Championing Change: Claudia Sheinbaum, Xóchitl Gálvez, and the Fight Against Gender Violence in Mexico

Photo via El País

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On June 2, 2024, either Claudia Sheinbaum or Xóchitl Gálvez, will become Mexico’s first female president. In a groundbreaking manner, Mexico’s two political parties have each selected female nominees for this year’s election for their new president. Claudia Sheinbaum, former mayor of Mexico City, is running under Mexico’s current ruling party, the progressive Morena. Former Senator Xóchitl Gálvez is running under the Fuerza y Corazón por México coalition, a right-leaning party. 

Finding another country where both primary contenders for the presidency are female is challenging, especially within the context of Latin America. Additionally, we have not yet seen two females as the final candidates for the presidency in the United States. The women have different views, different goals, different supporters—either way, Mexico’s next president will be a woman. 

Claudia Sheinbaum, previously an environmental scientist and energy engineer, has won the primaries and taken the lead in most polls, some by as much as 20 points. Her policies are aimed at confronting social and environmental issues that Mexico is facing; for example, reducing poverty, fighting gender violence, and handling climate change. With her background, many claim that she has taken a science-driven approach to addressing Mexico’s issues with water rations, renewable energy, and air pollution. Additionally, Sheinbaum served in the Cabinet of Mexico’s current president, Andres Manuel López Obrador, as his environment secretary. Therefore, Sheinbaum is set to maintain many of his policies with her own twist, as well as continue many of the crime reduction strategies that she implemented during her time as mayor of Mexico City. 

Xóchitl Gálvaz, a successful Mexican technology entrepreneur and business leader, is interested in developing equal opportunities for the Mexican people and igniting impactful, successful change throughout the country. As an indigenous rights activist, she is fighting for the rights of indigenous people, as well as for security reinforcement to combat violence. Unlike her opponent, Gálvaz is critical of current president Andres Manuel López Obrador, claiming that he represents corruption and the inability to govern. Gálvaz is specifically critical of his Abrazos no Balazos (Hugs, Not Bullets) policy, believing that it was unsuccessful. Nonetheless, she intends to continue some of his infrastructure projects, as well as grow Mexico’s relationship with the United States. In addition to fighting organized crime, Gálvaz plans to increase taxes on the wealthy of Mexico.

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Despite Sheinbaum and Gálvaz’s differing opinions and the uncertainty for the future of Mexico’s leadership, these women have one thing in common: they have made history. Both individually and collectively, they have become emblems of progress and power, representing and inspiring advancements for gender parity not only in Mexico, but also throughout Latin America and around the world. This advancement is extremely significant, and Mexico is ready to have a female president. However, there is more work to be done in terms of gender inequality in Mexico, and the election of a female president does not guarantee safety for women. This is particularly true in a country where gender-based violence is skyrocketing, with over 1,000 women being murdered each year as a part of femicides (intentional killing of women because of their gender). 

In recent years, Mexico has made strides in gender equality, deeming itself a global leader in promoting gender equality in government. At the federal level, it has recently strengthened national laws to ensure equality, enforced strong gender institutionalism, and increased public resources that are dedicated to gender equality. Since 2013, Mexico has implemented plans and policies such as the National Development Plan, the National Gender Equality Policy, and the Political-Electoral Reform, all aimed at promoting gender equality for women throughout the country. 

Although these developments have greatly improved the status and rights of women throughout the country, Mexico still grapples with violence against women, economic and education-based disparities, and lack of reproductive rights, among other gender-based issues. Across the world, Mexico is ranked 33rd in terms of the country’s gender gap, following other countries in Latin America. Most significantly, the country struggles with the labor force participation rate, which was only 46% for women, compared to 76.3% for men. 

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These statistics show that violence against women, an issue that both candidates have vowed to tackle, remains a significant problem. The fact remains: Mexico is a dangerous place to be a woman. This year alone, 2,588 crimes were recorded against girls aged 0 to 4, and 8,058 cases involving teens aged 15 to 17 years. The unfortunate reality is that as women grow older, and as time goes on, this violence only increases. Between 2015 and 2021, femicides increased by 137%

This leads to the question: what do Sheinbaum and Gálvez, as women, have planned to create a safer society for women in Mexico?

The current administration under President Andres Manuel López Obrador has not necessarily been successful either. López Obrador’s proposed policies and plans had overlooked the true issues at hand and lacked the funding needed to successfully achieve his proposed solutions. Both Xóchitl Gálvez and Claudia Sheinbaum have potential security proposals in place; however, these proposals have failed in specifically addressing the significance and severity of gender-based violence and the government’s role in perpetuating it. Only time will tell if either candidate is able to reinforce laws and policies to ensure a break in the cycle of violence that the country is facing. To prevent further issues, the incoming president of Mexico must understand that the lack of accountability and gender-based violence lies at the heart of the country’s security turmoil. 

It is important to note that other factors contribute to the solution and resistance to gender violence as well; however, the solutions to the problems at hand begin here. All in all, while the presence of female presidential candidates in Mexico is a positive step towards gender equality in politics, significant challenges persist. Addressing gender-based violence in Mexico will involve a multifaceted approach that includes deep-rooted legal and governmental reforms, and it is hoped that Mexico’s next female president, whether it be Sheinbaum or Gálvaz, will be successful in putting an end to this issue.

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This article was edited by Naba Syed and Sarah Davey.