When Patricia Azcagorta ran as a candidate for mayor of Caborca, Sonora, in Mexico in 2018, a video was circulated on social media of a woman dancing in her underwear, together with photos of Azcagorta, and messages accusing her of being a stripper.
Using intimate images – real or fake – over the internet to attack a woman’s credibility, shame her, or silence her, is one of various types of online violence against women that the national Mexican government will likely formalize as a crime in coming months.
Called the Olimpia law, though it is actually a modification to an existing law on women’s right to a life free of violence, the amendment is one of few legal initiatives in Mexico with grassroots origins. It was passed unanimously by the national congress in November last year following a strong campaign by Olimpia Coral Melo and other feminist groups. It now needs to be passed by the senate.
Coral Melo was 18 when a video of her naked was passed around on Whatsapp. As a result, she was insulted by local press, which also used her image on their covers to sell, she became known as the gordibuena of Puebla – a sexist reference to her body shape, and she received numerous requests from men for sex. She said she shut herself inside for eight months, and attempted suicide three times.
When Coral Melo eventually tried to denounce what happened to her at the public prosecutor’s office, she was told it wasn’t a crime. So she organized with other women to create a proposal for an amendment or law.
But the amendment that is now being passed has limitations, and many activists, based on their experience of the Mexican legal system, are dubious that it will be implemented fairly. Mexico has the highest rate of impunity in the Americas.
In the internet world, where men dominate the media (as experts and journalists) and the comments sections, the question becomes if this amendment is a positive first step in creating a violence-free internet based on principles of respect and equality for Mexicans, or if it is more of a hindrance?
According to Mexico’s Association for Progress in Communications, more than 9 million women here have faced some type of technology-based aggression.
Luchadoras, a Mexican feminist collective that spent two years accompanying women who experienced online violence, identified 13 types of aggression. These include stalking and constant monitoring, threats, discriminatory expression, dissemination of personal or intimate information, profiting from sexual exploitation through images, unsolicited behavior (harassment), and extortion.
Excerpted from: ‘Mexicans Building a Feminist Internet Face Challenges’.