On 2nd September, Marcela Alemán, the mother of a four-year-old girl who was sexually abused in San Luis Potosí, tied herself to a chair for more than 12 hours inside Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission building. Alemán occupied the offices after a meeting with the human rights ombudsman, where her demand for the detention of her daughter’s abusers yielded no real support. Alemán isn’t alone in her struggle; her daughter is among the one in four girls and one in five women who face sexual violence in a country where 10 women are murdered every day.
Erika Martinez arrived at Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission the following day along with local activists to support Alemán, carrying photos of her young daughter, who at seven-years-old was sexually abused by a family member. For three years, Martinez has advocated for her daughter, demanding the detention of the perpetrator, but has only been met with institutional indifference and violence. A year after filing the criminal complaint, and still not detained by authorities, the alleged abuser attacked Martinez, fracturing her nose and continuing to harass her. Alemán ended the sit-in and eventually left the building after reaching an agreement with authorities on her demands but on 4th September, Martinez, along with a handful of activists from feminist collectives including Mexico’s Ni Una Menos and the Bloque Negro (or Black Block), decided to seize control of the human rights commission office. Having read their list of demands, they entered peacefully asking workers to vacate the building and the occupation grew to include several dozen activists and families. For Martinez, occupying the human rights commission would apply pressure to a government reluctant to confront a country in the throes of a gender violence crisis.
“I was sick of waiting for answers from institutions that never came,” Martinez told Refinery29. It’s been nearly three months since activists first occupied the building, and although only a few dozen women and children remain, Martinez said she plans to stay until all demands are met, including a commitment by the federal government to eradicate gender violence in the country. “We need authorities to meaningfully enforce laws already put in place against gender violence,” she added.
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