Mexican students use Zoom to protest sexual assault

One of the Zoom backgrounds used by He for She. (Used with permission.)

MEXICO CITY – While the coronavirus has changed everyone’s life, it also has changed everyone’s battles. If it wasn’t difficult enough to fight for your rights, how could anyone do it in conditions that have never happened before?

Students at the Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey knew that they had to do something about the distrust the students had in the school’s gender violence protocol, which has kept many female students from reporting the harassment or assault they endured.

And after the dismissal of some cases, the idea they’d had of doing something became reality.

The question for student protesters was how to draw attention to this issue when all the classes are online.

So for the past couple of weeks during their online classes, female students have been using a Zoom background made by a fellow-feminist at the university. The background says, “Mis amigas tienen que compartir espacios con sus acosadores y violadores,” which means, “My friends have to share spaces with their assaulters and rapists” and #YOSÍTECREO or, #IBELIEVEYOU.

Valeria Palacios is vice-president of the Monterrey campus chapter of the United Nations ‘He for She’ campaign. She said the pandemic has made it impossible to do as much as they would have done in person, so Zoom was the best option.

At the university, He for She is the student association in charge of securing gender equality on campus and among all the students, Palacios said. It works to keep them informed of the basics of feminism and gender equality and also gives workshops about masculinity and other topics, she said.

The main purpose of the movement is to create safe spaces for women on campus.

According to Palacios, besides the online protests, the association has created groups, made by law and psychology students, to accompany their fellow classmates when they are going to report a sexual assault.

Palacios said the group is trying to be as involved as possible, so they can learn everything that there is to know about the gender violence protocol. That was when they discovered the first problem with the protocol: it wasn’t very well known among the students.

The university has signed commitments with the UN, and so the He for She group’s task is to oversee that these commitments are being fulfilled properly, according to information posted on the university’s website.

That is why the group has been collecting all the data to show the school what has been failing in its protocol so it can be improved.

After a meeting with the university’s Department of Human Dignity, the He For She group was asked about the improvements they had in mind for the protocol.

“We are trying to do everything as legitimate as possible,” said Palacios.

The main changes the group wants to implement are to improve the transparency in the process and to try not to revictimize the person who is reporting the offense.

“We are not trying to stain the name of the school, so we are staying within the limits the institution has because it is also our education that is in jeopardy and we care about it,” said Palacios about the protests.

The Instituto Tecnológico y de Estudios Superiores de Monterrey is an institution distinguished for its integrity, Palacios said, so they have hope that these upgrades in the protocol will happen.

She said that the He for She group has the support of the student body, the teachers and other people who are interested in this situation, so everyone is waiting for the school’s next move.

Regina López is a Reporter with Youth Journalism International.

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