Women and the fight for equality
The growing demand to eradicate harassment and violence is fully legitimate. Dismantling machismo and ensuring the recognition and exercise of rights and access to justice for women. For many years, violence against women has not been actually measured in its real magnitude; even the deadly extreme of this violence, femicide, has only been recognized in the Penal Code in the last few years.
Women suffer from several types of violence. I will describe my own experience. When I was twelve, I started to travel on my own in public transport and I went through harassment and hostility, as most girls. When I was in high school, a professor suggested I could go on a trip with him to get a higher grade. In the academic world, I had to fight against the prejudice of my colleagues, who think of women as less intelligent. In politics, I had to fight the deep-rooted notion that only men can rule, as some believe. I have a daughter and, unfortunately, she has gone through similar types of violence.
Indeed, violence against women is observed in our society in several forms; aggressive catcalling, lustful looks and rubs, the boss harassing his female employees, the use of social media to share private pictures and videos. The catalogue of offenses is wide, the most abominable of this femicide offenses being murdering a woman just for being a woman. Even worst, in most cases, abuse, harassment, rape and femicide are perpetrated by acquaintances who belong to the family circle or are close to women.
What is behind this aggression against women? Many years of deep normalized inequality. A culture that makes women invisible, that reduces them to the condition of an object, denying the dignity a person deserves as a right holder. Women most exposed are, undoubtedly, the ones living in an unfavorable financial situation. Ángela Davis said, some decades ago, that feminism is the radical idea that women are persons.
Inequality goes from one generation to the next in many ways, repeating stereotyped visions of the roles to be played by girls, young women, adult women, grandmothers. For example, the idea of women being the only ones responsible for household chores and family caregiving while men's role is that of providers. In this context, working women face a double burden. In addition to this, there is a chain of “traditions” that marginalize, objectify, hurt and normalize exclusion, inequality and violence.
Even though violence still prevails, women’s struggle has been going on for years and, little by little women have gained their rights. Going back to my own experiences, I come from a middle-class family, both my father and mother worked. My mom opened the gate, as many women of her generation did. For me and my sister, studying, just like our brother, was part of the revolution my mother led. Many women in that generation started feminist debates and managed to give us the right to study, work, to participate in politics, they obtained labor rights for working mothers, and even the right for the legal termination of pregnancy. Nevertheless, there are many women that are denied the chance to study.
What should we do to address the inequality that translates into violence? From my perspective, there are, at least, six lines of action: (1) Changing the law to promote a life free of violence against women, and the adoption of sanctions, in the penal code, to tipify physical and sexual violence against women a serious offense (2) securing access to justice for women, startung with gender-based and human rights-based training for police officers and prosecutors (3) eliminating violence in public transportation and public areas (4) Creating a protection system to assists women in violence situations (5) implementating programs to promote the financial autonomy of women, enabling them to look out for themselves (6) securing access to education, culture and other options to strengthen girls and women when making decisions, as well as raising boys and men with masculinities away from machismo.
This is the education, access to justice and rights framework that we are working on in the Mexico City Government. We are fully committed to do all that is in our hands to eradicate violence and promote equality. Of course, the floor is open to add other lines of action.
Having said this, women’s struggle for equality cannot be isolated from the struggle for a fair and just society, one where we all enjoy the greater social and human rights. We have suffered a financial and social model that has left us deeply wounded. A model that considers education and health as merchandises. A model that left scares in the whole society, but especially on those economically disadvantaged. A model that eroded labor and reduced wages, making both men and women vulnerable. A model that elevated the fight against drug dealers to a full war with no consideration for whole families. A model that deepened financial inequality and sentenced millions to poverty. A model that placed money and power at the core, turning women into objects, denying dignity to people and making solidarity, justice and love disappear as part of our social values.
No City project is for women only, but no City project can be built excluding women. I am convinced that the movement I belong to, and that of women's leaders, have the same conviction, contrary to other political orientations that have never defended the rights of women, and have put their own believes, privileges, prejudice and financial interest above the general welfare.
I end this reflection feeling convinced that social struggles have more to win when they are peaceful, and persuade others through debate, reasoning and understanding. Struggles for a dignified life are built by educating and conquering minds, persuading, not crushing, others.
Changing the narrative for the construction of democracy and justice for all, men and women, needs a change of paradigm and I am sure this is taking place as we speak. The active participation of both, men and women, is most important for this to happen.
*Chief of Government of Mexico City