By Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero and Nayely Iturbe
Being a woman in Mexico is a danger. Every day eleven women are murdered simply because of their gender. This is just one more statistic that reflects the degree of systemic violence that women experience every day in the country. Despite the enormous progress that Mexico, and Latin America in general, has made in the economic, educational and political spheres, there is still an important gap to close.
Mexico is a violent country because it tolerates it. It is a violent country because violence is normalized. It is a violent country because its institutions allow it. Violence is so systemic that it affects children, women and men from all walks of life. We must change the rules of the game, from the home, from business, from politics. No type of violence should be tolerated, regardless of gender. Our institutions must make it much more difficult for violence to be exercised against citizens and women and men working in politics.
According to our ongoing research, 91 incumbent mayors and 148 former mayors have been assassinated in Mexico during 2000-2022 (Gutiérrez-Romero and Iturbe, 2022). Most of these murdered mayors have been men (99%). Men are more likely to run for mayor and to be elected in electoral processes, and therefore have a higher risk of being assassinated. However, such high levels of political violence undoubtedly truncate the political aspirations of several groups, including women, to run for elected office.
In this blog we share our reflection on one of the articles we recently read in PEACELA, written by Krook and Restrepo Sanín (2016) on political violence against women. The article does not focus on explaining the great advances that women in Latin America have had in terms of voting rights, being able to run for elected office, or reducing educational disparities between men and women.
Krook and Restrepo Sanín (2016) instead focus on explaining how political violence affects women and propose some solutions. They explain that political violence is used to prevent women’s participation in the political sphere before, during and after elections. They propose a new definition of gender-based political violence. So far, the literature has focused on studying the physical, sexual, and psychological violence that women face in politics. They suggest including two categories of political violence: economic and symbolic.
Economic violence against women is the restriction of economic resources used in the political arena that are guaranteed for men. An example of this is the restriction of political campaign financing, the failure to provide offices, telephones and essential resources even after women have been elected. This type of violence can also be committed by family members or the community.
Symbolic violence refers to the limitation of women’s participation in political life because of their gender. This type of violence delegitimizes women’s political profile and performance. The community and the media can contribute to this type of violence by referring to women in politics as incompetent, and they are reprimanded for their physical appearance.
Proposals to reduce political violence against women
– Introduce electoral gender quotas.
– Encourage the media and journalists to take training on gender equality reporting.
– Awareness campaigns to support the election of women.
– Introduce legislation against political violence and with a gender perspective.
– Use inclusive gender language to recognize the role of women.
Democracy requires the participation of women, not only as passive voters but also as leaders.
In addition to introducing adequate legislation that criminalizes political and gender-sensitive assassinations, it is vital to reduce impunity and tolerance of crime. Just changing laws does not work if it does not change the whole machinery around it in terms of exercising the law and providing equal opportunities.
We need more data and transparency to reveal the scale of violence. Unfortunately, there are no official sources on political assassinations or the level of intimidation that women and men suffer on a daily basis in the political arena. It is critical that candidates running for and elected to office receive adequate security. This is an issue that requires urgent attention. The future of democracy depends on it.
This blog, originally published in Spanish by PEACELA blog here, was written by:
Roxana Gutiérrez-Romero @Roxanagutz is an Economist and Professor of Policy and Quantitative Methods at Queen Mary University of London.
Nayely Iturbe @nayiturbel is a Sociologist and Consultant on Femicide and Gender-based Violence.
Krook, Mona Lena and Juliana Restrepo Sanín (2016) Gender and political violence in Latin America Concepts, debates and solutions, Politics and Government, 23(1): 125-157.
Gutiérrez-Romero, Roxana and Nayely Iturbe. 2022. Assassination and Intimidation of Politicians, a new database for Mexico 2000-2022, working paper.