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Mexico, Femicide, and a Female President: Will the Election of a Woman be the Solution?

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The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at UC Riverside chapter.

No matter what, when the polls close on June 2nd, Mexico will have elected a woman to serve as their President. The candidates, Claudia Sheinbaum and Xóchitl Gálvez, are vying for the presidency, and whoever wins will hold office for six years. Of course, this is a historical moment as the election of women to head of state is a rare occurrence. According to the Pew Research Center,  “women currently serve as the head of government in just 13 of the 193 member states of the United Nations.” The candidacy of Sheinbaum and Gálvez is also significant “due to Mexico having the second highest rate of femicide in Latin America after Brazil.” Femicide is defined as “the intentional murder of women [specifically] because they are women, but broader definitions include any killings of women or girls.” Globally, Latin America has the highest rates of violence against women, with Mexico having the 2nd highest rates of femicide in Latin America. Now, Mexico is set to elect a female president and both candidates identify as feminists. This situation presents a harsh dichotomy in Mexican politics between feminism and misogyny. It also shows that it is possible for women to be elected to positions of power in places with high rates of femicide and domestic violence. Mexico has struggled to address their rates of femicide with more than 1,000 cases of femicide in 2021 alone. These staggering rates of femicide are due to various reasons within the culture and justice system in Mexico, all of which could change with the election of a female president. What will come from the intersection of Mexico’s election of a female president and their outrageous rates of femicide? 

The race for the Mexican Presidency is being led by Claudia Sheinbaum, who has maintained a strong lead throughout the campaign “with around 59% of the vote, according to a February poll.” The second candidate is Senator Xóchitl Gálvez “with around 36% of the vote.” The third candidate is Jorge Álvarez Máynez, who must “win at least 2% of votes.” With this unlikely to happen, Mexico is practically guaranteed a female president. Sheinbaum is a scientist, and as the New York Times put it, “a protégée of Mexico’s current president [Andrés Manuel López Obrador].” Sheinbaum has even “vowed to adopt his priorities.” What does this mean for the issue of femicide in Mexico? Well, Obrador’s track record with addressing femicide in Mexico is lack-luster to say the least. According to Denise Dresser, a political scientist and columnist, “[Obrador] doesn’t take the violence that women in this country suffer seriously.” This came after a news conference where Obrador said that criticism of him is gender-based violence. This comment sparked outrage throughout the country as it completely belittles the violence and murder of women in Mexico. To equate criticism of himself and his policies with femicide shows that Obrador either does not take the rates of femicide in his country seriously or that he does not understand the seriousness of the issue at all. Either way, Obrador’s perspective on gender-based violence is sexist and childish. Is this a perspective Claudia Sheinbaum will also have? She did vow to maintain the policies of Obrador, but will her experiences as a woman and feminist help her to make real change for women in Mexico?

During Sheinbaum’s time as Mayor of Mexico City she accused state prosecutors of covering up the killing of a 27 year old woman; however, other reports have said that Sheinbaum does not truly hold up the feminist ideals she claims to believe in with activists from Ya Basta Nuevo León, a feminist organization, saying “Claudia Sheinbaum did not support the feminist movement in Mexico City”. 

The second candidate in Mexico’s presidential race is Xóchitl Gálvez. Gálvez was a Senator and is running under the Strength and Heart for Mexico Coalition. Whereas Sheinbaum is a supporter and supposed imitator of President Obrador, Gálvez is known as a “fierce critic” of him. Currently, Gálvez is unlikely to win. However, her candidacy has energized her party against President Obrador’s party, the Morena Party, which has been the dominant party since 2008. Supporters of Gálvez say she will boost the economy and help lift the poor, the indigenous and the middle class “out of a hole.”  For women in Mexico, Gálvez may not be the answer to femicide either. Just like Sheinbaum, Gálvez has been criticized for not truly embodying feminism and only embracing the label for political gain and to “[play] the game to win [her] candidacy.” Gálvez has been called out for letting male politicians within her party dictate her campaign choices as well as an inconsistent track record regarding abortion rights. 

The significance of Mexico electing a female president should not be downplayed. It is a huge accomplishment, yet the candidacy of Claudia Sheinbaum and Xóchitl Gálvez shows the complexity of gender and politics. The assumption that a female politician will always have a political agenda and beliefs aligned with gender equality and women’s empowerment is simply not accurate. Being a woman does not automatically equate to feminist values or a strong support of women’s rights, just as being a man does not automatically equate to sexism and misogyny. In the case of Mexico, what is needed is not politicians espousing whatever beliefs will get them elected and then failing to fulfill their promises. What is needed is collective action and real solutions to stop the plague of femicide that has gripped Mexico for far too long.

Emily Manus

UC Riverside '25

Emily is a third-year public policy major. She hopes to write about her passions and issues that are important to her as well as the UCR community. Emily's interests include the arts, media, and culture.