Red shoes: Mexican women protest against femicide and gender violence
On January 11, activists placed hundreds of red women’s shoes on Mexico City’s main square - Photo: Francisco Cañedo/Xinhua

Red shoes: Mexican women protest against femicide and gender violence

Mexico City
Peter Orsi
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On average, 10 women and girls are murdered in Mexico every day

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On January 11, activists placed hundreds of red women’s shoes on Mexico City’s main square, the Zócalo, to call attention to violence against women in a country where, on average, 10 women and girls are murdered every day and less than 10% of the cases are solved.

At the Zócalo, the historical, political, cultural and religious heart of the country, demonstrators marched to the National Palace, Andrés Manuel López Obrador’s office, and placed five pairs on the paving stones.

10 women are murdered in Mexico every day 

“The shoes represent absence, visualizing absence,” said 60-year-old artist Elina Chauvet, who first realized the piece of performance-protest art in 2009 after her sister was killed by her husband in a domestic violence case in Ciudad Juárez. “The red is for the blood that has been spilled, but it is also a work that speaks of love.”



A post shared by Elina Chauvet (@elinachauvetartwork) on

The performance was the latest in a string of public demonstrations in recent months over violence against women, including anti-rape protests in which demonstrators tossed glitter and defaced monuments or when thousands of women in blindfolds took the streets to chant the feminist anthem “A Rapist in Your Path,” an anthem that went viral and was performed all over the world.

Moreover, for decades, Mexican authorities’ have been unable to solve the problem of gender-based violence in one of the world’s most dangerous countries to be female.

Mexico ignores femicides

President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who took office in December 2018, and allied officials have pledged to make femicide and other gender-related crimes a priority. In November 2019, Mexico City Mayor Claudia Sheinbaum issued a gender violence alert for the city, meaning that 20 states have now done so. Sheinbaum said the measure would raise awareness of the problem and deliver better results.

But for those at the protest, there have been no results. There were 3,662 femicides, or gender-related killings of women, in 2018, before López Obrador took office, and the rate continued apace in 2019 although the Mexican government has yet to issue the final figures for 2019.

Photo: Francisco Cañedo/Xinhua

“On the contrary. They keep on killing us,” said Elizabeth Machuca Campos, a 39-year-old artisan and women’s rights activist from Ocoyoacac in the neighboring State of Mexico, whose sister was murdered there in 2017. She said a suspect was detained and sentenced but at the last minute the charge was changed from femicide to homicide, something that activists and groups such as Amnesty International say is frequently done by Mexican governments at multiple levels to lower the stats on gender violence.

How to identify violence against women?

“Those pairs of shoes are missing their owners,” she said, fighting back tears, “the women who have been torn from us.”

On Friday, Mexico City’s new prosecutor, Ernestina Godoy Ramos, acknowledged that she faces an “enormous” challenge in delivering public security for the city and promised justice in femicide cases.

“May it be heard loudly and from afar: There will be no impunity in the matter of femicides,” Olga Sánchez Cordero, the Interior Minister, said the same day.

However, violence against women has besieged the country for years. In the 1990s and early 2000s, Ciudad Juárez was notorious for the femicides and disappearances of hundreds of women and girls. Today activists often point to the State of Mexico as an epicenter for femicides.

Orphans, the collateral victims of femicide

During the protest, Sacrisanta Mosso Rendón wore a T-shirt with the names and A photograph of 17-year-old daughter, Karen, and 12-year-old son, Erik. Karen was raped and murdered are their house in Ecatepec, in the State of Mexico, in 2016, she said, and Erik was also home at the time and was strangled.

Photo: Germán Espinosa/EL UNIVERSAL

Mosso, who now leads the activist group Voices of Absence, said the killer was caught but sentenced to just five years behind bars. She called for tougher sentences in the few femicide cases that are actually solved as the near-total impunity for femicide reflects a broader pattern of crimes generally going unpunished in Mexico.

“Unfortunately women are not safe anywhere,” Mosso said. “Governments come, governments go, and we remain in the same situation because there is no progress.”

But Chauvet, the artist, said that even if concrete results are scant so far, this and the other demonstrations are turning what was once a taboo subject into an issue of national public concern.



A post shared by Elina Chauvet (@elinachauvetartwork) on

“Even though it would seem there is no immediate change, I think there is or rather that eventually there will be,” she said.

Violence against women: over 400,000 aggressors in Mexico


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