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AMLO and Mexican women’s fight for equality

The next Mexican cabinet will be gender equal. But it is unclear whether Andrés Manuel López Obrador will give the feminist agenda a central role. Español

Image: Nueva Sociedad. All Rights Reserved.

Last July, the Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) issued its recommendations for the Mexican State.

It expressed concern about delays in fundamental issues such as tackling the increase in gender based violence and defusing machista culture, as well as lifting the obstacles to accessing justice with a gender sentive perspective.

It stated, in addition, that in Mexico there are no strategies for the economic, labour and educational empowerment of low-income, rural, indigenous and disabled women.

The document ends by denouncing the lack of law and protocol harmonization on abortion, and the absence of guarantees on access to rights by migrant women, female asylum seekers and refugees.

Mexico has historically been an unequal country. Inequalities have a direct impact on the opportunity gap between men and women, and a decisive influence on gender based violence.

Almost 7 out of 10 women in Mexico have suffered emotional and sexual violence, and the number of women killed in 2016 was the highest in the last 27 years (on average, 8 women each day).

There is no denying the figures: according to recorded data, almost 7 out of 10 women in Mexico have suffered emotional and sexual violence, and the number of women killed in 2016 was the highest in the last 27 years (on average, 8 women each day).

However, out of the total of women who suffered violence, a full 88.4% did not request institutional support or file a complaint, for they did not consider it a relevant issue, feared the consequences of doing so, did not know where to report and how to do it, or thought that they would not be believed and would even be blamed for it.

On the other hand, sexual violence in Mexico also has a direct impact on forced maternity: between 2009 and 2016, 111,413 complaints were filed for rape – in sharp contrast with the data reported by the public health system, according to which only 63 legal rape-related abortions were performed in the very same period. 

The machista narrative and sexist dynamics have also wreaked havoc on the construction and maintenance of gender stereotypes and roles: in 2016, the activity to which Mexican women devoted most of their time was food-related services (32.2% of their time), while the activity through which they generated the highest economic value was the "care and support" services to household members (on average, the housework and care tasks that each woman contributed amounted to 2741 dollars, as opposed to men’s 999 dollars).

In other words, although progress has certainly been made in incorporating women into the labour market, this has been accompanied by an imbalance in the distribution of household tasks.

The rate of economic participation decreases, though, when children come into the picture: if the number of children is between 3 and 5, the participation rate falls below the national average (42%), and goes down to 24% if there are 6 or more children.

As for economic distribution and development opportunities – education and employment namely – Mexico faces huge challenges. For example, the percentage of men who earn more than two and up to five times the minimum wage is 38.1%, whereas the percentage of women is 25.8%.

Similarly, out of the over one million students aged 18-20 who finished high school and did not go on to higher education in 2013, 41% were men and 59% women.

The main reason for quitting was economic: they simply did not have enough money to pay for further education. The data indicates that 21.6% of those who defected for economic reasons were women, while the percentage of men was 14.5%.

Poverty and marginalization are also exacerbated in the case of women in rural areas. 69% of men employed as agricultural workers are self-employed, while the percentage is 57% for women.

Poverty and marginalization are also exacerbated in the case of women in rural areas. 69% of men employed as agricultural workers are self-employed, while the percentage is 57% for women.

Women rural workers often carry out subordinate tasks, have lower incomes and, in many cases, do not receive any payment for their work.

More women in political posts, but few proposals to reduce the gender gap.

Given this situation, the obvious question is: will equal quotas in the government have a positive effect on reducing the country's gender gap? The truth is that Andrés Manuel López Obrador and his team have said very little about this.

During the election campaign, AMLO questioned the Social Encounter Party (PES) joining his Together We Will Make History coalition, since the former’s conservative outlook - the PES defines itself as the family party - contrasted with the alleged leftist values of AMLO’s campaign.

Since then, the only document with specific proposals on gender is the so-called Femsplaining, a document intended to start a dialogue on the subject.

The proposals contained in this document address "conjunctural" issues facing the country, but a brief analysis shows that it does not include transformative measures that would contribute to the construction of a feminist and gender agenda.

The document proposes seven basic axes: education and culture, economic independence and labor inclusion, harassment and violence, feminization of poverty, reproductive health, violence and access to justice, and public administration with a gendered perspective.

Most of the proposals, however, focus on achieving material equality over substantive equality. That is, few of them are aimed at transforming the structural conditions that determine unequal access to women's rights.

There is no mention of inclusion strategies with a real gender perspective such as, for example, the distribution of housework between men and women, shared parenting, or extensive paternity leave.

Most of the document deals with issues such as the granting of scholarships, salary increases, the construction of productive centers in marginalized urban areas and the opening of more nurseries and children's rooms, but there is no mention of inclusion strategies with a real gender perspective such as, for example, the distribution of housework between men and women, shared parenting, extensive paternity leave, or the designing of new masculinity-building programs for the reduction and prevention of gender violence. 

It is also surprising that the document does not address two issues of the utmost importance for the real protection, respect and guarantee of women's rights: the harmonization of laws on abortion, and specific strategies for the recognition and development of indigenous and rural women.

Regarding the former, there is only a brief mention of the possibility of holding a popular consultation on the issue.

Regarding the latter, even though AMLO has appointed two women to head the Office of Rural Development and the Ministry of the Interior, the lack of concrete proposals for indigenous and rural women has effectively ensured their invisibility.

Hope may still be on the cards however. The entry of women into the public space and their political representation is undoubtedly something to celebrate, but the future president’s government must consider the various faces of social oppression that Mexican women experience, and design and implement policies and institutional capacities that can have a real impact on the transformation of their lives.

Proposals must not only address economic redistribution between men and women, but also prioritize the participation of men in the cultural and symbolic shift away from the prevailing machista discourse and in generating strategies that guarantee and protect women’s rights.

This article is published in the framework of our editorial alliance with Revista Nueva Sociedad. See the original here

About the author

Brisa Ruiz is a consultant on issues related to the diagnosis and evaluation of public policies with a focus on gender, education, and migration, and is currently doing a master's degree in Human Rights and Democracy at FLACSO. 

Brisa Ruiz es consultora en temas relacionados al diagnóstico y la evaluación de políticas públicas con enfoque de género, educación, migración, entre otros, y candidata a la maestría en Derechos Humanos y Democracia en la FLACSO. 


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