Mexico claims to pursue a “feminist” foreign policy. The full truth is that women’s rights cannot be taken for granted in the country itself.
Mexico is notorious for its feminicides (see me and Sheila Mysorekar at www.dandc.eu). In 2020, 948 women were murdered, 2.7% more than in 2019.
For several years, the number of court cases concerning domestic violence has been increasing, which, to some extent, may show that many women have the self-confidence to dare to press charges and refuse to suffer in silence. However, victims say government agencies are not doing enough to protect them. Feminists have certainly found it infuriating that President Andrés Manuel López Obrador speaks disparagingly of the women’s rights rallies held each year on March 8.
Her government nevertheless claims to pursue a feminist foreign policy guided by the principles of gender justice and human rights. He is proud of a gender parity reform he has implemented and points out that women are in more political leadership positions than in the past. The current federal cabinet has 19 members, eight of whom are women. Eight of Mexico’s 31 states are led by female governors. According to the national statistics agency INEGI, one in four mayors is a woman. These figures show that female leadership is no longer exceptional, but gender parity has not been achieved.
Clues offered on the government website
In 2020, Marcelo Ebrard, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, said that since the government was feminist, so was its foreign policy. Women’s rights activists appreciate the general position, but wonder what “feminist” politics actually means. The federal government’s website offers some clues. He mentioned :
- a gender-aware foreign policy,
- parity within the ministry and the diplomatic service,
- a safe and violence-free institution,
- visible equality and
- intersectional approaches.
Mexico certainly deserves praise for assuming leadership and becoming the first country in Latin America to emphasize gender issues in its foreign policy. It remains to be debated, however, to what extent a government can promote things abroad that it has not done at home. Gender parity is not a Mexican reality and women’s human rights – especially to live free from violence – cannot be taken for granted.
The other buzzwords on the website obviously refer to the ministry itself, and there is clearly room for improvement. The share of women in senior foreign service positions (heads of embassies and consulates, for example) has not changed since the Minister’s statement. It’s not quite 30% and it shows that career opportunities for women have not improved since the adoption of the feminist policy.
Earlier this year, the Foreign Office had to withdraw a man it wanted to appoint as ambassador to Panama. There were accusations of abuse and a very effective social media campaign demanded that an abuser not become an ambassador. It was striking, however, that Panama opposed the nominee, so the decision was not really inspired by Mexico’s feminist politics.
The Ministry is indeed making efforts to publicize the achievements of women. It publishes biographies and profiles of outstanding women in the foreign service. In addition, it organizes seminars to make agents understand gender issues. They are expected to react more sensitively to cases of violence and abuse – not only within their own ranks, but equally when people turn to Mexican embassies and consulates abroad. . A recent case of sexual abuse in Qatar, however, is telling. The minister only became aware of the fate of his female officer due to public outrage, but later backed her up legally.
In expert jargon, “intersectionality” means that discrimination must be considered transversally, taking into account both sexism and racism, for example. Questions arise as to how migrant women from different ethnic and indigenous groups are treated and whether they are separated from their daughters and sons when transiting the country. Not only in terms of migration, various deficiencies still mark daily life in Mexico (see my comment on www.dandc.eu).
Virginia Mercado is a researcher at the Universidad Autónoma del Estado de México (UAEMex) and a teacher in peace and development studies.