How Women Won Back Their Place in Mexico's Law

Mexico's Constitution faced a battle over inclusive language. Initial reforms erased “woman,” threatening rights. Public outcry led to correction, ensuring women remain visible in the law. This highlights the power of language and the ongoing fight for women's visibility.

How Women Won Back Their Place in Mexico's Law
A group of diverse women holding signs demanding visibility in Mexico's Constitution.

The year was 2021. A ripple of controversy coursed through the halls of the Mexican Senate. Constitutional reform had been brewing, with promises of eliminating “sexist language” – a noble intention, indeed. However, the devil, as is often the case, lurked in those well-intentioned details.

Senators, in their haste, had scrubbed the very terms “man” and “woman” from the Constitution's Articles 30 and 34. In their place stood the sterile, faceless word “persons.” Like a linguistic Thanos, this seemingly harmless act snapped away half of Mexico's population from its highest law. The erasure, though subtle, echoed ominously.

The reaction was swift. In the realm of language, every word carries weight, and the obliteration of “woman” was an unacceptable attack on their visibility and very existence. “If we are not named,” women's advocates roared, “do we even exist in the eyes of the law?”

It was a question with uncomfortable historical echoes. The very idea of “woman” as a legal entity has been a hard-won battle. Decades of struggle and advocacy were swept under the rug of linguistic neutrality. This was about far more than words – it was a tangible threat to laws specifically designed to safeguard women's rights. Imagine attempting to enforce the General Law on Women's Access to a Life Free of Violence if the fundamental term of protection itself had been wiped away!

A firestorm erupted. The Chamber of Deputies, faced with this outcry, had a choice: toe the line of their Senate compatriots, or listen to the voices of the women they were meant to represent. In what can only be lauded as a victory for reason and women's rights, they chose the latter.

May 2022 became a turning point. The Constitutional Points Commission, recognizing the profound error, unanimously approved the corrected reform. “Woman” rejoined the lexicon of the highest law, along with inclusive language acknowledging those who marry Mexicans, regardless of gender or sexual identity.

A Language of Visibility

Why does this seemingly minor shift matter so intensely? Language is power. It has the uncanny capacity to solidify or erase entire swathes of humanity, often with unintended consequences. Mexico's Constitution is not merely a dusty old book, but a living legal framework that trickles down into every aspect of society.

The fight against sexism is not a new one in Mexico. It took tireless advocacy to ensure that women themselves were properly recognized as legal subjects with rights deserving of explicit protection. In a nation grappling with issues like femicide, laws crafted for the very purpose of guaranteeing women's safety would become meaningless if the word 'woman' were legally irrelevant.

This fight isn't about clinging to old-fashioned terms, but about preserving visibility. The word “person” is broad, yes, and well-suited for many situations. However, women, throughout history, have so frequently been subsumed, hidden, and ignored behind the all-encompassing “personhood” traditionally reserved for men.

Particularities and Complexities

The irony, of course, is that this entire controversy likely stemmed from a desire to promote inclusivity. The original Senators likely envisioned their linguistic erasure as a path to gender neutrality, and by extension, equality. It's a perspective to the deep-seated complexities of gender dynamics – sometimes the path to equality runs less through neutrality and more through specific recognition of difference.

The peculiarity of language becomes fascinating battlegrounds for social change. And, make no mistake, this is a story of change. Mexico, in the end, chose to preserve its commitment to women's visibility. The reform became a shining example to the power of language, advocacy, and the realization that sometimes, true progress lies in the simple act of naming that which was deliberately ignored.