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A portrait of Eugenia Machuca Campos sits amid women's red shoes placed by activists to protest violence against women in the Zocalo, Mexico City's main plaza, Jan. 11, 2020.
Christian Palma/AP
Girls & Women

Women in Mexico City Rallied Against Femicide With Hundreds of Red Shoes


Why Global Citizens Should Care
Gender-based violence can take many forms, including physical and sexual abuse, harassment, bullying, and even murder. Preventing gender-based violence improves the health of women and children, economic productivity, and educational opportunities. You can join us and take action on this issue here

A series of performance demonstrations in Mexico City are bringing attention to the growing gender-based violence rates throughout the country.

Activists placed hundreds of painted-red women’s shoes on the main square in Zocalo, Mexico City’s cultural and religious hub, on Saturday, according to the Associated Press. Demonstrators also placed five pairs of shoes in front of the National Palace. 

“Not one more killed!” they chanted, according to the AP.  

Women’s rights advocates say Mexico needs to address the legal impunity given to perpetrators of gender-based violence to stop them from committing these crimes. Fewer than 5% of crimes in Mexico are punished.

The performance protest on Saturday was led by 60-year-old artist Elina Chauvet. Chauvet created the demonstration concept in 2009 after her sister was killed by her husband in a domestic violence case in the city of Jaurez. The red shoes simultaneously symbolize blood and love and “represent absence,” Chauvet said

There were 3,662 femicides — the murder of a woman because of her gender— in 2018, and the rate only increased in 2019. On average, 10 women and girls are murdered each day in Mexico, and less than 10% of the cases are ever solved.

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador and allied authorities have promised to prioritize femicide and other gender-related crimes. Mexico City’s Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum declared a gender violence alert for the city in November, according to the AP, and 20 of Mexico’s federal entities have followed

Despite these efforts, the rates at which women are being killed are not declining, and demonstrators on Saturday are not satisfied with Mexico’s commitment to ending gender-based violence.

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“What is causing gender-based violence [in Mexico], like the same as in any society, is gender inequality, sexism, stereotypes about women and men, etc.,” Tarah Demant, director of Amnesty International USA’s Gender, Sexuality and Identity Program, told Global Citizen. “But in Mexico, one of the things that we're particularly concerned about is that there's impunity for most of these crimes. That issue of impunity is at the heart of why we're seeing these rates rise.”

The lack of reproductive choices available to women in Mexico makes it more difficult for them to escape intimate partner violence, she said. Most violence against women globally and in Mexico is done by someone they know, usually a current or former partner. 

Two-thirds of girls and women age 15 or over in Mexico have experienced gender-based violence at least once in their life, which is higher than the international rate of at least 1 in 3

“This is not a new problem, but it is an escalating problem,” Demant said.

The term “femicide” emerged from the spike in missing and murdered young women from factories in Mexico’s border towns across from El Paso, Texas in the 1990s.

While Mexico has made some progress in the last couple of years, like defining femicide as a crime, the government still does not produce any reliable statistics on femicide or gender-related crimes, Demant said.

More women are organizing public protests against gender-based violence as rates increase. Thousands of women filled Mexico City’s streets with pink glitter to protest the rape of a teenage girl by four police officers in Azcapotzalco in August. A few months later, demonstrators carried purple crosses honoring women who had been murdered or had gone missing on “Dia de Muertas” (“Day of the Dead Women”) in November.

Mexican authorities should be producing reliable data on femicide and gender-based violence to adequately address the problem, Demand said. Police should be investigating these crimes, and law enforcement should persecute them. The laws should also adequately reflect definitions of gender-based violence.

“It’s time for the government to wake up and really take concrete steps, not just years of promises, to do what’s necessary to end GVB [gender-based violence],” Demand said.