Latin America & Caribbean

Mexico advises workers on sexist language

A woman pretends to be gagged during protests in Mexico City against the murder of women, 8 March 2011
Image caption Activists say sexist language fuels gender violence

Mexico's interior ministry has published a guide on how to reduce the use of sexist language in a nation renowned for its machismo.

The Manual for the Non-sexist Use of Language is being distributed to government offices across Mexico.

It seeks to reduce comments that enforce gender stereotypes, as well as the default use of the masculine form in the Spanish language.

The manual was written by a body that tackles violence against women.

In its introduction, the manual describes itself as "a tool to familiarize federal public workers with the use of non-sexist strategies in the Spanish language".

It discourages the use of phrases such as: "If you want to work, why did you have children," and: "You are prettier when you keep quiet".

It also advises against referring to women as possessions, as in phrases such as "Pedro's woman".

Femicide

The manual says workers should avoiding using the masculine form in the Spanish language when it is not appropriate.

"It is very common for us to use the masculine without knowing the gender of the people we are referring to or - even more incoherently - to use masculine adjectives or professional titles even when we know we are talking about a woman," it explains.

The document was drawn up by the National Commission to Prevent and Eradicate Violence Against Women, Conavim.

On International Women's Day on 8 March the Mexican government acknowledged that "insults and harassment" of women remained a problem.

On the same day, women's groups protested against an increase in murders of women because of their gender, a phenomenon known in Mexico as femicide.

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