The Fight for Women's Safety Beyond CELIG

Mexico's landmark CELIG law aimed to protect women from violence. Yet, years later, femicide and abuse remain tragically common. Activists demand a deeper societal shift.

The Fight for Women's Safety Beyond CELIG
Despite Mexico's CELIG law, invisible scars of violence remain.

The year was 2007—a hopeful one for many in Mexico. February brought a landmark piece of legislation: the General Law on Women's Access to a Life Free of Violence (Ley General de Acceso de las Mujeres a una Vida Libre de Violencia, or LAMVLV). It shone a spotlight on the dark realities of gender-based violence in Mexico and promised a new era centered on women's security and autonomy. This, it seemed, was the first step on a bold path toward a more just and equitable society. That path, nearly two decades later, remains a treacherous one.

The LAMVLV's passage was a victory hard-won by tireless activists and advocates. For the first time, Mexico's laws explicitly acknowledged the different ways violence against women manifests itself – psychological, physical, economic, patrimonial, and sexual. It recognized that visible bruises weren't the only signs of abuse and suffering, a fact that often led to cases being minimized or overlooked.

A key provision within the LAMVLV is Article 21, outlining the heinous crime of femicide – the gender-motivated killing of women. This provision was both symbolic and practical: symbolic in its declaration that women's lives have intrinsic worth, and practical by allowing for specific prosecutions and punishments tailored to this most extreme consequence of gender-based violence.

Yet as transformative as the LAMVLV was on paper, its translation into practice is where progress falters. The sheer scale of what it sought to transform remains daunting. Mexico grapples with entrenched patriarchal norms, corruption, and institutional weaknesses.

The Lady of the Cactus and Other Grim Realities

There are places in Mexico where the LAMVLV feels tragically remote—Ciudad Juárez is perhaps the most infamous of these. Decades ago, this border town gained notoriety as 'the city that kills its women', due to the horrifying string of disappearances and murders that plagued it. While much has been done to raise awareness and increase resources dedicated to the issue, the shadow of fear still looms long in Juárez.

There are thousands of women and girls whose stories of violence and loss never make international headlines. The Lady of the Cactus – a moniker given to an unidentified body found mutilated and discarded in the desert – is a chilling reminder of that harsh truth. Her case, and those like it, are stark examples of how deep-rooted misogyny can reduce vulnerable women to the nameless, the disregarded.

The statistics are grim. Each day, an average of 10 women are murdered in Mexico. It's estimated that a staggering 66% of women over the age of 15 have experienced some form of violence in their lifetime. While the LAMVLV brought visibility to these problems, the system meant to offer solutions and justice is often woefully under-resourced and ill-equipped to handle the scale of the crisis. This is further compounded by victim-blaming attitudes and a reluctance to prioritize gender-based crimes, leaving far too many cases unresolved.

The voices we don't hear are equally devastating. Many survivors are silenced by fear, shame, and a system that sometimes fails to support them. In seeking justice, they frequently face re-traumatization and further victimization.

A New Generation Carries the Light

Still, there are reasons to be cautiously optimistic. The same year the LAMVLV became law, a young woman named Frida Guerrera became a national symbol when she courageously confronted a man who had assaulted her. With her face painted like a fierce warrior, she became a powerful voice in the fight against violence.

Frida is not alone. Today, a new generation of Mexican feminists are taking to the streets, their vibrant activism bringing fresh urgency to the cause. They demand more than laws, they insist on a cultural revolution against the macho attitudes that endanger their lives.

The fight Mexico began in 2007 is far from over. But progress is not only measured in laws passed, but also in the tenacity of those who refuse to accept a world where living 'una vida libre de violencia' is a distant aspiration for half its population.

In-text Citation: (Mondragón, 2024, p. 48)