Gendered Necropolitics: On the Politics of Death Against Women in Mexico
In Mexico we are at the forefront of a necropolitical system, that is, a system based on the politics of death. The so-called “war on drugs” started by the Mexican government in 2006 has ended the lives of at least 200,000 people and resulted in more than 28,000 disappearances. While this necropolitical system spans the systems of race, class, and gender, in this article I would like to focus on the gendered aspect of necropolitics—the way in which necropolitics is patriarchal in its origins.
In Mexico being a woman (all that are identified as such, and not based on a biologist notion) is itself an act of resistance. Being a woman means that if you are alive, you have committed a courageous act. In Mexico, at least 7 women, including both trans and cis women, are killed everyday. In the State of Mexico alone there were at least 300 femicides in 2016. 95% of these femicide cases are not resolved. Femicide was defined by Diana Russell and Jill Raford as the act of killing a woman only for being a woman. In Mexico, Marcela Lagarde and other feminists called it “feminicidio” (feminicide), to denounce the complicity of the State and the impunity in the violence against women.
There are many names and histories. These histories need to be remembered and honored. I name here only a few of them, but encourage others to learn more about other cases. We need to give them a voice, and not allow them to be forgotten. They still live with us, as long as we call their names.
For example, this year an 11 year old girl named Valeria, was sexually assaulted and killed while riding public transportation. The killer was found dead in his cell days after his apprehension.
On May 3rd, 2017, the 22 year old Lesvy Berlín García Osorio was found dead in the middle of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM) campus. Recently, the police said that it was a suicide. Osorio’s mother, as well as numerous feminist organizations, denied this version, demanding justice and to treat the case as femicide. #NoFueSucidioFueFeminicidio
Paola Ledezma, a trans woman and sex worker, was killed September 30th of 2016 in Mexico City.
Itzel Durán, a 19 year old student, was killed in Comitán, Chiapas.
In 2012 Agnes Torres, a 28 year old trans activist and psychologist, was killed in Puebla. She collaborated with the Humana Nación Trans which seeks the recognition and respect of trans people nationwide.
In may of this year, Jennifer López, a 20 years old transgender activist and stylist, was killed in Ometepec, Guerrero.
In July 2015 Nadia Vera (anthropologist and cultural promoter), along with Yesenia Quiroz (make-up artist), Mile Virginia Marín (Colombian model) and Alejandra Negrete (domestic worker), and the photographer Ruben Espinosa, were all killed in Mexico City. It was a political crime, because they were active organizers in Veracruz, were they lived. 2 years later and still there is no justice in this case.
There are also numerous cases of indigenous and Afro-descendant women that are killed everyday because they are defending their community territory, threatened by transnational enterprises or local governments, both bent on colonial and capitalist projects of dispossession.
For example, in September 2016, Juanita Ramírez Osorio, an indigenous Triqui teacher of Oaxaca, was shot to dead. In June 2017, unknown attackers outside of a local radio station killed Marcela de Jesús, an indigenous community activist and radio host in Guerrero.
Women are subjected to sexual, psychological, and physical violence because they are part of a collectivity. Indigenous and Afro-descendant women are victims of femicides because their bodies are racialized and read as disposable. The necropolitical system is patriarchal, but also racist and colonial. Bodies of women are not only gendered, but raced, and classed.
In Mexico we are living under a necropolitical system—a system of the politics of death. Achille Mbembe, a Cameroonian philosopher, defined necropolitics as the power to decide who lives and who dies. Building on this definition, I would like to highlight the gendered nature of necropolitics. Necropolitics is a patriarchal system that sees women’s and trans women´s bodies as disposable and unnecessary. The violence against women becomes naturalized but also a specific target. It is important that we analyze the gendered aspects of necropolitics to understand how violence against women in Mexico, and in this case, femicides and transfemicides are, in fact an integral component of the over-arching patriarchal necropolitical system. Women are killed because a patriarchal necropolitical system does not want women alive, because it reduces women to a bare life.
Faced with the naturalization of femicide and the politics of death in Mexico, different feminist and women´s collectives in Mexico have created resistance and protests like the one in April of 2016, la Movilización Nacional contra las Violencias Machistas (National Mobilization Against Sexist Violences), to denounce the everyday violence in the country against our bodies.
It is true that specific women, because of their race, ethnicity, class, or gender identity—that is, the intersectionality of their subjectivities—are more vulnerable to femicide violence and yet it is invisibilized. We need to make political solidarity alliances, embodying the strength but also the power we all have within ourselves. A power that comes from below. We need to stop naturalizing femicidal and all other types of violences. We need to stand against all the faces of violence, because it does not have only one. We need to embrace our dignity and our lives. Against the politics of death, the politics of terror, necropolitics, care and love within our communities.
Originally from Puebla, Mexico, Meztli Yoalli holds a degree in Cultural Anthropology from the University of the Americas, Puebla. She has a Master’s degree in Social Anthropology from the Center for Research and Higher Studies in Social Anthropology (CIESAS) in Mexico City and is currently a PhD Candidate in Latin American Studies at the University of Texas at Austin. Currently, she works on subjects of gender, racism in Latin America, violence and justice.