A wave of protests broke out in Argentina on 19th October following the brutal rape and death of a minor. The BBC reported that 16-year-old Lucía Pérez was drugged with marijuana and cocaine, and went into cardiac arrest during the assault. Despite attempts to reach her to the hospital, Pérez did not survive. And much like the brutal gang-rape that shook New Delhi in 2012, the nature of the violence Pérez was subjected to is what caused women in Argentina to go on strike.
Like the recent “Black Monday” protest against a proposed ban on abortions in Poland, the women of Argentina called for “Miercoles Negro” or “Black Wednesday” as they spilled onto the streets of Buenos Aires, Mar del Plata and other cities.
As the hashtags #MiércolesNegro, #NiUnaMenos (“not one woman less”) and #VivasNosQueremos (“we want to live”) began trending online. In fact, among the first accounts to respond on Twitter were the organizers of the Poland protest:
— #CzarnyPoniedziałek (@czarny_protest) October 19, 2016
Several others tweeted out messages of support:
— Nina Springle (@ninaspringle) October 19, 2016
Including prominent feminists from other countries:
— Mona Eltahawy (@monaeltahawy) October 19, 2016
Even American alt-rock band ‘Garbage’:
In memory of Lucía Pérez, we stand with hundreds of thousands of Argentinians in protest to end sexual violence #MiercolesNegro
— Garbage (@garbage) October 19, 2016
Women shared photos of themselves dressed in black:
— Fabiana Ramírez (@turca09) October 19, 2016
And shared artwork as well:
— Liniers (@porliniers) October 19, 2016
During the protests on Wednesday, many demonstrators carried placards indicating “machista violence,” (meaning male power that is often exaggerated) and other messages to that effect. While rape culture and gender-based violence exist in nearly every society on the planet, the fact that there is a culturally specific term – “machismo” – that emerges from the Argentine protests certainly says something.
Mexico City-based feminist writer Catalina Ruiz-Navarro previously commented on what exactly machismo means: “If he isn’t being jealous and possessive he doesn’t want to be with you and he doesn’t love you. Men are taught to be this way and women are taught to want it.”Machismo is a system that values, above all, an active and conquering male sexuality, and posits it not only as the worth of a male person in that context, but the very core of his being. As such, it is very deeply embedded in the South American social fabric. But this coded and hyper-masculine behaviour is not simply for show – it has very real and devastating effects on women.
Just as honour-based violence plagues various parts of South Asia and the Middle East, the issue of “femicide” has been particularly prominent in Central and South America. Earlier in June, Argentina’s neighbour to the north Brazil saw explosive protests after a video of the gang-rape of teenager was uploaded online by her rapists – but even this shocking incident was only one in a sea of many.
The Movement of Women of the Motherland of Latin America found that 100% of the women they surveyed in April 2016 had experienced street harassment in Buenos Aires. The rate of violence against women in Argentina alone has risen by an appalling 78% in the last eight years. According to Argentina’s president Mauricio Marci, every 37 hours, a woman is attacked in the country, and last year, 235 women were killed in gender-based crimes. In El Salvador, femicide has often been at the hands of violent street gangs, and the horrific discoveries of numerous ‘hidden graves’ containing the bodies – or just a few remains – of women. And these few statistics don’t even cover more complicated and ‘established’ forms of violence that are categorized under human trafficking.
Even if targets of brutal sexual aggression do survive, each country in South America has at best one or two crisis centres equipped to help survivors.
Back in July, President Marci unveiled a national plan to address gender violence, but it will be hard to realize as long as cultural codes continue to condone even a single instance of violence against persons based on their gender, or perpetrated because of their gender.
Featured Image Source: Ubique/Twitter. Translation: “We are also Lucias.”