Mexico Writes a New Chapter for Women's Rights

Mexico's historic gender-equal legislature champions women's rights. Reforms like the “Three of Three” bar abusers from power, while tax-free menstrual products ease financial burdens. New laws combat obstetric, digital, and dating violence.

Mexico Writes a New Chapter for Women's Rights
A diverse group of women and men raise their hands, symbolizing Mexico's commitment to gender parity.

The grumblings of an older Mexico still echo – a world where women were barely seen, their voices muffled within political discourse. For decades, they were the forgotten protagonists in the nation's narrative, victims of a system that perpetuated inequality and discrimination.

But change, like dawn, always arrives. On September 1, 2021, a beacon of progress burst onto the scene—Mexico's LXV Legislature emerged fully equal. This was no small feat; for the first time, women held half the seats, 250 female legislators walking side-by-side with 250 of their male counterparts. The LXV boldly painted a new image, becoming known as “the Legislature of parity.” An image truly reflective of Mexico where women constitute an undeniable 52% of the population.

This milestone was a seismic shift, heralded across the globe. The Inter-Parliamentary Union elevated Mexico to the international stage, setting it forth as a beacon of inclusion.

And the LXV Legislature did not simply step into the spotlight – it illuminated a path toward a whole new way of governing. This parliament embraced a vital new paradigm: a commitment to legislating with a gender perspective. It became a relentless, collective voice demanding the closure of centuries-old gaps steeped in inequality, of brutal discrimination women had long suffered.

In the lead-up to International Women's Day (March 8th), let's cast a light on the groundbreaking changes woven into law during the LXV Legislature. Their actions have fortified a Mexico where equality is no longer a dream, but a tangible reality, and where women can live free from economic, familial, institutional, and the most horrifying – femicidal – violence.

The fight is far from over. But the LXV Legislature has painted a Mexico where women are not just a part of the story, but its powerful authors. Their story, once an unspoken footnote, now blazes as the main text. They've proven that when given the seat, women have an unmatched power to build a brighter, more just world for themselves, their daughters, and the generations of women to come.

When Periods and Politics Met

Do you remember that time in history class when you learned about watershed moments – those seismic shifts that forever changed the way society worked? You know, the ones that find their way into history books, bold and underlined? Well, ladies, buckle up – because we may be right in the thick of one of those moments right now.

Let's start with that clumsily named but oh-so-powerful legislative reform – “The Three of Three”. It's about as subtle as a sledgehammer, and that's probably the point. Like a blast to the past, it feels like something right out of the suffragette movement playbook. Remember when women chained themselves to railings demanding the vote? That's the energy “The Three of Three” is channeling.

For those playing catch-up, this isn't some tax squabble – it's about those who commit violence, particularly against women and those who shirk their responsibilities as parents. Get convicted? Forget holding public office or serving the people – you've violated a sacred trust. The message? If you violate women or children, you violate your right to represent us. Period.

Some will call it harsh, but the symbolism is as clear as crystal – this nation will no longer tolerate those willing to hurt the very people they swear to serve.

While “The Three of Three” was a metaphorical punch, the zero rate on menstrual products was a tactical masterpiece. Imagine this: for years, women bled red while the taxes bled them dry. It seems utterly absurd in hindsight, doesn't it? To tax a basic necessity of biology as if it were a luxury item?

But here's the catch: this change wasn't about bleeding hearts – it was about cold, hard numbers. You see, by eliminating the tax, the government wasn't just leveling the playing field – it was making a statement about its priorities.

In one simple act, those in charge said: women's health, women's dignity, and eliminating the barriers that women in poverty face…these are things worth investing in. No more “pink tax”, no more missed days of school for girls too poor to afford their own biology. This, my friends, is what the gender perspective in action looks like.

Now, let's not get too solemn here, change is as much about the odd details as the grand gestures. Picture stern-faced legislators debating the merits of tampons vs. pads – a parliamentary debate for the ages! Or the quiet triumph of a girl in a remote village who, for the first time, won't miss school because of her period.

And let's talk about women – we, who've long suffered the indignities of hushed conversations and euphemisms about our perfectly natural bodies. These reforms thrust menstruation into the open. Suddenly, those 'womanly issues' are the subject of legislative debate and national policy.

Of course, there'll be the naysayers – those who cling to notions of 'tradition' and 'family values' that mask a discomfort with women asserting their power on their own terms. They'll call the “Three of Three” punitive, the tax elimination frivolous. But you know what? History won't care about their grumblings. It will remember the boldness, the insistence on dignity, the moment women truly became equal players in crafting the nation's destiny.

The Fight Against Gender-Based Violence

Lately, Mexico has witnessed a harrowing surge of gender-based violence. Like a dark tide rolling over the nation, it seeps into every corner of society. In response, reforms to existing structures and legal declarations have been pushed forward, offering a glimmer of hope.

The AVG Declaration

The Gender Violence Alert Declaration (AVG in Spanish, abbreviation from La alerta de violencia de género), designed to trigger a series of emergency measures when violence against women reaches crisis levels, has been met with a mixed response. While its intentions are undeniably good, questions of implementation and efficacy loom large.

Activist Ximena Flores, with a voice etched with both weariness and determination, explains, “The shortening of the AVG declaration time is a positive step, but it's a double-edged sword. Hastened processes in complex situations can lead to hastily implemented solutions with questionable longevity.”

Indeed, the declaration's effectiveness rests heavily on efficient collaboration between state and federal bodies, along with unwavering enforcement. Past precedents suggest that, while the AVG can ignite action, its long-term success remains contingent on continuous vigilance, a feat in a country where the bureaucratic labyrinth can often ensnare even the best of intentions.

A Refuge in Short Supply

“A haven where there was none,” is how Rosa, a survivor of domestic abuse, describes the shelter which provided sanctuary to her and her children. Yet, such havens are an all-too-rare commodity in Mexico. The promised government funding frequently remains frustratingly unreachable or is insufficient to meet the ever-increasing demands.

The consequences are stark. Overcrowding, lack of basic resources, and inadequate psychological support render many shelters temporary patches on the gaping wound of gender-based violence. For too many women, fleeing their abusers means confronting a new nightmare of instability and an uncertain path forward.

Obstetric Violence

The cries of a newborn baby should be a symphony of joy. But for many women, their birthing experiences are marred with trauma. Obstetric violence, now recognized as an insidious form of gender-based aggression, lurks in the shadows of hospitals and clinics.

“I was never asked,” says Elena, her voice trembling. “They cut me open, stole something from me under the guise of necessity.” Elena refers to the non-consensual tubal ligation procedure she endured after a C-section.

Such practices, disproportionately inflicted upon women of marginalized communities, expose the insidious power dynamics within healthcare systems. While the new legislation acknowledges obstetric violence, its reach remains to be seen. Deep-rooted practices and mindsets aren't easily banished with the stroke of a pen.

The Ingrid Law

Named after Ingrid Escamilla, whose brutal murder and the subsequent gruesome dissemination of the images by media outlets sparked national outrage, the Ingrid Law aims to put a stop to the re-victimization that comes with the circulation of violent images.

But does it go far enough? Laura Mendez, an expert in digital rights, points out, “Leaking information and sharing images is often decentralized. While the law criminalizes the 'first shares', tracing them in a sprawling digital landscape is another challenge, particularly when social media platforms are involved.”

Etched with Acid, Bound by Silence

Luz's laughter once filled her home like a vibrant echo. An aspiring artist with a passion for bold colors, her life was a canvas waiting to be adorned with extraordinary dreams. That was before. Before that day, her world turned into a monochromatic blur of pain. Before the corrosive liquid ate at her skin and her spirit.

Luz is a survivor of an acid attack, a monstrous crime that has become chillingly commonplace in Mexico. And like far too many of these women, Luz isn't merely a victim of physical brutality; she's a hostage to a system riddled with gaps, where justice so regularly remains an illusion.

Mexico's recent legal reforms have been hailed as a victory. Acid violence now falls under the umbrella of physical assault, offering some measure of recognition for a unique brutality. Yet, a nagging question persists: why does it not have its own designation within the Federal Penal Code?

Elena Prado, a fiery advocate with a voice that rings with both frustration and determination, explains, “It's the difference between treating acid attacks as horrific crimes and truly seeing them because of deeply embedded gender-based hatred. Specific classification is crucial for collecting adequate data, allocating resources, and designing targeted measures of prevention.”

Digital Violence and the Threat of Sextortion

For many women, the scars of violence transcend the physical. They exist in the relentless beeping of a smartphone, in the chilling fear that accompanies every unread notification, in the knowledge that one's most intimate moments can be distorted into tools of cruelty and extortion.

The expansion of Mexico's “Olimpia Law” to include sextortion is a vital step in combating this growing form of digital abuse. Yet, the battle extends far beyond just legal statutes. Maria Herrera, who runs a digital safety workshop for women, emphasizes, “Technology enables these crimes, but the root lies in societal attitudes about women's bodies and autonomy. We must change the culture of shame, to ensure that those targeted feel empowered to seek help, instead of hiding in silence.”

Dating Violence

“He never hit me,” recounts Sofia, her eyes filled with a bittersweet mix of confusion and liberation. She belongs to a generation of young women who are slowly shedding the dangerous misconception that 'real' violence leaves only visible marks.

The reform addressing dating violence recognizes a crucial, often overlooked truth: Abuse can take myriad forms. Emotional manipulation, threats, and coercive control leave scars invisible to the naked eye, but ones that can wound just as deeply.

“It's not just about preventing physical attacks,” says Dr. Mariana Ruiz, a youth counselor, “It's about empowering young women to recognize the red flags early on, and to understand that self-respect and healthy boundaries are non-negotiable in any relationship.”

Vicarious and Economic Violence

The insidious nature of domestic abuse frequently extends beyond the targeted woman. 'Vicarious violence', where children are used as pawns to inflict suffering upon their mothers, is a chilling, under-recognized aspect of gender-based violence. Similarly, the concept of economic violence, the deliberate withholding of resources to create dependency and control, traps countless women in cycles of abuse.

The legal reforms addressing these tactics represent an important stride, but again, their impact hinges upon implementation. Advocates stress the need for a comprehensive approach, one that involves not only legal aid, but financial and childcare support, to empower women to truly break free.

The Long Road Ahead

Undeniably, these legislative steps mark a pivotal shift, a recognition that gender-based violence can no longer be swept under a rug of cultural indifference. But, legislation remains merely words until effectively transformed into action.

Mexico's fight against gender-based violence must be waged on multiple fronts. We need deep-rooted societal change, education aimed at dismantling harmful stereotypes, and above all, a steadfast commitment to holding abusers accountable, regardless of their social standing or position of power.

It's a battle that spills out from the hallowed halls of the legislature and into our homes, workplaces, and communities. Each of us must stand ready to challenge attitudes, to be a voice for the voiceless, and to build a world where women's safety and dignity are not a privilege, but a birthright.

In-text Citation: (Mondragón, 2024, pp. 6-7)