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My Mexican Manifesta against Gender-based Violence
There was a time in my life when I didn't engage in critical thinking and receiving sexual comments about my body defined my level of self-esteem. Little by little, as I began to understand what makes men feel they have the right to comment on the look of my behind, I started to reject these "compliments" and respond to the men who made them. Eventually, this would be one thing that would convince me to leave Mexico, my country of origin.
Why do I take these comments so seriously? Because, despite their appearance as 'good-natured' or 'playful', these acts are on the same continuum as femicide and sexual assault.
Globally, gender-based violence takes the life of one in three women worldwide and is the leading cause of disability and death for women between the ages of 15 and 44. According to a 2012 Thomson Reuters Foundation poll on the best and worst G20 countries for women, Mexico ranked in the bottom five in quality of life for women. The objectification of women is so entrenched in Mexico (as well as in other places) that most people have no perception when violence is being exercised.
In Latin American countries, violence is considered to be only that which involves physical aggression, such as hitting, rape, or murder. Sometimes these acts are justified by popular culture and media that says a woman “deserved it” or even “asked for it.” These excuses would not apply if the violence was exercised against a man.
On the other hand, what happens to men and boys that experience gender-based violence? They are invisible or ridiculed by a culture that considers them to be a "lesser man.”
Government efforts to resolve gender-based violence are often reluctant and, therefore, weak. The result is that gender-based violence is normalized, femicide is accepted in many regions of the country, and several areas are completely overwhelmed by sex trafficking and exploitation. These crimes will never cease to occur in a society where everyone has rights over a woman's body except herself, where women are not treated with equality and respect.
I hope these grievances emphasize the urgency of my petition: we need to integrate rights-based, comprehensive sexuality education into the school systems to encourage healthy relationships and gender equality. Teaching the biology of reproduction is not enough. Young people must learn and practice the skills necessary to have non-violent interactions, like empathy and resolving conflicts with dialogue. They also need to be able to identify and respect another's emotional and physical boundaries. When our destructive stereotypes about masculinity and femininity are broken, we will be taking a big step forward.
Yolí Sánchez Neyoy is quality manager at dance4life, an organization creating a world in which young people are free from the stigma and discrimination of HIV infection. With a passion for equality and human rights, she adds her grain of sand by working on monitoring and evaluation.