Home News Why Mexico might elect a female president before the US

Why Mexico might elect a female president before the US


Mexican preparation Elected the first female president Sunday marked a historic leap for a country long known for its machismo, and a momentous occasion for all of North America.

Since the presidential race began, the only competitive candidates have been two women: frontrunner Claudia Sheinbaum, a climate scientist from the ruling Morena party, and Xóchitl Gálvez, a former senator and entrepreneur representing the opposition coalition.

The milestone reflects the country’s complex relationship with women, who face rampant violence and severe sexism but are also viewed as matriarchs and given positions of authority.

Experts say the country’s lead over its largest trading partner, the United States, has much to do with its policies that open doors for women at all levels of government.

After decades of passing increasingly broad laws to encourage more women to participate in politics, fueled by feminist activists, Mexico took a major step in 2019 by making gender equality a constitutional requirement in all three branches of government.

“By this metric, Mexico is really a model for other countries to follow.” said Jennifer Piscopo, professor of gender and politics at Royal Holloway, University of London, who studies the region, adding, “To my knowledge, no other country has a constitutional amendment on gender equality that is so comprehensive.”

Today, half of Mexico’s legislature is made up of women, compared with less than 30 percent of the U.S. Congress. The chief justice of Mexico’s Supreme Court, the leaders of both chambers of Congress, and the governor of the central bank are all women. The ministers of the interior, education, economy, public security, and foreign affairs are also women.

Now a woman was about to become the most powerful person in the country, commander of the armed forces and CEO of Latin America’s second-largest economy.

Alma Lilia Tapia, a spokeswoman for the Guanajuato state group Families Searching for Missing Relatives, said she believed both female candidates would pay more attention to Families of nearly 100,000 missing in Mexicocompared to their male predecessors.

The New York Times interviewed 33 Mexican women before the election, who said they knew that alone would not eliminate the many indignities they face. Women are killed at alarming ratesTheir average income is far lower than men’s, and machismo remains deeply ingrained in the culture.

But for many voters, and the candidates themselves, having a woman in the nation’s highest office does have symbolic significance.

“Mexico has a female president and for me it’s a great thing,” Ms. Galvez said in a radio interview. “We have taken a very important step in the struggle of women.”

Ms. Sheinbaum recognizes what this means for the next generation.

“When a little girl tells you, ‘I want to be the head of government,’ it’s so exciting, not only because of what that recognition means, but also because it’s so exciting to see a girl transcending the stereotypes that are imposed on us women,” Sheinbaum said in an interview.

While many Latin American countries have introduced quotas for female politicians, Mexico has been particularly aggressive in establishing them, first at the local level and then at the national level.

In 2019, the country passed a constitutional amendment requiring gender balance in the three branches of government.

“Without equality, the election of a female president cannot happen,” said Mónica Tapia, who heads a group that trains women in political leadership in Mexico.

Ms. Piscopo said the United States had never considered gender quotas in politics, a practice common in much of the world. Unlike Mexico, which chooses its leaders by popular vote, the United States uses the Electoral College. (If the 2016 U.S. election had been based solely on the popular vote, Hillary Clinton would have won.)

The entry of women into Mexican politics in recent years, along with dramatic demographic and cultural shifts, has transformed the country.

Half a century ago, the average Mexican family had seven children, and about one in ten Mexican women have a jobToday, Mexicans have lower fertility rates than Americans, and nearly half of the country’s women work.

All but two states outlaw abortion until 2021. In most of the country, it is legal.

Both candidates have promoted progressive social policies, e.g. be opposed to Gay conversion therapy or create Clinics for transgender and non-binary people have left some conservative women feeling left out.

“We support women’s rights, but those women’s rights do not include abortion” or “transgender activism,” said Ángeles Bravo, a representative in the Mexican state of the National Family Front, a conservative coalition that opposes abortion and LGBT rights. “And we have a lot of people.”

Some young feminists are skeptical that either candidate will prioritize addressing key issues that women care about, such as domestic violence and Mexico’s gender wage gap.

They said the two women seemed to represent only the interests of men— The case of Ms. Sheinbaum and her mentorcurrent President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, while Ms. Galvez’s seat was filled by the male leaders of the three main parties she represents.

“It means nothing for us to be president if women continue to live in the shadow of patriarchy,” said Wendy Galarza, 33, a women’s rights activist from Quintana Roo state who was beaten and shot by police in 2020 during a demonstration in Cancun.

Yet while it’s unclear exactly how much will change, having a woman in the highest position of power could be transformative in a country where presidents enjoy broad powers and are often widely respected.

“Men are always the heroes behind the scenes, but the leadership of a female president is crucial,” Ms. Tapia said. It tells Mexican women, she said, that “your family can’t tell you where a woman’s place is — whether it’s in the kitchen or with your family — it’s up to you to choose.”

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