March 8: Massive marches protest femicide and “machista” violence
March 9, 2020 — A massive march to protest femicide and other forms of violence against women, took to the streets of Mexico city on March 8, International Women’s Day. This march, which the media has characterized as “unprecedented” was the prelude to a national women’s walk-out on March 9. Each and every day, around ten women are assassinated in Mexico, and at least one of those victimas is younger than 17 years old. These dire statistics on femicide motivated the marches and the national women’s strike, which is estimated to include the participation of 36.4 million women.
Just a few days prior to the march, noted Mexican women journalists and artists created this video to show how deeply that daily experience of “machista” violence has permeated daily life, and making the connection between that normalized violence and femicide. View here (subtitled).
Mexico City was not the only site of marches on March 8. Other cities in Mexico and countries across Latin America also saw large protests. En Chile, the birthplace of the feminist hymn “A rapist in your path”, organizers estimated that as many as two million people may have attended the protest in the capital city.
Decriminalization of abortion
Many of the Women’s Day protests also called attention to the struggle for women’s reproductive health and efforts to decriminalize abortion in Latin America. In Argentina, the women organizers of the “Green tide” movement, had reason to celebrate recently, when President Alberto Fernández announced that he would send a law to Congress permitting the voluntary termination of pregnancy. Women in El Salvador and other countries, where abortion is prohibited under all circumstances, have looked to Argentina as a source of inspiration for their own struggles. In El Salvador, the “Las 17” campaign, calls out the pattern of criminalizing of poor women, who, after suffering an obstetric emergency, find themselves also facing criminal penalties of up to 40 years in jail, and being accused of murdering their babies. Salvadoran feminist groups have made progress recently in pressing the government to stop this practice. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention called on the Salvadoran government to undertake urgent structural reforms to end this practice of arbitrary detention of women.
Struggles against discrimination
International Women’s Day also serves as a reminder of all the challenges that women face every day due to discrimination in the workplace, where they still receive unequal pay and struggle to be recognized as capable of working in any job and in whatever position. These patterns of discrimination extend to all aspects of daily life, as women demand to be treated as full citizens with rights and the capacity to freely exercise those rights.
To that end, the 8th of march also provides an opportunity to recognize the leadership of women who struggle for equality and rights from their own particular realities and identities. Powerful examples of women leaders with an intersectional feminist approach were highlighted this week by Nomada in Guatemala, including Kenia Lara, a women with hearing impairment who is pursuing a path-breaking career in architecture, and Lesly Curup, an indigenous woman who is promoting educational innovations for indigenous communities, such as the Universidad Maya Kaqchikel.
Gender parity in government, be it among elected officials or public sector workers, is another growing demand in Latin America. Affirmative actions to ensure that women workers have access to government positions that are traditionally male-dominated, is an important first step. Mexico announced recently that 1,700 vacancies in federal government agencies would only be open to women, a small but symbolic step toward equality in the public sector, which is a keystone for deepening democracy.
At Alianza Americas, we will continue to support women in their struggle for equality, for the full recognition of their rights, and in their long-term fight against discrimination and violence in all forms.