Martha Lucía Mícher Camarena


March 5, 2013

Martha Lucía Mícher Camarena

Federal MP, Chair of the Commission on Gender and Equity, Mexico

iKNOW Politics: In the recently published document “Municipalities governed by women and population index” (Mexico), prepared by the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and Empowerment of Women (UN Women), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), and the Electoral Court of the Judicial Power of the Federation, it was observed that, for the first time, after recounting quantitative results by gender of the elections held in 2012, there was an increase in female representation in local government. What do you attribute this to? Do you think that your country is strengthening women's leadership and the increase of Mexican women in positions of political decision?

The increase of women in political participation has occurred because a decree (SUP-JDC-12624/2011) was passed, where the Electoral Tribunal of the Judicial Power of the Federation forced the political parties to meet quotas and have no more than 60% representation of the same gender in the candidates’ lists. In 2012, the Court had rejected the parties’ lists, saying they were violating rights and international treaties, and that failure to comply with the quota would mean their removal from the political parties’ registry. This decision was not welcomed by the parties, but they had no choice but to comply because it was already inscribed in the law and it was a decree that must be upheld.

 In regard to the presence of women in legislative bodies, we are talking about 184 women deputies out of 500 and 42 women senators out of a total of 124. In terms of percentage, this means 36% of women in the Chamber of Deputies and 31% in the Senate.

 It must be stressed that our accomplishments are all due to the efforts we, women, have made, as members of the feminist movement, the women's movement (including conservative women), and particularly our work in raising awareness, empowering women to accept their candidacy instead of saying, "I don’t know." When we hear this phrase, we respond: “It doesn’t matter, we are not born this way; we need to create women candidates, councilors, and presidents, just like men are not born deputies, senators, presidents or representatives to the United Nations - no one is born a politician.” This argument has been used for years in our awareness campaign. In the past we have made some progress, but never like we have in this term.

iKNOW Politics: The quota system is a very important means of positive discrimination, which has been successful in many Latin American countries. However, some countries in the region are already going beyond the quotas and showing firm steps towards parity. What possibilities would there be for a push towards a parity law in Mexico?

We are heading that way. We are more than half of the population and we have to represent that half - all women, young and old, straight or gay, widowed, married or divorced and indigenous women, because we do not want male interpreters on our behalf, which is why I think it is very important that we head towards parity to defend our national project. Who told men that we, women, don’t have a national plan, that we do not have a project for justice, education or even for roads? The parity law has to be attained, and we need to move towards it, because it's no longer a question of quotas, now we are trying to achieve true justice. Moreover, because we, women, occupy fewer electoral positions, we should be talking about going even further than parity to correct the current situation.

 For example, when we talk about the percentages 60-40, men always tell us "40 for you and 60 for us, because you’ll have enough with 40" and we say no: if the law says “no more than 60% of the same gender”, this can also be interpreted so that men have 40 and we 60, because we are a group that faces greater inequality and to achieve a balance we must go well beyond parity.

However, I want to say something I consider important: the presence of women in politics does not guarantee gender awareness. In fact, there are thousands of women who have taken an electoral position but the lives of the women whom we legislated for have remained unchanged: we continue to be killed by our partners, we continue to be victims of domestic and external violence, and we continue to have very high rates of malnutrition and illiteracy among women in our country. In short, there are many cases of women holding elected positions for several legislatures and this fact, however, has not changed the lives of women. And yet, the reason for us to continue fighting remains: we have to be present where we can decide for ourselves, on our lives, our bodies, our freedoms and our rights as well as the national budget.

iKNOW Politics: There is a large percentage of indigenous women in Mexico. What is your perception regarding the possibilities for indigenous Mexican women to enter politics? Do you think a quota law for indigenous women in parliament could help increase their political presence?

In the Democratic Revolution Party (PRD), where I’m a member, there is a quota for youth, indigenous people, migrants and women. For example, for every 3 members in a governing body there must be a woman, for every 5, a youth member and, for every 10, an indigenous member. That is to say, we already have the "indigenous quota" within the internal rules of our party’s statutes, but we have failed to achieve the same at the national level of the law governing electoral procedures. In any case, when speaking about parity and quotas, it is possible and desirable to open a specific section for indigenous women.

Regarding indigenous women, they suffer from a triple discrimination, which is very serious: that of being female, poor and indigenous and on top of that, having to uphold the indigenous customs and practices. A woman colleague of mine, named Eufrosina Cruz, won the election for municipal mayor, but as a matter of customs and practices the people would not let her take office. In response to this, the National Action Party made her a member of parliament. In short, it is a very sensitive issue: it is true that we have to work on the rights of indigenous women while being aware that there are certain indigenous customs and practices that must be set aside because they actually discriminate against women.

iKNOW Politics: Financing is key to politics, what strategies have you used to get political funding?

Personally, I think my party has recognized my work and my performance as an advocate for women's rights, but in the matter of funding, the PRD does not provide much. The truth is I financed my last campaign, with the help of volunteers. I can’t say that I didn’t receive support from my party because I did, but I think I should have received more financial support. I had to borrow money, and I did, because I knew I was going to win that election (which I won, in fact, with many votes) since the constituency where I was running is a place where historically the PRD has won. But even with prior certainty of winning, I was also investing in the campaign. Still, I must add that in Mexico, if you exceed the spending limit allowed, you will be fined, according to the electoral laws. Of course, the current President Enrique Peña Nieto exceeded the limit by billions of dollars and was not punished, so I’m no longer sure whether spending is indeed regulated or not.

iKNOW Politics: In closing, what suggestions or recommendations would you give to guarantee a more balanced playing field between men and women, on the issue of funding for campaigns?

I believe that, in general, funding is done in on a discriminatory basis but not with gender criteria in mind: the party finances certain people, men or women, who belong to the party’s lobbies or groups with internal majority inside the party, which, I believe, is an abuse by the political parties. Personally, I have no data to say whether the party has funded more men or women. I do know that women have more problems getting support. Let's be clear about this, and I will use an example: the party sends us, women, as candidates to ‘loser’ municipalities, municipalities where there are serious obstacles to win, and say "there you have your women, there is no concession needed" and we tend accept this practice. But I say no, we need to be candidates where we have a chance of winning, and we need to be supported financially. We must have advisors and be supported by the party in order to win in all municipalities, small and large, as well as in Mexico City.