Women’s rights in Mexico has always been and continues to be a topic of hot discussion since there is a widespread mistreatment of women in many aspects of life.
What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you picture Mexico? Perhaps chili-spiced cuisine, tequila or soap operas?
Yes, we agree that Mexico conjures up diverse and vivid dreams but once you decide to travel to Mexico don’t hesitate to get some useful information about women’s rights in Mexico.
In fact, no one can deny that many things have changed over time in Mexico, yet so much looks so similar.
The thing is Mexico’s culture is highly traditional and patriarchal. Therefore many people in Mexico exclude the possibility of women functioning in many different areas.
Let’s examine the relative gap between men and women that exists today in various categories, such as economic and political participation, access to education, healthcare, etc.
Take a look at the timeline that represents the history of the feminist movement. We are sure this will provide you with a basis for understanding the struggles many Mexican women and freedom fighters faced in the 20th and at the beginning of the 21st centuries.
Women’s rights in Mexico today
This is the 21st century and so many things have changed over years regarding women’s rights in Mexico.
No one can deny that different aspects of women’s lives, including family life, educational opportunities, working conditions, social status and political participation have changed over hundred years.
And this is due to the joint efforts of Mexican Government and various international organizations who in the past years have approved a number of laws and institutions designed to protect women from discrimination and violence.
For example, Legislation has improved family law in recent years;
- Permitting divorce due to domestic violence;
- Making abortion constitutional before 12 weeks;
- Accepting marriage between persons of the same sex;
- Mexico’s Supreme Court declared marital rape illegal in November 2005.
- In 2010 the Supreme Court ruled that all states must provide emergency contraception and access to abortion for rape victims.
- Federal authorities announced that they had created a special prosecutor to address violent crimes against women and said they will fund another special prosecutor’s office that investigates killings and disappearances of women.
- Election laws stipulate that no more than 70% of a party’s candidates must be from a single gender, that is, at least 30% must be women…
However, despite a number of significant steps to promote gender equality and women’s empowerment;
- TODAY many women and girls face serious barriers to accessing abortions after sexual violence;
- TODAY, women’s political participation is very low. The proportion of seats held by women in state congresses increased by 3 percent, from almost 24 percent in 2012 to 27 percent in 2013;
- TODAY, violence against women still remains one of the country’s most significant problems which is poorly tracked by the predominantly-male officials.
These are just a few examples that reveal the measures and changes above aren’t sufficient to make a difference.
In fact, much of the problem lies in the lack of effective implementation of these laws and the weakness of the institutions.
Besides, women don’t use the laws because most of them still don’t know their rights.
Simply put, women’s rights in Mexico still have a very long way to go.
Women’s rights in Mexico in different spheres of life
Though the Mexican Government dedicates more resources to women’s issues, gender inequality and widespread mistreatment of women still continues in many aspects of life, including healthcare, education, economic and political spheres, etc.
Women’s political representation and participation, gender pay gap, high rates of domestic violence in Mexico are still major issues in the 21st century Mexico.
Let’s take a look at various aspects of life where women are mistreated.
Since the 1990s, the number of women in the Mexican workforce has greatly increased. Nevertheless, according to several studies, a significant number of women in the workforce are either employed in the informal sector where they do not have a fixed salary or in the home-based industries sector where they receive no salary.
Many women work in maquiladoras or export-based manufacturing operations. The maquiladora labor force is largely made up of women, even though women went from making up 80% of the labor force in the 1980s to only 58.8% by 2006.
Studies also found that the greatest economic gender inequality exists in business ownership, with 17 businesses owned by women to every 100 businesses owned by men.
While the pay gap between man and women in Mexico decreased from the 1980s to the early 1990s, it began to increase in 1996 following the Mexican economic crisis.
According to the International Trade Union Confederation, as of 2008, the overall wage gap in Mexico is 17.4%.
In 2000, only 38.2% of women were employed compared to 81.0% of men. By 2010, the figure had barely improved, and stood at 42.5%.
By the way, the gap varies by occupation. For example, female teachers in Mexico make 91.2% of the salary of male teachers, while female industrial supervisors make only 66.9% of the wages earned by their male counterparts.
Inequalities in education
As a country, Mexico faces great educational challenges and obstacles.
As of 2012, the World Economic Forum ranks Mexico 69th out of 135 countries in terms of gender equality in educational attainment.
Many girls, especially in low-income families are unable to attend school because they are completing housework in their homes.
It comes as no surprise that Mexico is also one of the three OECD countries, (the others being Switzerland and Turkey) where more men than women have obtained a tertiary education.
Taking into account that education is a powerful force that provides better opportunities for children of poorer families and helps them reduce income inequalities, the Mexican Government has to put great efforts in reducing and eliminating education inequalities between men and women!
Inequalities in Healthcare
In 2010 the Supreme Court of Mexico ruled that all states must provide emergency contraception and access to abortion (until the 12th week of pregnancy) for rape victims.
However many women and girls face serious barriers to accessing abortions after sexual violence.
Studies also show that many Mexicans don’t have accurate information about the legality of abortion.
Many believe that abortion is not legal under any circumstance and thus do not know how to receive a safe abortion.
The lack of access to safe and legal abortions leads to complications and can have fatal consequences.
Contraception has always been a big issue for Mexican women.
In the 1960s, the use of contraceptives was prohibited by civil law, though elite women could access care in some private clinics.
Surging birth rates in Mexico in the 1960s and 70s became a political issue, particularly as agriculture was less productive and Mexico was no longer self-sufficient in food.
Mexican Government implemented family planning policies in the 1970s and 80s that aimed at educating Mexicans about the advantages of controlling fertility.
With a population that keeps increasing it was the first nation in 1973 to establish a family planning program.
Thanks to the program, called MEXFAM (The Mexican Family Planning Association) Mexican households decreased from 7.2 children to 2.4 in 1999.
While recent studies show the population of Mexico is expected to grow in the nearest future, contraceptive use in rural areas is still far lower than that of urban areas.
Approximately 25% of Mexican women live in rural areas, and of that, only 44% of those use birth control, and their fertility rate, 4.7%, is almost twice that of urban women.
Mexico was even able to incorporate a sexual education program in the schools to educate on contraception, but here is another problem. Many young girls living in rural areas are not even able to attend school.
Mexico has had very few female cabinet members throughout its history, and has never had a female head of state.
On the other hand, we couldn’t but mention that women’s participation in public life is incomparably greater than it was a century ago.
While women didn’t have right to vote until 1953, 6 women have been Governors in Mexico throughout history in the states of Colima, Tlaxcala, Yucatán, Zacatecas, Mexico City.
However, women’s participation in politics is still low as compared to other countries.
As of 2015, Mexico ranked 49 out of 190 countries in the percentage of women in executive and ministerial positions.
A 2004 study suggests that girls in Mexico think political participation is as important as boys do, but because of their socialized belief that politics is a masculine career field, women usually do not intend to seek a career in politics.
Violence or Femicide against women in Mexico
Are you are planning a trip to Mexico?
Well, we don’t want to disappoint you, but once you look at some statistics, the odds are you will change your plans for summer (though the country is full of amazing and safe places for solo travelers).
It’s no secret that women in Mexico are often victims of brutal crimes but many so far have no clue that,
- El Salvador and Mexico, along with Guatemala and Honduras, are some of the 25 most violent countries for women.
- Mexico has the 16th highest rate of homicides (also known as femicide) committed against women in the world.
- 63 % of women older than 15 have experienced violence during their lifetime.
- 47 % have experienced violence at the hands of an intimate partner.
- 840 women were murdered between 2010 and 2013, and 1,258 women disappeared between 2011 and 2012.
All these data symbolize the country’s culture of violence against women which remains one of the most significant problems in Mexico.
According to the “National Observatory Against Femicide”, violence is more prevalent in Chihuahua and the State of Mexico. These are areas of high drug trading activity, rape and domestic violence against women.
The bad news is that according to the 2013 Human Rights Watch, many women remain reluctant to report crimes because of patriarchal attitudes and deep-rooted stereotypes.
Our advice to women is, for the sake of you, your daughters, neighbors’ daughters and generations to come, STOP remaining silent in the face of these crimes.
Women’s efforts and achievements
Feminism in Mexico is usually divided chronologically into three periods:
- the Revolutionary period (1915-1925),
- the Second Wave (1968-1990, peaking in 1975-1985),
- the post-1990 period.
Let’s take a look at the timeline below to have a better insight about the history of women’s rights in Mexico and the Feminism movement.
The right to divorce was attained.
Hermila Galindo founded a feminist publication, Mujer Moderna (The Modern Woman) which discussed both politics and feminist ideas, including suffrage.
The Primer Congreso Feminista (First Feminist Congress) was held in Mérida, Mexico and discussed topics of education, including sexual education, religious fanaticism, legal rights and reforms, equal employment opportunity, intellectual equality among others.
- The Constitution of Mexico was created by the reformist movement which contained many ideas discussed in the Feminist Congress, like free, mandatory, state-sponsored education, “equal pay for equal work”, etc.
- The previous divorce provisions were expanded, giving women the right to alimony and child custody, as well as the ability to own property and take part in lawsuits.
Felipe Carrillo Puerto, governor of the Yucatán, proposed legislation giving women the right to vote and urged women to run for political offices.
Abortion was made constitutional in case of rape.
World War II shifted the focus to other concerns. Thus these years were predominantly a period of inactivity for feminists.
Women were granted the right to vote in federal elections.
A group of women participants in the student protests that would become known as Mexico 68, began a feminist movement.
The UN World Conference on Women was held in Mexico City. Mexico hosted delegates from 133 member states, who discussed equality, and governments were forced to evaluate how women fared in their societies.
Due to debt crisis wages decreased while the cost of living escalated causing more and more women to enter the workforce.
Companies began hiring women because they could pay them lower wages. Unemployment among men soared.
A scandal broke when police raided a private abortion clinic and jailed doctors, nurses and patients without a court order in Tlaxcoaque. Some of the women reported they were tortured.
One of the victims filed a lawsuit alleging police brutality and the media picked up the story. In a first for Mexico’s feminist movement, feminists published a notice in response to the situation, and obtained 283 signatories with different political alliances and gained 427 endorsements.
The period marked slow, but steady gains for women in the country.
Debate Feminista (Feminist Debate) was founded, becoming one of the most important journals in Latin America, because it also published articles written by men.
The Zapatistas (Mexican indigenous armed revolutionary group) announced the Women’s Revolutionary Law, which in a series of ten provisions granted women rights regarding children, education, health, marriage, military participation, political participation, protection from violence and work and wages.
Female activists and victims’ relatives in Chihuahua convinced the state government to create special law enforcement divisions to address disappearances and deaths of women in Ciudad Juarez.
The violence toward women had escalated to the point that Marcela Lagarde introduced the term Femicide which refers to abductions, death and disappearances of women and girls which is allowed by the state and happens with impunity.
Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation decriminalized abortions in Mexico City which occur by 12 weeks of gestation.
- The Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued a verdict against Mexico condemning the failure to protect hundreds of murdered women in Ciudad Juarez.
- Feminists staged protests and demanded political protection when Carlos Abascal (2005-2006-Secretary of the Interior) proclaimed feminism “as the source of many moral and social ills, such as so-called free love, homosexuality, prostitution, promiscuity, abortion, and the destruction of the family”.
Veronica Cruz was successful in leading the effort to free seven women serving prison sentences for abortion.
In 2006, she was awarded the honor for her work with women’s right to access legal and medical services.
The history of feminism movement and women’s rights in Mexico presented in this timeline shows that more and more Mexican women are speaking out.
Women’s advocates make slow but steady gains against all the violence and inequalities that exist in Mexico.
One thing we are sure of is that no matter you live in Mexico, India or Russia, all women should band together to fight for their rights and demand improvements.
On top of that, the international community should prioritize women’s rights and increase women’s awareness so that women have the knowledge to inspire each other to stand for their rights.
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