Blow on this: Mexico City mayor attacked for giving out ‘rape whistles’ to combat epidemic

A woman takes part in a march against violence towards women in Mexico City, Mexico © Ginnette Riquelme
Mexico City is taking potshots at its mayor for his breakthrough initiative to fight rampant sex crime: giving everyone a plastic whistle. Some have also suggested burqas and chastity belts. The initiative now joins the already existing pink buses.

Sexual assaults in the Mexican capital appear to be on the rise, with high profile crimes especially. Around three million attacks occurred in 2010-2015, including minor assaults, according to the National Statistics Institute.

This spurred Mayor Miguel Angel Mancera into action with a new initiative that will see the epidemic tackled by handing out white whistles to women “which will help them to warn of possible crimes.” That did not sit too well with campaign groups, who went online to blast Mancera for patronizing women instead of addressing actual criminal behavior.

Possibly the funniest of all things tweeted back at the mayor were upgraded versions of the whistle with the same CDMX logo, including now the Mexican shakers to ward off corruption, a vuvuzela to combat extortion and other useful options.

And here’s the thing about whistles. They’re also a metaphor for male genitalia. So, #ElPitoDeMancera – or Mancera’s whistle – was one hashtag that quickly rose to prominence.

But there are real problems many see with the whole idea. “Women without a whistle – real or metaphoric – would ‘expose themselves’ and if they are assaulted and no one does anything, they would be to blame for not whistling,” wrote columnist Catalina Ruiz Navarro for Sin Embargo.

Highly critical of the initiative, she wrote that women find making a noise ridiculous because no one will help either way, and that “the measure shows [the mayor’s] poor understanding of harassment.”

She goes on to say that "the rape whistle has only served in other countries as an emergency measure and is only effective in organized societies, where the police and the community respond quickly and without violence.”

The metro system is probably the scariest public place for a woman in Mexico. At least 126,000 cases were registered there in 2015, according to the Mexico City-based Institute for Women. Of those only 300 were reported.

Someone suggested – what’s the point in using a whistle when even screaming doesn’t help?

There are also those gender-specific pink buses intended just for women: they are probably the thing that was most compared to the whistle idea.

Last month, a demonstration against gender violence and femicide took place, attended by thousands. The Twitter campaign #VivasNosQueremos detailing victim stories was soon marred by sexual and death threats.