Mariana Sánchez, 24, had done what only one in 10 women do in Mexico: file a complaint, alert the authorities. She had been working as a trainee doctor for five months in a public health center in a marginal community in the State of Chiapas, Nueva Palestina (in the Zapatista area of Ocosingo). And since she was transferred to this town in August last year, Sánchez had told her mother about the hell she was living. After a drunken classmate broke into her room one night in November to abuse her, she went to the police and filed a lawsuit for sexual harassment and abuse. This Friday, his hanged corpse appeared on one of the doors of that bedroom.
The case of Mariana portrays the sexist terror a thousand times told in this country. The first blow of the State authorities before the evidence of the corpse was the appellant: suicide. “Death by secondary asphyxia by hanging. No signs of violence or sexual assault, “said the first coroner’s report, which the authorities are reviewing these days. But behind the corpse of this young doctor who had demanded a transfer months earlier, was not only her story told to friends and family, but an investigation folder for sexual abuse that was never taken into account. Until now.
The Chiapas Prosecutor’s Office was not the only institution that knew first-hand the terror that Sánchez endured in Nueva Palestina. The young woman also filed a complaint in November with the Autonomous University of Chiapas, responsible for her education in the last practical months of her career. His friends and colleagues have denounced in the local media the indifference of both institutions and in a march with more than 300 people in the town of San Cristóbal de las Casas, the main urban nucleus of the area, they loudly denounced the indifference of the authorities this weekend.
This Monday, the Secretary of the Interior, Olga Sánchez Cordero, denounced what happened and asked that Mariana’s case be investigated with a gender perspective, as required by the protocol in the face of the violent death of a woman. The folder has gone on to raise the hypothesis of femicide once the protests have escalated to the national public debate. “I believe that this situation tells us that there is still a long way to go to combat and eradicate this violence,” Sánchez Cordero remarked during the morning press conference in which he replaced the president, Andrés Manuel López Obrador, sick and quarantined by the covid -19 these days.
In Chiapas, 70 women were murdered last year: 29 recognized as femicides and 41 as homicides, according to state figures. To put it in perspective, in Spain – almost 10 times its population – in that same year a total of 45 women were murdered. And not even the State of Chiapas is the most lethal in Mexico, at the top are Morelos, Colima and Nuevo León (until August 2020), according to the per capita rate. The high rates of impunity, with less than 10% of convictions for these crimes, have for years made sexist crimes in the country a matter of national security, although the tragedy is only getting worse.
In Mexico it is estimated that 10 women are murdered a day, but the dance of local and federal figures, in addition to the lack of a real political commitment in the matter, makes the diagnosis of sexist violence impossible to determine. While last week the federal government celebrated the minimal decrease in total homicides in the country – in the middle of an unprecedented pandemic and with rates of violence that surpass El Salvador or Colombia – sexist violence raged relentlessly with half of the population. In the first six months of 2020, Mexico registered 1,844 intentional homicides of women, 10 more than during the same period of the previous year. Femicides have increased every year since the National Institute of Statistics began counting more than three decades ago.
Mariana’s crime reminds once again that sexist crimes shake the country with impunity, regardless of wars or truces caused by drug violence. And they also point out the inability of the institutions to prevent them from happening, although in States like Chiapas a Gender Alert is declared, with the corresponding budget, to decree measures in this matter.
While these days the State Attorney’s Office reviews the key points that it omitted in the case, voices like that of her friend Paloma Camargo, put their finger on the tragedy of thousands of women in the country: “I don’t know what really happened, I don’t know if someone hurt her or if it was she who decided to end her life tired of so many injustices. The truth is that nobody ever listened to his voice asking for help, “he wrote on his Facebook profile. Mariana Sánchez dared to denounce in a country where hardly anyone does and two months later she was found dead.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.