Living Under a Death Sentence: Femicides in Mexico

illustration of women and girls murdered in Mexico

Illustration by Jessica Martinez

[CW: sexual assault, femicide, violence against women, graphic descriptions]

Being a woman in Mexico is punishable by death. Women of all ages, sexual orientations and socioeconomic backgrounds are in danger of being harassed, raped, disfigured, assassinated or disappeared at the hands of men every day. In a country where 10 women are killed daily and 100 women have been assassinated this year alone, being a woman is equal to a death sentence. 

Ingrid Escamilla from Mexico City was murdered, dismembered and skinned by her husband after a disagreement. Fátima Cecilia Aldrighett Antón from Xochimilco was only 7 years old when she was abducted outside of her elementary school; a week later, Fatima’s naked body was found inside a plastic bag with signs of sexual abuse and torture. Ingrid and Fatima’s deaths demonstrate consistent local police misshadlement and dismissal by higher authorities. Painfully, Mexican femicide cases are commonly mishandled and dismissed. 

Thousands of women took to the streets to protest the dismissal from authorities regarding the severity and pervasiveness of these crimes. They demanded action from the government in order to bring justice for all the women lost to femicide. Yet the message from authorities is loud and clear: they do not care. Mexico’s president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO), held a press conference soon after the demonstrations where he focused on damages inflicted on national statues by protesters and reminded the public that he did not want his press conference to be “all to be about femicides.” AMLO’s tone-deaf response did nothing to help mitigate the root of the problem and made it clear that national statues are of more value than women’s lives. AMLO’s response also reveals the disregard women face every day at the hands of men, especially those in positions of power. 

Sadly, Mexican women are used to the police and the Mexican president dismissing them, they have heard the same excuses for decades. Women are taught to distrust the government, and rightfully so since the government usually protects the perpetrators of these crimes. Mexican authorities protect the perpetrators of these crimes by classifying women’s deaths as suicides and through their negligence in testing victims for signs of sexual abuse; this corruption leads to the femicide rates in Mexico to go underreported enabling authorities to ignore the problem further. So even when presidents like AMLO claim to have women’s best interest at heart, the statements should be taken with a grain of salt.

Women are tired of empty promises and vague action plans that never culminate into real change. That is why Brujas del Mar, a feminist collective in Veracruz, tweeted out a proposed day without women this upcoming March 9. Following International Women’s Day on March 8, March 9 will be a day where women do not go to work, school, or participate in any domestic work in order to demonstrate the importance of women to Mexican society and demand that the Mexican government enact policy changes to protect women.

The proposed national stop on March 9 took social media by storm with the hashtag #undíasinnosotras being used by thousands to show support and solidarity. Although celebrities and even corporations are showing support, the biggest support came from the families of the thousands of victims who never received justice. Although the majority of support is positive, some Twitter users stated their disagreement with women protesting in “aggressive” forms (i.e. vandalism and obstructing traffic). Disagreement has mostly taken the form of mockery of the movement and women themselves. This is a small glimpse of how the dismissal of femicides by higher authorities has normalized violence against women to the point where it is okay to laugh and dismiss the more than 100 women murdered this year alone. 

So to those who do not understand the pain and anger women are displaying, I will reiterate Elideth Yesenia Zamudio’s powerful words after taking to the streets: “Whoever wants to break things, let them; whoever wants to burn things, let them; and whoever doesn’t want to take part… Get out of the way!” Elideth’s daughter María de Jesús Jaime Zamudio was thrown out of a window in 2016 after being assaulted by four men, yet Mexican authorities were adamant to rule her death a suicide. She has fought for change ever since.

A life of constantly looking over your shoulder is not a life, yet this is the reality for women all throughout Mexico. 63 million women currently face an imminent death sentence due to their gender; that is why I plead that you show solidarity to the women fighting for a safer Mexico by standing next to your sisters this coming March 9. The lives of 63 million women could change if the voices of Mexican women are heard but this will only be possible if we all stand and demand change.

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