By Rocío Magali Maciel
This essay was selected for publication as part of the War Prevention Initiative’s Feminist Foreign Policy Essay “Un-Contest”.
The foreign policy of nations has typically been linked to a statist and military strategic vision, which ignores the perspective of traditionally marginalized groups. In response, feminist foreign policy (FFP) seeks to move away from this traditional thinking and “offers an alternative and intersectional rethinking of security from the point of view of the most vulnerable. It is a multidimensional policy framework that aims to elevate the experiences and agency of women and marginalized groups to examine the destructive forces of patriarchy, colonization, heteronormativity, capitalism, racism, imperialism, and militarism.”
In 2020, Mexico announced the adoption of its FFP, highlighting that, by being “the first country in Latin America to adopt a feminist foreign policy on a par with countries such as France, Canada, Norway and Sweden, [Mexico reaffirmed] the importance of gender equality for the development of just, peaceful and happy societies.” This decision could be interpreted as a realization and understanding on the part of the Mexican government of the need for an intersectional approach to decision-making and the design of public policies. However, the response to one of the most acute problems afflicting the country—violence—continues to be the militarization of public security. In 2022, Mexican president Andrés Manuel López Obrador, “gave the Army operational, financial and administrative control of the National Guard, which used to answer to the civilian-led security ministry.” Putting aside the fact that military personnel are not trained with a civilian lens (much less a gendered lens) and are not typically intended to be in charge of civilian safety, the long and well-documented history of abuses, torture, and forced disappearances committed by the Mexican Army should be reason enough not to put them in charge of civilian safety.
These two clearly contradictory approaches—a feminist foreign policy and the militarization of public security—highlight the government’s lack of a cohesive policy to mitigate violence. Mexico should be lauded for adopting a feminist foreign policy, but it should then follow its own example by adopting a feminist domestic policy (FDP) to address violence and gender inequities in Mexican politics and society.
The issue of violence against women occupies a particularly disturbing place in the country, as one of its most acute and widespread problems. Amnesty International estimates that more than 34,000 homicides of women occurred between 1985 and 2009. And these homicides, as the most extreme type of violence, represent just one example of crimes against women in Mexico. Amnesty International further reports that the government fails to protect women from different types of crimes and does not provide justice for victims.
Violence is yet another manifestation of gender inequality, as women experience violence in a completely different way than men. Although “men accounted for the vast majority of homicide victims in Mexico (in 2021), at nearly 89 per cent of the total… female deaths [show] a strong association with intimate partner violence. According to official statistics, nearly one in five female homicides occur in the home, compared to one in thirteen for male homicides.” This means that, unlike men, women have to be more careful both outside and inside their homes.
Additionally, female victims and survivors are viewed and treated differently in the official narrative and in the media. Judging and scrutinizing every aspect of women’s lives even as they are the victims is a common occurrence. If a woman is subject to a violent attack, she is often blamed whereas that rarely happens with men. And while it is true that victim-blaming is not exclusive to Mexico, of the countries that have adopted a FFP and claim to be committed to gender parity, Mexico is the only one where an average of 10 women a day are killed and thousands more are missing.
The causes of violence against women are not monolithic or uniform. This type of violence is not necessarily the direct consequence of organized crime or drug trafficking; rather, it is the result of a combination of factors, such as poverty, gender inequalities, the glorification of violence, the invisibility of the victims, and so on. It also has ripple effects on different layers of our communities. The cost of violence in general, and violence against women in particular, is observed not only in the affected person but also in the rest of society and the country at large. It can be measured in economic, social, political, and public health terms. Children of women who suffer physical and sexual abuse by an intimate partner are six times more likely to die before the age of five than other children, and those who survive have a higher probability of replicated patterns of violence in adulthood. Furthermore, the huge cost associated with violence against women can be measured not only in terms of money directly spent on services like medical attention, legal assistance, and so on, but also in the indirect costs of missing work or school, which impacts their and their families’ ability to earn an income.
Studies estimate the cost of violence against women to be billions of dollars and to represent around 2% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Latin American countries. To address this problem, there must be an approach that takes into account both the various factors that intertwine to create it and the multilayered ways in which it impacts our society and our economy.
To be successful, such an approach should apply an intersectional and transversal vision of gender, because understanding the intersection between gender and other factors such as access to education, economic mobility, and family roles, is an essential part to the solution. A feminist domestic policy would understand the need to address the phenomenon of violence against women from different angles, such as prevention, attention, and sanction.
Proposals with a FDP vision
1.1 Promote a different vision of masculinity. In Mexico, gender roles are defined by patriarchy that glorifies violence and normalizes certain assumptions about women and men: that women are weak, emotional, and unable to think objectively beyond their own subjective points of view and that men are strong, rational, and objective. If we rethink masculinity and learn that there are different ways of expressing it, the behaviors we understand as “normal” can be questioned and non-oppressive relationships can be achieved.
1.2 Promote new models of femininity. If women are present in typically “masculine” spheres (at work, in schools, in sports, in public life, etc.), their presence becomes normal and microaggressions and violence decrease.
2.1 Make visible the different types of victims of violence, as many types of victims are routinely ignored. Within this category are women with disabilities, women in health institutions, members of the LGBTQ+ community, transgender women, and indigenous women. These people are stigmatized, rejected, and ignored, which means that there are not even reliable figures that indicate the rate of violence they suffer.
2.2 Make visible different types of violence. Violence against women is not limited to physical or even emotional violence. There is also sexual, economic, and patrimonial violence. Having a full understanding of different types of violence allows us to design sustainable solutions.
3.1 Adopt a judicial system with a gender perspective. There is a need for an inclusive and comprehensive legal process. It is essential that those who are responsible for caring for and supporting the victims as well as those administering justice at police stations and government offices break with gender stereotypes and have adequate legal, bias, gender and psychological training.
3.2 Make the justice system and other relevant institutions more accessible to women. It is important to understand everything a woman must do to file a complaint—and to design accessibility with these challenges in mind. The offices where complaints are filed should be accessible and not far from towns; there must be transport facilities and affordable childcare options; and support should be provided so that women can take time off work. If there is not a complete support network (including work facilities, psychological support, and health services), women will continue without reporting the attacks they suffer, which in turn will continue to impact every aspect of their lives and the lives of those around them.
- A change of vision at the macro level
To date, it is common for officials (at all levels) to blame the victims; the relationship of the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, with feminist organizations is conflictive; and the problem continues to be addressed without modifying the persistent gender inequalities. If the vision of a FFP is not translated into internal change within Mexico, violence will continue unpunished in our country. In this sense, public policies must include the perspective and input of feminist and women’s organizations, otherwise they will continue to fail. Government officials need to listen to and work with women if they ever want to design effective, comprehensive, and, more importantly, lasting policies.
Violence against women “reduces their ability to make a productive contribution to the family, the economy and public life; absorbs resources from social services, the justice system, health care agencies and employers; and reduces the overall educational attainment, mobility and innovation potential of victims/survivors, their children and even of the perpetrators of said acts of violence.” It is a problem that has catastrophic consequences for the development of the country. Adopting a feminist vision in domestic policy consistent with Mexico’s feminist foreign policy and making profound changes to our way of thinking and acting can lead us to comprehensive and sustainable solutions to addressing violence against women, as well as other forms of violence.
Rocío Magali Maciel is a former Mexican diplomat who recently finished her Masters in Gender Analysis and Migration. She now works as an Immigrant Justice Fellow for the non-profit Justice for Migrant Women. She can be reached at email@example.com.
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 Marcos González Díaz, “Es la Militarización de México”: Por Qué Causa Polémica que la Gaurdia Nacional Pase a Depender de la Secretaria de Defensa,” BBC World News, September 9, 2022, https://www.bbc.com/mundo/noticias-america-latina-62854552.
 Yu Liu and Thomas M Fullerton Jr., “Evidence from Mexico on Social Status and Violence against Women,” Applied Economics 47 (2015): 4260-4273, https://doi.org/10.1080/00036846.2015.1026588.
 Olivia Adams, “Understanding the Dynamics of Femicide in Mexico,” Vision of Humanity, accessed April 12, 2023, https://www.visionofhumanity.org/understanding-the-dynamics-of-femicide-of-mexico/.
 Laura Gottesdiener, “Family Buries Mexican Teenager Who Has Reignited Anger over Gender Violence,” Reuters, April 24, 2022, https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/family-buries-mexican-teenager-who-has-reignited-anger-over-gender-violence-2022-04-24/.
 UNAM, “The Cost of Violence Against Women in Mexico,” University Program for Gender Studies at National Autonomous University of Mexico, Ministry of the Interior, and National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women, July 2016, https://oig.cepal.org/sites/default/files/el_costo_de_la_violencia_contra_las_mujeres_en_mexico.pdf.
 Laura Erika González Pizaña, “Las Masculinidades y la Violencia de Genero,” Animal Politico, June 16, 2021, https://www.animalpolitico.com/analisis/invitades/las-masculinidades-y-la-violencia-de-genero.
 González Pizaña
 Carlos Ríos Espinosa, “High Toll of Violence for Women with Disabilities New Survey Reveals,” Human Rights Watch, September 28, 2022, https://www.hrw.org/news/2022/09/28/high-toll-violence-women-disabilities-new-survey-reveals.
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