Thousands Rally After Young Woman Found Murdered By Ride App Driver

Mexico is grappling with a femicide epidemic, and 19-year-old Mara Fernanda Castilla's brutal murder while riding home from a night out is too familiar a story.

On Friday, 19-year-old university student Mara Fernanda Castilla was found dead in a ditch approximately 50 miles southeast of Mexico City.

She was murdered by a driver for the popular Spanish ride app Cabify on her way home from a night out, and the tragedy sends a chilling message to women in Mexico and around the world who have relished in the apparent safety ride-sharing services can provide.

With signs reading "Ni una mas! (Not one more!)" and "No fue tu culpa! (It was not your fault!)," thousands of women and their allies took to the streets to draw international attention to Castilla's gruesome murder and those of countless others.

"Sexual violence against women is constant, and it happens on a daily basis in Mexico," Tania Reneaum, executive director of Amnesty International Mexico, told Al Jazeera.

"I think the march was less about demands and more about women exerting their rights to live their lives," journalist Andalusia Knoll Soloff, who attended a rally in Mexico City, explained. "Thousands of women have been killed over the last few years."

According to The Guardian, the driver, identified by Quartz only as Ricardo N., drove Castilla to her home, but security cameras show no sign of the young woman leaving the vehicle. Police conclude that Ricardo N. then took her to a hotel, where he raped her, strangled her, and then wrapped her body in a bed sheet for disposal.

Mexico has been struggling with a femicide epidemic for years, the number of women and girls killed through gender-based violence steadily growing to an estimated one victim murdered every eight hours.

Per The Guardian, Puebla, the area where Castilla studied political science, has already documented 83 femicides in 2017 alone.

Despite urging from community members to address the violence, the government has been dangerously inactive on the issue, and activists argue that Castilla's death is on their hands.

According to Quartz, some people also think that Cabify holds some of the responsibility and question the company's driver screening process, as Ricardo N. had previously worked for Uber and been fired for violating safety protocol.

Given the sexist undercurrent in all this, unfortunately some also believe that Castilla is to blame for her own murder.

In Mexico, as in many other parts of the world, ride apps are seen as a safer alternative to taxis and public transit, especially for women. The tracking features provide a feeling of security, but Castilla's death and the incidents of sexual assault by ride app drivers throughout the world sadly prove that this is just a feeling.

While Cabify plans to follow in the steps of other ride-sharing services and add a help button, it's a severely limited solution to emergency situations; it does nothing to address the root of violence against women.

While ride app companies can attempt to protect their customers with more advanced technology, and women can take measures to build their own safety nets, if someone wants to hurt someone else they will do it. No GPS system or panic button can stop violent intent, and the lives of women and girls are at risk if anyone assumes new algorithms are the solution.

That is what the thousands marching through Mexico were protesting against — the society which enables such disregard of a woman that she cannot order a ride home without fear that she will be sexually assaulted, that she will be killed.

Banner/Thumbnail Photo Credit: Flickr, Matt Radick

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