Marcela Lagarde, a Mexican academic who is considered one of Latin America’s leading feminist activists, said in an interview with Efe that the war on drugs being waged by President Felipe Calderon has led to more violence against women in Mexico.
“Everything that is happening favors violence against women,” Lagarde told Efe Thursday in Madrid, adding that the Mexican leader’s strategy “cultivates a very violent culture” and “establishes an ideology of violence, of defeat, of war.”
“That’s a very macho culture, very misogynist, and we women are left defenseless,” Lagarde said.
The activist, who has been calling for the inclusion of femicide in Mexico’s Criminal Code, has published numerous articles about gender identity, feminism, human development and deomocracy.
The “political environment in Mexico has intensified in the past few years” just as “the violence and crimes against women had gained visibility,” Lagarde, a former congresswoman and currently a professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said.
Activists had been denouncing violence against women and the impunity of the killers before the Calderon administration declared war and put “the army in the streets” of Mexico “without going through Congress,” a conflict that “has cost the lives of 40,000 people in four years,” Lagarde said.
“Now, it’s intensifying, but it had been. It was and it was very clear,” the former congresswoman, who taught a course on violence against women at the Autonomous University of Madrid, said.
Lagarde said she and other female lawmakers worked for enactment of the General Law for Women’s Access to a Violence Free Life, which “is a very important law and a legal benchmark” both in Mexico and Latin America.
Violence against women is “a much bigger problem” than that affecting Ciudad Juarez because the violence in the border city has internationalized the problem, Lagarde said.
Ciudad Juarez, Mexico’s murder capital, first gained notoriety in the early 1990s when young women began to disappear in the area.
In most of the slayings, the victims were young women from poor families who came to the border city from all over Mexico to work in the many assembly plants, known as “maquiladoras,” built there to take advantage of the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Investigators have not determined who is behind the killings, although there has been speculation that serial killers, organized crime groups, people traffickers, drug smugglers and child pornographers, among others, may be involved.
Over 500 women have been killed in Juarez since 1993, with the majority of the cases going unsolved.
“Ciudad Juarez does not have the highest level of femicides in the country,” Lagarde said, adding that Mexico state, which surrounds the Federal District and forms part of the Mexico City metropolitan area, has that dubious distinction.
“Violence against women is a serious structural problem, and the development conditions in Mexico and political conditions of the country’s government do not point to a commitment by the federal government, in all the country, to the rights of women,” Lagarde said.
Another milestone in the fight to end violence against women in Mexico was the November 2009 finding by the Inter-American Human Rights Court that the government was failing to prevent and duly investigate violence against women in Juarez, a gritty metropolis just across the Rio Grande from El Paso, Texas.
“It is the first time that an international court found a state guilty of crimes against women,” the activist said, adding that the Mexican government “is very cynical and has not followed the recommendations made by the tribunal. It does not comply with anything.”
The women’s rights activist, however, still holds out hope for change in Mexico.
“We’ll have to take more cases to the international courts, stage more protests, convince the people that violence against women is an issue, an issue for the citizenry, that we cannot think it’s normal and will take care of itself on its own some day,” Lagarde said.