~ This article was originally published by Animal Político on April 25, 2016 ~
Irinea Buendía is certain: her daughter, Mariana Lima, was killed by her son-in-law. Over the past five years she has traveled a tortuous path in pursuit of justice and as a result, for the first time the Supreme Court discussed the issue of feminicide. When she is asked why she has kept up the struggle, she responds without hesitation: “I know that no matter what I do, my daughter is not coming back to life, but her killer could kill another woman. If I can save a single woman, it is enough.”
Irinea’s words capture what happened on April 24. For the first time, thousands of women took to the streets to denounce the violence they experience on a daily basis, and to demand that it stop. To demand that not one more woman be confronted with violence in the street, on public transport, or in their home.
They took to the street and demonstrated that thousands of women have experienced the same fear when a man assaults them, they have felt the same impotence and pain, but none have given up. “If you touch one of us, thousands will organize,” read one poster, and indeed, thousands did.
While a journalist broadcast a report on social media, a woman tried to give her testimonial: “I am here because my friend’s daughter was left in the street, barely breathing, after a gang-rape in Mexico City. In three months she has tried to commit suicide three times. I am here to make people understand that the laws are not on our side.”
Around her, hundreds of women acknowledged being victims of something that, until now, they had not protested together. They shouted with all their strength: no more feminicides, no more harassment, no more injustice.
“Why is this march important? So that we know we are not alone. The change will not be instantaneous, but for the first time men will know that catcalling is, in reality, harassment,” said Eréndira Mejía.
After women experienced sexual assaults in public spaces and denounced it on social media, the messages they received were not what they expected. Rather than support, Twitter users spit phrases such as “it’s your fault for wearing that dress,” “you were lucky, I would have raped you,” and “feminazi.”
The violence that was unleashed prompted a group of women to begin to organize a protest on Facebook. It was a private event, and only their friends were invited.
In a few days, the reports of aggressions began adding up, and with them the idea of having many women participate in a demonstration, set for April 24, with the hashtag “#24a.” In response to male violence in homes, schools, work, and the street the march took the slogan: We want our lives. (Nos queremos vivas)
Ciudad Juárez, Xalapa, Tuxtla Gutiérrez, Guadalajara, Tepic, Cancún, Mérida, Hermosillo: in all, more than 40 cities in 27 states also held demonstrations on Sunday.
In the Valle de México (in Mexico State), the march began in Ecatepec, where 840 women were killed between 2011 and 2013, making it the deadliest place for women, according to women’s’ rights organizations.
“We are tired of all this violence that we suffer, just for having been born as women,” they said through megaphones. At their feet, on the steps of the municipal offices, they placed pink crosses and pictures of the missing.
There, Irinea Buendía took the microphone to describe her daughter’s case. Buendía’s son-in-law, a police officer, has maintained that her 29-year-old daughter committed suicide, but Buendía never believed that. She demanded that the courts investigate, but nobody paid attention. That is why, in their declarations, the organizing women included a fundamental demand: “an end to the judicial favoritism toward men in criminal proceedings.”
Minutes later, the women left Mexico State in a caravan of buses, cars, and bicycles. Some decided to take the protest to the subway, because it is frequently a place of violence: 6 out of 10 women has experienced aggressions on public transit. With drums, facepaint, bared breasts, flyers, and slogans, they chanted “My body is mine alone!”
At the same time, at the Monument to the Revolution, on a long black canvas, the organization “Bordamos Feminicidios” (“We Embroider Feminicides”) told the story of murdered women with bits of fabric. “I am Margarita Aldama Hernández, from Jalisco. I was 33. I was killed by my neighbor, Ramón. He tried to rape me. My neighbors defended me, and he killed them too. I do not want flowers; I want justice.”
As Minerva, one of the organization’s members, explained, yesterday they displayed only 80 embroideries, although they have stitched more than 400 cases that remain unresolved and without justice. “Each one of these embroideries is a feminicide. And since 2011 we have not stopped stitching,” she lamented.
All the groups gathered at the Monument to depart together toward the Angel of Independence. There were drums, cheers, posters, messages written on bodies and faces: “I don’t want your catcall, I want your respect,” “In skirt or pants, respect me, asshole,” “I don’t want to die at the hands of someone who says he loves me.”
For the first time they joined together, and felt supported in denouncing that they are not anyone’s sexual objects and that their bodies belonged to nobody other than themselves.
Since the start of the demonstration, the organizers announced that men should go behind the marchers. The vanguard would be only women.
When a man tried to join the front or male photojournalists came near, they shouted “no men, no men.” “You feel discriminated against now, but we feel it all the time, you should see how ti feels,” a young woman explained.
When they arrived at the Angel, after six hours of demonstration, there was no stage or speakers as occurs at union marches or political rallies. A small group read a statement that only a few were able to hear. But it did not matter. Thousands of women smiled, and hugged.
This was a first step. The first, and the most difficult: talking about the violence that they have suffered. Many did so for the first time, thanks to the hashtag “#MiPrimerAcoso” (“My first assault”) on Twitter.
This was the preamble to the march, allowing thousands of women to dare to revisit the violent events that marked their childhood, adolescence, and daily lives. So many did so that the hashtag was a trending topic in the country as a result of the thousands of mentions.
#MiPrimerAcoso was the preamble of pain. Of knowing that thousands of women have been assaulted, of feeling rage over impunity, but also sharing the desire to march shoulder to shoulder with strangers who are, at the same time, partners in the struggle.
This article was originally published by Animal Político on April 25, 2016 under the title “Si tocan a una, nos organizamos miles, la consigna de las mujeres para gritar contra el abuso” and is available at: http://www.animalpolitico.com/2016/04/si-tocan-a-una-nos-organizamos-miles-la-consigna-que-llevo-a-las-mujeres-a-gritar-contra-el-abuso/
Translation by Michael Lettieri, Trans-Border Institute