MEXICO CITY (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Mexico’s president on Wednesday said reports of violence against women had not increased during a nationwide lockdown, appearing to contradict official data signaling an uptick in physical abuse.
Domestic violence is rising across Latin America, with strict limits on movement to curb the spread of the new coronavirus leaving many women isolated at home with abusive partners, rights groups say.
Emergency calls reporting attacks on women in Mexico jumped 20 percent in March compared to the previous month, government data showed.
But President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador said in a news conference that “there has been no increase in complaints.”
“Yes there’s machismo but there’s also a lot of family fraternity,” the leftist leader told reporters.
Mexico has more than 26,000 confirmed cases of coronavirus, which has led to about 2,500 deaths, though the real case number is likely much higher as testing is limited.
Concern over domestic abuse has risen globally, with fears victims are being silenced in Italy, calls for help from women increasing in Spain, and systems to prevent child abuse in the United States hampered by the lockdown.
In Latin America, the fear is that violence against women that was already prevalent is being exacerbated further. The region has seen massive marches and strikes by women over the last year against male aggression and abuse.
Mexico’s president made history upon taking office in December 2018 by putting women in half his cabinet posts but his response to the brutal murders of women has riled feminists and undermined support for him among female voters.
Rights groups said Lopez Obrador’s comments contradicted the government’s own data.
“It’s a very bad signal that the president says violence hasn’t increased when the (hotline calls) gives clear, uncontroversial data,” said Tania Renaum, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico.
Lopez Obrador’s declaration came hours before Amnesty International and other organizations in Mexico published an open letter calling for more federal funding for women amid recent budget cuts as part of government austerity measures.
Editing by Tom Finn. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org