On Monday, 9th March 2020, the day after International Women’s Day, a nationwide strike is taking place in Mexico to protest violence against women. The idea of the #undiasinmujeres/undiasinnosotras (a day without women/a day without us) strike started in Iceland in 1975 but has not been widespread until recently. In Mexico the #undiasinnosotras movement originated from a recent increase in violence towards and murders of women and girls in the country. In February two murders shook Mexico – those of 25-year-old Ingrid Escamilla and a 7-year old called Fátima – the horrific nature of which shocked the country into action.
Taking inspiration from earlier protests in Iceland and Argentina, Mexican feminists suggested that on the day of the strike there should be no women in public. This includes in offices or schools, restaurants or stores, public transportation, cars or on the street. The strike will take place on 9th March, the day after International Women’s Day. The aim of the strike is to highlight the need for greater protection from violence for women, and also to show that the Mexican economy relies on women being safe at work and in public.
The legal sector is largely backing the strike as a call for legislative change. Numerous important Mexican law firms have given their support to the strike, which includes allowing all staff the day off. Abogadas MX, a not-for-profit organisation that supports women’s development in the legal profession, have also encouraged participation and invited the entire legal community to join the call by not penalising employees who participate in the strike. Their official statement said:
“For us, in Abogadas MX, it was very important to voice our support to the national initiative #UnDíaSinNosotras (a day without us) by issuing, on February 21, a public statement expressing our deepest concern and rejection of the rising violence against women and girls in Mexico.
“By that means, we invited the entire legal community to join the call, showing solidarity with the movement, and asked them not to penalise female employees who participate in the strike. We also encouraged all participants in any related activity, to do so in a peaceful and respectful manner.
“Today, this movement seems unstoppable. The national response is undeniable. Regarding the legal community, we are proud to see most representative law firms, universities, NGOs, Government entities, national and international companies, and influential collective groups, showing their support and joining the call.”
The chair of the Abogadas MX Executive Board, Mariel Cabanas, also issued a passionate call to action: “If you believe in the limitless power of one encouraged, passionate and determined woman, imagine what we can do when we all join together.”
Cristina Massa Sanchez, a Partner at Gonzalez Calvillo, one of the major firms backing the strike, said: “The strike is to occur a day after the International Women’s Day, when we expect massive demonstrations, to show the vast and tragic effects of the absence of women and the insufficient response of the State, private sector and society alike, in protecting women.
“Mexico has faced spiralling violence for at least a couple of decades, mainly as a result of the so-called ‘war on drugs’. In this context, women have not only been victims of homicides and various crimes along with the rest of the population, but also of crimes against them just for being women. From discrimination to economic and psychological violence to outright gender-motivated homicides, known as ‘feminicidios’, women are suffering violence at unprecedented rates in Mexico, even when compared with peer countries.”
There are other issues at play, as she explained:
“Furthermore, the invisibility of paid and unpaid labour conducted by women, the latter particularly in the form of domestic chores and caring for children, the sick and elderly, have made the prosecution of crimes against women of little relevance to authorities, given the limited political rentability of reducing impunity for these crimes. The machismo culture of objectification of women, harassment and disregard for their contributions is alive and kicking in many parts of Mexican society.”
The firm has therefore decided to back the initiative wholeheartedly:
“We at Gonzalez Calvillo were among the first to respond to the call by joining the strike per recommendation of our Executive Committee and Managing Partners. We will allow a day of absence of both legal and non-legal staff (thus including not only female lawyers and law clerks but also women from billing and collection to accounting, assistants, receptionists, waiting staff and cleaning ladies).
“We are committed to ending discrimination, harassment and any and all forms violence within our organisation, and show we deeply value the contributions of all of our female staff.”
They are not the only major firm supporting the strike. Mariana Herrero, Partner at Galicia Abogados said: “we are supporting all our collaborators who wish to join ‘UnDíaSinMujeres’. This is consistent with our culture and values of empathy, respect of freedom of speech, non-discrimination, diversity and inclusion. We believe it is very relevant to continue creating awareness on the significance and value of women’s contributions in all aspects of society and one of the goals of this protest is precisely that.”
As at other firms, allowances are being made for staff who want to participate:
“Accordingly, women who want to participate in the protest are allowed to do so with no consequences at the law firm and men who need to support their female family members who are joining this protest will also be supported by the firm. Additionally, we will be handing out purple bracelets for anybody who wishes to show support for this initiative still come to the office.”
Von Wobeser has also issued a formal response from the discussions of its Diversity Committee when deciding to back the initiative, as quoted by their Partner, Andrés Nieto:
“Von Wobeser is deeply concerned by the high levels of femicide and gender violence affecting our country. Therefore, as an institution we unequivocally support the national movement: ‘On the ninth no woman moves. Not a single woman on the street or at work, not a girl in school, not a young woman in the universities or shopping.’ Congruent with our values, we reiterate our deepest respect for women, appreciating the fundamental role they have in our society, in our profession, and in our firm. Every Mexican deserves a secure country. We demand a stop to violence against women.”
Similarly, Sanchez Devanny said that it is “concerned about the growing and increasingly shocking acts of violence perpetrated against women and girls in our country. We feel the obligation to stand with the Mexican civil society’s claim, particularly that of women, to demand concrete actions to acknowledge and urgently address the gender violence crisis experienced in Mexico.
We have decided to join the call for a national strike, giving our female collaborators the opportunity to take part in the demonstrations scheduled for March 9. In connection, our male collaborators will be assuming any urgent or daily responsibilities of their female counterparts during that day, as an expression of support to the strike and in effort to guarantee the continuity of operations and services we provide to our clients.”
While the increase in violence highlights just how much change is required, it is encouraging that the Mexican legal sector is taking this issue seriously. We hope that this will lead to change not only in wider Mexican society and attitudes but also in terms of access to opportunities for women in the legal profession in Mexico. On International Women’s Day, we must recognise the progress that has been made but, more importantly, continue to address the challenges that women continue to face around the world.