Thousands of women across Mexico have stayed home from work and school as part of a strike billed as “A Day Without Women”, hours after an unprecedented number filled the streets to protest against rising gender violence on International Women’s Day.
Central streets in the capital were eerily empty of women and girls throughout the day. Mostly men could be seen walking to offices, getting off buses or lining up to buy coffee.
Some metro ticket stations were closed, and President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador’s morning press conference was dotted with empty seats as female journalists joined the strike.
The idea was to become invisible for a day so that co-workers, bosses, boyfriends, husbands and in some cases children reflect on the absence of each participating woman.
The back-to-back protests mark an intensification of the struggle by Mexican women against violence and impunity in one of the most dangerous countries in the world for females.
Women in Argentina and Chile have staged strikes in previous years and did so again on Monday.
Some women could be seen jogging or working at taco stands, coffee shops or other jobs in Mexico City. At a central junction, a female traffic officer waved cars through, but overall, the relative absence of women in public spaces was striking.
Government data says 3,825 women met violent deaths last year, 7% more than in 2018. That works out to about 10 women each day. Thousands more have gone missing without a trace in recent years.
Authorities seem incapable of preventing or properly investigating the crimes, very few of which result in convictions.
“In Mexico it’s like we’re in a state of war; we’re in a humanitarian crisis because of the quantity of women that have disappeared or been killed,” said Maria de la Luz Estrada, co-ordinator of the National Citizen’s Observatory of Femicide.
Asked about his government’s strategy for combating violence against women and impunity for such crimes, Mr Lopez Obrador said his administration is working on the issue every day.
Echoing his policy for addressing broader violence, the president stressed the importance of tackling social ills such as poverty and inequality.
“I maintain that the main thing is to guarantee the well-being of the people,” he said.
Tougher criminal penalties and more aggressive prosecutions can help, he added, but “the main thing is that we live in a better society in all senses”.
He also repeated previous assertions that some of the anger directed at his administration over the violence against women “is conservatism disguised as feminism”.
Calls for protest grew in February after two murders rocked Mexico City: that of a young woman horribly disfigured, apparently by a boyfriend, and that of a seven-year-old girl abducted from her school.
Officials estimated that 80,000 women marched on Sunday in Mexico City, many wearing lavender. There were smaller demonstrations elsewhere in the country.
Many businesses, from banks and media companies to law firms, supported the strike. The business confederation Coparmex encouraged its more than 36,000 member companies across the country to take part, despite calculating losses in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.