Posted by Nidia Bautista – MA Candidate in Global Journalism and CLACS at NYU
Feminicide is defined as the extreme violence against women due to their gender, marked by impunity that violates their human rights and results in death. It’s a word that names the violence inflicted on women who were strangled, raped, tortured, mutilated, and killed. I’ve been researching how and why this is happening in Ecatepec, Edomex. The more I research and interview the issue, the more I notice that women, in addition to living in a context of continual violence, are doing the work to denounce and end this violence.
I have interviewed women family members of victims of feminicide, survivors of violence, and women human rights defenders. I have also interviewed feminist academics that focus on the issue. I have taken a course on Feminicide in Mexico sponsored at Mexico City’s Museum of Memory and Tolerance. I have attended another similar conference at the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM). While I have found and spoken to a few men that work to denounce the violence, the majority of my sources are women. What is striking, and admittingly overwhelming, is that fighting feminicide has become women’s work.
One such tireless women is Irinea Buendia. Her daughter Mariana Lima was killed by her husband and judicial police officer Julio Cesar Hernandez Ballinas in 2010 in Mexico State. Her daughter had suffered domestic violence at the hands of Ballinas and was found hung in her home. Ballinas told authorities and her mother Irinea Buendía that she had killed herself and state authorities eventually ruled Mariana’s death a suicide. Buendía took the case to Mexico’s Supreme Court and, after years of advocating for justice for her daughter, the court ruled a reinvestigation of the case on charges of feminicide. Despite the historic court win, Buendía continues to advocate for justice in other feminicide cases and makes a point of appearing in public to accompany the families of victims. I interviewed Buendía and much like the mothers of murdered and disappeared women from Ciudad Juarez, her activism doesn’t end with the activism for Mariana. Buendia wants to help denounce and end feminicide in Edomex.
There is a long list of women in Edomex who do similar work. There is the Red Denuncia Feminicidios Estado de México (REFEDEM) and Invisibles Somos Visibles, collectives that uses performance art to denounce the violence. Every so often a group of women get together to put on performance pieces throughout Ecatepec and Edomex that present the stories of the women who have been killed in the state. Women, from Edomex and Mexico City, take on the roles of women who were killed, making public and visible the invisibilized violence. I followed the members of Invisibles Somos Visibles in a performance in Ecatepec recently. I met a university student that joined the collective in high school and says her own experiences with violence as an Ecatepec resident, which includes an attempt to abduct her while she walked to school, inspires her to do this type of activism.
Not only am I meeting the women behind the growing resistance against feminicide, but I have been told by sources that women face misogyny and sexism when trying to seek help as victims of violence. Public officials, men and women, often fail to use a gender perspective when attending victims of gender violence despite this being a requirement by Mexican law. Lawyers and the Mexican justice system also re-victimize women looking for justice. And in interviews with women who live in the state, patriarchal violence and misogyny is unfortunately very prevalent in their everyday lives.
I wonder why men don’t take on more prominent roles to question, challenge and intercede in violence against women in the state. I am also frustrated by the double, if not triple, burden placed on women in these cases. This activism is unpaid work that women, many juggling multiple jobs, do to challenge violence that has killed so many others. But the more I speak with women in Edomex, the more I realize that many see this type of work as empowering and necessary. Mexican feminist anthropologist Marcela Lagarde calls this “sororidad”: women creating new ways of social organizations and collaboration that challenge patriarchal violence, in multiple scales.
There is a certain beauty and power behind sororidad as a method and practice of feminist organizing against feminicide. The women of Invisibles Somos Visibles, pictured below, present themselves as the collective embodiment of countless disappeared women.
It’s an activism that superimposes itself over a backdrop of violence and poverty.