On the stately wooden doors of President López Obrador’s residence, a single name stood out in bold pink paint: INGRID. In recent weeks, INGRID had become a rallying cry to end gender-based violence in Mexico. INGRID had become an emotive force uniting women across the country in joint protest against femicide. But, INGRID had been more than a call-to-action, she was a 25-year-old woman named Ingrid Escamilla who was found brutally murdered, skinned, and disemboweled at the hands of her domestic partner on February 9th.
Another name: FÁTIMA had also been hanging on the lips of Mexican activists. FÁTIMA had been splashed across headlines, painted on Mexico’s walls, and plastered on protest posters. Like Ingrid, 7-year-old Fátima Aldrighett was a victim of gender-based violence too. Abducted from her school in plain sight, the young girl’s body was later found wrapped in a plastic bag. This unrelated woman and girl have become the recent faces of a widespread femicide problem and an upcoming women’s strike in Mexico.
While many people outside of Mexico chalk gender-based violence up to drug gangs, the fact is that femicide in Mexico is more closely tied to machismo (an aggressive male pride unique to many Latin American countries). As seen in the case of numerous female homicides that once plagued the city of Juárez, numerous women were found raped and murdered – unrelated to gang violence. The United Nations reports a 10 percent increase in Mexico’s femicide rate from 2018 (equating to roughy 10 killings of women and girls per day as of 2019).
“Machismo protects the aggressors by normalizing conducts [like street harassment, violence and cat-calling] and not considering the implementation of consequences,” explains writer Veronica Lira Ortiz. “Machismo reinforces the idea of women as second-class citizens whose rights and opportunities—even when included in public policies—are undermined in their households, in the streets, at school or work.”
This flippant approach to women in Mexico has reached as far up as President López Obrador, who was recently criticized for his reaction to the murders of Ingrid and Fátima. “The message [President López Obrador] is sending women is: I don’t care,” said Maricruz Ocampo, an activist in the state of Querétaro. “This is a Mexican problem, not a women’s issue.”
From offices to schools to public transportation – a country-wide strike is planned for March 9th in which women will stay home in protest of gender-based violence. Organized under the unifying hashtag #UnDiaSinNosotras (a day without us), women across Mexico will make their absence known. Following International Women’s Day (March 8th), when activists are expected to flood the streets of Mexico, the next day will offer a stark look at a country without women.
“Women are demanding a shift of paradigm and nothing less,” explained Estefanía Vela, the Executive Director of Intersecta, a Mexico City-based group that promotes gender equality. “These are not only hashtags. These are students protesting at the universities, and mothers demanding justice for their daughters.”
In life as in death, Mexico’s women are treated with disrespect and in the case of Ingrid Escamilla, outrage was sparked after a photo of her mutilated body was printed in a newspaper alongside the headline: It Was Cupid’s Fault. In response, an outpouring of support has flooded social media with beautiful images in both Ingrid’s and Fátima’s memory.
“It’s not just Ingrid and Fátima. There are thousands of femicides,” adds Lilia Florencio Guerrero, whose daughter was violently killed in 2017. “It fills us with anger and rage.”