Leticia Bonifaz: “Women’s rights are always at risk”

Leticia Bonifaz at an event of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 6 in Mexico City.
Leticia Bonifaz at an event of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on December 6 in Mexico City.WED

50 years ago in Mexico there was no talk of sexist violence. What happened at home when the door was closed, belonged to private life. The mistreatment suffered by women, rooted in the culture, was normalized and accepted. It was not inequality, it was custom. “Women brought this information internalized as a formal apprenticeship,” says one of the country’s greatest experts on women’s rights, Leticia Bonifaz, born in Comitán, Chiapas, 62 years ago. Doctor in Law, human rights activist and representative of Mexico before the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination against Women of the UN (CEDAW, for its acronym in English) is part of that generation that opened the door and converted what he was private in politics.

Mexico passed legislation on gender violence, hosted the first UN world conference on women’s rights, in 1975, and signed most of the international agreements on the matter. Despite this, the country has still not been able to stop the horror of violence: more than 3,000 murdered in one year.

2021 comes to an end as a year of great conquests for the feminist movement, of which Bonifaz considers herself a part, and of chiaroscuro for Mexican women. Added to the decriminalization of abortion by the Supreme Court and the approval of total parity in the midterm elections, there are bloody numbers of femicides that no government has been able to resolve. 922 until November of this year. 22 of the 32 states of the country have declared an alert for gender violence, more than 95% of cases are never resolved and only one in 10 victims dares to report their aggressor. Bonifaz attends EL PAÍS in a telephone conversation from Chiapas.

Ask. How would you rate this year ending?

Answer. The idea that I would like to reinforce is that when it comes to women’s rights in particular, when you don’t move forward, you don’t stay in place, you usually go backwards. Like when you are swimming in a river with a lot of current. If you stop, the waters will carry you back again.

P. Do you think we have regressed?

R. We must remember that beautiful March 8, 2020 where thousands of women marched in the streets. We had a great boost. The pandemic and all the conditions afterward stopped us. Violence in the homes intensified, many of the issues were stopped … The interesting thing is going to be how to regain momentum, because the agenda is there.

P. It is like what Simone de Beauvoir mentioned: “A political, economic or religious crisis will suffice for the rights of women to be questioned”, what do you think?

R. Rights that we consider won, conquered, that we even celebrate, are always at risk again. That is why it is a permanent alert and a need to keep the movement together, knowing that there are various types of feminisms and that the concept of women in general is different from the specific struggle when there are intersections of indigenous women, migrant women, and older women. , as a girl or adolescent. We must consider everything so that we do not think that one fight excludes the others.

P. What do you think of the debate about trans people in feminism?

R. Which is the most negative thing that has happened to the movement. There are those who even deny its existence [de las mujeres trans] that it is very serious for me because they live in very particular situations of discrimination.

P. We recently learned of the case in the United States of a trans girl who has won in the women’s college swimming league for her physical power. Isn’t there a real risk of harming the rights of other women?

R. Of course it is, but we have to reflect on the issue and find a solution based on inclusion, not exclusion. When there is an issue of strength, as in sports, differences can be made and they will have to continue figuring out what to do. But there are other issues where strength has nothing to do with it and where a hormonal issue cannot be the definition of whether you have fewer or more rights. Rights are for all people. The fact of recognizing rights to trans people does not mean cutting rights elsewhere, in the protection of rights we all fit.

P. This year the Supreme Court ruled that no woman can be jailed for aborting in Mexico. Given the political resistance that still exists in many states, do you think it was the only way to decriminalize abortion in the country?

R. The rights can advance in legislative headquarters through laws, in public policies from the Executive and in judicial headquarters. The latter is not the most common, but since the 2011 reform there have been more elements for the Judiciary to be proactive.

P. Despite the Court’s ruling, many States still do not decriminalize abortion, what is missing?

R. All rights have to be advanced in the three venues. Public policies must continue and, above all, resources must be guaranteed so that attention to women does not diminish. Laws alone do nothing if there is no political will to enforce it. Policies for the prevention of unwanted pregnancies must be strengthened in all States, provide a lot of information and thus comply with Article 4 of the Constitution, which states that everyone has the right to decide freely, responsibly and informed the number and spacing of their children.

P. We have the largest number of female deputies and governors in the country thanks to the parity that was established in the elections. Do you think that in the coming years we will see a policy with a greater gender perspective?

R. We have broken the glass ceiling and I believe that a greater number of women should guarantee a greater possibility of a gender perspective, but that does not mean that all women will. We have a conservative governor in Chihuahua (Maru Campos) who from the first day wore the blue scarf [contra el aborto]. Which shows that she is not going to promote sexual and reproductive rights in her state. The most important objective is to break the models of domination that have prevailed. If a woman reproduces them, even if she is biologically female, women’s rights are not being guaranteed.

P. Let’s talk about something not so positive, sexist violence. 2021 will close again with more than 3,000 murdered. Why can’t this figure be lowered despite government policies and measures?

R. The most serious problem is the extremely high margins of impunity and this exists because the law is not applied despite tougher penalties. Although there is training for police officers, prosecutors, and public ministries, when a woman comes to report, she continues to be ridiculed, she continues to be questioned, the justice that is patriarchal continues to be questioned by the operators.

P. You were talking about how important it is to have resources. This year there will be cuts again in the budget for Equality and the fight against violence. What do you think about that?

R. Obviously it is very worrying, but I believe that at the level of training, efforts could be made within the States and Superior Courts of Justice themselves. I think that given the lack of resources, you have to force your imagination, creativity to counteract this lack of resources.

Q. You mentioned the March 8, 2020 march in Mexico City. Do you think feminism is currently the strongest social movement in the country?

R. It is without a doubt the strongest. But I feel that in Latin America we have Argentina as the even more conscious and articulated movement. Another of the most important news is the one that occurred in the Chilean election. The movements in Chile have been movements with very special characteristics, where feminism also played an important role and which in the end was expressed at the polls with a very particular agenda.

P. What positive aspects would you highlight in the struggle of Latin American women?

R. The key is intergenerational. There are veterans and young movements that have been the impetus. This is not a conquest of the old feminism, it is a conquest of a very powerful feminism that I put a young face on.

P. Mexico has proposed creating a National Care System, what do you think of the initiative?

R. It seems essential to talk about this because any change in the public, requires changes in the private space. The parity, the glass ceiling … it has to do with changes in the private space.

P. And how is this achieved? I have heard her say that it is not only that women have access to public life, but that men are involved in household chores …

R. If both of them are made responsible for this task, then the double burden is immediately reduced to the woman and she has a greater chance of developing in the area that she wants. They have historically been in their projects without thinking about food, children, older adults … When it was said that men and women had the same opportunities in competitions or at work, it was not true.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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