators, reportedly a couple, had been arrested in a town in neighbouring Mexico state.

In addition to the brutality of the murders, activists have also been angered by López Obrador’s response and perceived inaction. Despite labelling every femicide as ‘abhorrent’ following Escamilla’s murder, López Obrador has provoked activists by claiming that the issue of femicides has been ‘manipulated’ by the press and saying focus should not solely be on the murder of women.

An average of 10 women are killed per day in Mexico, according to official data. In addition to this, reports of kidnapping, sexual assault and harassment against women are commonplace. Reports of victims suffering subsequent abuse at the hands of law enforcement authorities, including police officers, has increased many women’s reluctance to report sexual assault and harassment. In August 2019, activists staged a series of demonstrations in Mexico City following several reports of rapes by police officers. In a longstanding effort to curb sexual harassment on public transport in Mexico City, authorities have designated women-only sections on the metro and bus rapid transit systems. Despite this, three-quarters of female metro users continue to feel at risk of sexual assault or harassment.

Despite high profile murders and indignation in Mexico, politicians and law enforcement authorities often propose few policy innovations designed to improve women’s security. The recent femicides, however, have led the lower house of congress to propose tougher sentences for femicide, while a women’s strike on 9 March is likely to amplify calls for policies to tackle the murder of women. Tougher sentences, however, are unlikely to deter many culprits; approximately 95 per cent of murders in the country go unpunished.

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