25N | Economic violence, a silent aggression

27 out of every 100 women aged 15 and older have been victims of economic violence in Mexico. This November 25, at the Friedrich Naumann Foundation, we will talk about one of the most normalized forms of violence and why economic freedom must be guarantee
Freedom woman
© Emir Hoyman via Getty Images

Why talk about economic freedom on 25N? When we talk about gender-based violence against women, we usually think of the most radical expressions of violence: physical and sexual aggression. However, violence also manifests itself in much more silent forms - often ignored - but which impact the freedom and integrity of women and girls, victims alike.

25N, also known as Orange Day, is the International Day for the Eradication of Violence against Women since 1981 in Latin America and, since 1999, worldwide to eliminate acts against girls and women. To talk about gender violence, we must talk about all its forms, since we often see and experience it every day without realizing it.

Male provider and female caregiver

In Mexico and around the world, economic violence against women often goes unnoticed because society is so immersed in it. Gender stereotypes, roles and expectations permeate today and by not questioning them, we normalize behaviors that violate and limit women's autonomy.

Economic violence does not only imply a lack of freedom to make financial decisions, but also limits access to employment opportunities, health and educational services. According to the General Law on Women's Access to a Life Free of Violence, economic violence is defined as the "action or omission of the aggressor that affects the survival of the victim". Forms of this type of violence include controlling "spending", not knowing the income of the partner or family member with whom responsibilities are shared, demanding "accountability" and not having a say in how the income is spent, but not contributing to child support or managing the money that the worker earns are also forms of this type of aggression.

Not having economic autonomy is a constraint for women and makes them vulnerable to being victims of other forms of violence. In sum, 63% of the victims are mothers, so the lack of economic solvency translates into being literally tied to the provider and turns the children into adjacent victims, creating a cycle that is difficult to escape.

The nenis vs. economic violence

In Mexico, 3 out of 10 women are unable to generate their own income. According to INEGI, in 2020 only 7.9% of the complaints of gender violence were for economic violence; however, according to the Commission for the Investigation of Mistreatment of Women, many women who suffer this type of aggression are unaware of it. As the institution points out, "there is widespread ignorance that, in a common economy, both have the right to participate and be informed on equal terms".

The wage gap, the socially assigned role of caregiver and the lack of opportunities result in 47.3% of divorced, widowed or separated women and 28.2% of married women in Mexico being victims of this type of violence, 99% of the time in the family circle. This means that it is not only exercised in couples, but that fathers, uncles, uncles, grandfathers, boyfriends and even children can be aggressors.

The economy is the only effective way to reduce violence against women; a woman who has economic freedom is more likely to be able to get rid of aggression in the family environment.

Elena Achar, Forbes Women

In the face of this panorama, nenis in Mexico emerged as a response to the lack of income. These enterprising women, who are usually mothers, offer products and services through the Internet to improve their economy and, indirectly, to fight against precariousness, violence and the gender gap. Incidentally, the fact that this group of women has become a meme is a symptom and expression of the machismo that surrounds us.

The pandemic served to demonstrate how necessary it is for women to enter the labor market. According to the Global Gender Gap Index 2022, in Mexico women's income decreased by 8.1% due to salary cuts, layoffs or resignations to become unpaid caregivers. In a country with a wage gap of 18.8%, the highest in all of Latin America according to the OECD, and where 23% of women entrepreneurs report not having enough time for entrepreneurship, the adoption of digital platforms has been the solution for approximately 5.2 million women to generate income.

Although nenis transcend memes and mockery and are presented as resistance to gender-based economic violence, their situation of informality continues to place them in a position of vulnerability. According to the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean, economic autonomy is only possible when there is equity and equality of conditions, i.e. without wage gaps, special treatment or differences in benefits.

The implementation of public policies that encourage the incorporation of women into the labor market through their entry into the formal economy as entrepreneurs, the promotion of careers in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM careers) as an option for both girls and boys, as well as the commitment of the private and public sectors to reduce inequality, are key actions to strengthen and promote women's economic freedom.

When a woman has her own resources and income, autonomy in decision-making and the freedom to choose where to live, who to be with and what makes her happy, she is less vulnerable to being a victim of abuse or gender-based violence, because in any situation of violence she has the resources to get away from it.