Can Mexico City’s New Women’s Emergency Line Stop Femicides?
By KELIN DILLON
Despite claims that the Mexican government has taken steps to combat the nation’s enduring femicide crisis, violence against women in the country has not gotten better across the administration of Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador (AMLO). Instead, it has become increasingly worse.
As reports of intentional homicides against women continue across Mexico, including a 900 percent surge in missing women under the term of Mexico City Governor Claudia Sheinbaum, Sheinbaum and the Mexico City government have announced a new emergency line created to combat female violence – but is it enough?
The new Emergency Attention Line, accessible at *765, will offer round-the-clock attention to female victims of aggression and sexual violence and purportedly provide a security protocol to handle the reports, as well as medical, psychological and police assistance in cases where necessary.
“That number, *765, can be dialed from a cell phone or landline,” said Sheinbaum, in what she said is an attempt to make femicides “disappear” in Mexico City. “There are institutional measures that allow women who call this number, if it is due to an immediate risk or advice that she is requesting, to receive institutional support from the Mexico City police and she can be visited immediately … that women who call *765 are not abandoned.”
Though Sheinbaum’s initiative is a step in the right direction toward providing valuable resources to women in need, the efficacy of the *765 helpline has yet to be proven – especially as the Mexican authorities have repeatedly shown a lack of urgency in resolving reports of violence against women. Multiple victims of recent high-profile femicides had already alerted local authorities to threats against their wellbeing ahead of their untimely deaths, with no preventable action taken by the institutions theoretically put in place to protect them.
Margarita Ceceña, a 30-year-old woman from the state of Morelos, died on Sunday, July 24, after just over three weeks in a Mexico City intensive care unit following an attack against her life by family members on July 1. Ceceña’s angry relatives arrived at her house armed with machetes, stick, and a canister of gasoline, eventually lighting Ceceña’s abode on fire.
“Help me please, help me please,” Ceceña could be heard begging neighbors in a video released of the homicidal attack. “Pour water on me!”
While Ceceña’s mother and son were spared from the flames, Ceceña herself was afflicted with second- and third-degree burns all across her body, eventually succumbing to her wounds after a lengthy hospital stay. Ceceña’s death could have likely been prevented, as she and other close relatives had filed multiple complaints about the death threats they had received with the Morelos Prosecutor’s Office ahead of the attack – to no avail.
Just one week before Ceceña’s death, another Mexican mother, Luz Raquel Padilla Gutiérrez, was likewise set on fire and killed in Zapopan, Jalisco, after defending her autistic and epileptic son against angry neighbors. The 35-year-old mother had received repeated threats ahead of her murder, including facing industrial chlorine attacks, and filed complaints with her local police station, which opened an investigation folder. Still, the investigation was evidently not efficient or rapid enough, allowing for the homicide against Padilla to occur.
Though Sheinbaum’s new *765 emergency line has the potential to prevent future femicides and is a welcome additional resource, unless the issue is tackled at its roots and the Mexican authorities are reformed to take reports of violence against women seriously and address them quickly, the emergency line may be little more in practice than a shout into the void for the already overlooked, underserved and incredibly vulnerable population of Mexican women.