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Mexico honours woman who broke gender barriers two centuries ago as high rates of violence against women continues

MEXICO’s government marked its independence day yesterday with a homage to Leona Vicario’s defiance of gender barriers in the 19th century — but was accused of using her name as cover for its sexist modern policies. 

An image of Vicario was illuminated after dark in Mexico City’s most prominent cathedral ahead of annual celebrations marking the country’s secession from Spain.

Vicario defied convention in her role in gathering intelligence for and financing Mexico’s independence struggle, challenging both foreign rule and the idea that women were not worthy of public roles. 

But the spotlight put on her contribution comes as Mexico endures high rates of violence against women. 

Activists occupied the office of Mexico’s Human Rights Commission earlier this month to call for more investigations and prosecutions in cases of abused and missing women.

Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador has said he welcomes legitimate concerns, but has claimed that political opponents are behind some protests. 
 
Activist Veronica Cruz, who campaigns to help women imprisoned for having abortions, told AP news that the government is hostile towards some female campaigners and that its showcasing of Vicario is just a “politically correct″ gesture.

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