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The right to safety in the streets of Mexico

This morning I left home a little later than usual. I’m running late because it took me ten more minutes to get ready as I wanted to look powerful and professional for this very important meeting that I have in a couple of hours. I’m wearing my gray skirt and jacket that I bought last week specifically for this day. Power heels clank as I walk the normal subway route.

And there you are too.

You, in your pressed navy blue suit and maroon striped tie. A commanding presence just like me. After a couple of minutes,saddling up next to me, as if you knew me, you whisper softly into my ear: “You’re looking fine today”, looking at me up and down, undressing me with your eyes after I had so carefully clothed myself this morning.

You say it as if you owned my body, as if you had been given the authority to molest me with your eyes. As if I had dressed just for you.

So timidly I ask for an explanation, but you know your privilegies and stronger position in this society, and to punish me for tyring, you say it again, this time louder and closer to me. Humiliated, watching no one else intervine in a city where mornings like this are “normal,” you and I exit in separate directions as the subway stops at the next station.

My day has changed, forever. But yours hasn’t.

Stories like this happen every day inside Mexico’s transportation system, where thousands of women and girls suffer visual, physical and psychological sexual harassment on a regular basis. To this society, it’s natural for men to look, talk or touch a woman the way they want, when they want. That morning, I joined at least 70% of women users who report having been molested during the past year, with some incidents leading to rape.

But in order to be able to propose solutions to this problem we have to first analyze what the true causes are. Generally, sexual harassment in public places is a manifestation of violence derived from another much larger cultural problem that is not always approached from the right perspective: gender inequality.

In recent years, some segregated subway cars and taxis separate men and women as the Mexican government’s answer to the problem, a measure that only quells the symptoms but does little to resolve the disease.

There must be education of these men, of society, to address this delicate situation and begin a cultural shift, in the way men and women coexist in public transport. There must be measures to encourage women to file complaints and report abuses, because if we can’t feel safe on the subway or buses, we will stop using them and further strenghten the inequality gap.

This day will never be the same for me or for many other women.

Why? Because and abuser holds hands with a society silent on the issue of sexual harassment towards women.

This article is part of a writing assignment for Voices of Our Future a program of World Pulse that provides rigorous new media and citizen journalism training for grassroots women leaders. World Pulse lifts and unites the voices of women from some of the most unheard regions of the world.

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Comments

Lparshley's picture

Great work!

You have a fantastic introduction here. Really really well done. As a "hook," or something that grabs the reader's attention right away, it works really well, especially because the second person form you use ("And there you are too.
You, in your pressed navy blue suit and maroon striped tie. A commanding presence just like me.") is really unusual and you use it to great effect. But what did you say back? I want to know more than "So timidly I ask for an explanation," - Can we hear your own voice?

Also, these three paragraphs are all really interesting and deserve expansion:

Stories like this happen every day inside Mexico’s transportation system, where thousands of women and girls suffer visual, physical and psychological sexual harassment on a regular basis. To this society, it’s natural for men to look, talk or touch a woman the way they want, when they want. That morning, I joined at least 70% of women users who report having been molested during the past year, with some incidents leading to rape. - I want to know more, about how and where and when these things all happen.

But in order to be able to propose solutions to this problem we have to first analyze what the true causes are. Generally, sexual harassment in public places is a manifestation of violence derived from another much larger cultural problem that is not always approached from the right perspective: gender inequality. - This is where you start to address the why, but we're left dangling. Why is there gender inequality in the first place? How does it manifest itself?

In recent years, some segregated subway cars and taxis separate men and women as the Mexican government’s answer to the problem, a measure that only quells the symptoms but does little to resolve the disease. - Are there things that would solve the disease? What can be changed? Can you offer any kind of solution?

Just some thoughts to make this really good piece even better. You should feel proud of this piece of writing. Well done!

katyrdz's picture

Thanks for the feedback!

Thanks for taking the time to read my piece and give me feedback! What I asked that man was if he would like it if somebody talked that way to his mother, to his sister or daughter? If he knew how that made us feel? But he didn't care at all and approached me again with an even more challenging attitude, and the sad part was that NOBODY did anything, or said anything to that man while he was molesting me. The police doesn't do anything either even though they are sometimes in the subway, that is why I said that we need to have a law enforcement system women can trust, a system where molesters go to jail, because right now you know that even if you denounce something like this, nothing is going to happen. We need to have that reassurance, along with educational measures. Anyway not all is bad, I algo found a lot of women organizing and working around this issue, so I'm sure little by little things are going to start changing :)

Lparshley's picture

Hi there -- That is so

Hi there --

That is so frustrating. I'm sorry that happened to you, and to other women there. I'd love to hear more in your piece about this: "that is why I said that we need to have a law enforcement system women can trust, a system where molesters go to jail, because right now you know that even if you denounce something like this, nothing is going to happen. We need to have that reassurance, along with educational measures. " What would a system women could trust look like? How can we get there? What educational measures, specifically, could take place? What are women doing right now to work on this issue? Are there non-profit or other groups you can point to, examples you can give? Things like that would help make your piece even stronger, and help this situation to change.

megha's picture

It is much deeper..........

Well you know katyrdz this is something much more deeper.You wrote absolutely true that what if someone had said the same to his sister or mother. I don't know about mexico so much so I can't think whether it happens there too or not but here in India I had observed that guys who do such things as commenting on girls or other such thing they don't let their sisters or daughters go outside, they restrict them in the household boundaries.So women don't have any chance to prove themselves.So directly or indirectly this constructs patriarchy and patriarchy constructs these things and then both screw our lives.

megha

Greengirl's picture

Catchy Introduction

The theme of your article is an interesting one and I really liked the introduction. Though the issue of sexual harassment is quite popular, your approach does leave one with a desire to learn more about the particular situation and or circumstance under which you are reporting it.
Hopefully, a once and for all solution to the hydra-headed problem of sexual assault against women is not far off.
Wish you the very best!

Olanike Olugboji

katyrdz's picture

Thank you Olanike, I guess

Thank you Olanike, I guess sexual harrasment in public transport it's something women of all ages and nationalities can sadly relate to. But on the other hand I see that society is becoming more and more organized around this issue and taking steps to address this problem.

I am from India and these things happen here too in the same way. Actually once when I asked my friends then I noticed that none of us faced these incidents less than four or five times a week. And usually when everytime I go outside I think two or three comments are so common. I do think that men really do need some lessons to know how they should behave with women. Accord to mine it happens because mostly societies are still patriarchal in some way or other and men do think that women are availaible for them.

megha

katyrdz's picture

India

You know Megha, when I was doing research for this piece I found a lot of information about India too. I found that India, Brazil, Mexico and Japan, where the countries where sexual harassment in public places towards women was more often and more agressive. Of course I agree with you in the sense that it has to do with the fact that our societies are still very patriarchal and with a great deal of gender inequality. When you come to think of it, all of these are countries with very ancient and rooted structures of patriarchism, that we inherited from our ancestros. But doing research, I also found that women are beginning to organize and fight for their right to free transit and safety in the streets. Here in Mexico we have an organization called Atrévete DF, that works only and specially around this issue, and they have accomplished great things! So there is still hope! :)

noreens's picture

Hi Katy, You wrote about

Hi Katy,

You wrote about something that probably every woman can relate to at one point...... and shouldn't have to. I wonder what gives these guys the confidence and nerve to think that they are allowed to do this. I LOVE the way you began your article - almost like a conversation with him. You led the reader into the subject in a very nice way!

Noreen

rozjean's picture

Sexual Harassment

Hi Katy,
Your fantastic lead brought me right into your piece. Like so many other woman, I can relate. It brought me back to the days in New York when a woman had a hard time walking down the street without some man whistling or yelling out a sexist comment. I think the work that has been done in the area of sexual harassment in the United States has helped a lot to reduce these incidences, and there is hope for it to happen in Mexico, too. I would have loved to have heard more about what specifically is being done in Mexico to address this issue. I was especially interested in your reference to Atrevete DF and would like to have read a little about it and what solutions it is employing to reduce incidences of sexual harassment. Changing social/cultural attitudes can be very difficult, but It can be done. Keep up the hope and the great work you are doing bringing the problem to our attention.
Warm wishes,
Rozjean

Thank you for yoru courage to speak out and opening about what happens to women in Mexcio. This is something that happens not just in Mexico but all over the world, every moment of the day a woman is disrespected, harrassed and molested in many ways. Your story will inspire many to share their voices and open the door of darkenss and silence forever.

I would love to share your story or something else with other women in the U.S. I am collecting wriiten works from women around the world and it soumd like you would be a huge contributor to this collection of voices breaking the silence.

Have a blessed day and thank you again.

Love and Light, Mia

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