by Magdalena Medley, Thematic Specialist – Women’s Human Rights Co-Group at Amnesty International USA
On June 3, 2016, Argentinians took to the streets for a second time to tell their government “ni una menos” – meaning “not even one less (woman)” – demanding an end to femicide and increasing levels of violence against women in the country.
In 2015, when the first Ni Una Menos demonstration took place in my homeland of Argentina, I covered it from New York City. I wanted to be a part of this important time in my country’s history, even if only from overseas.
This year, I had the opportunity to attend the anniversary march in Buenos Aires, which attracted tens of thousands of demonstrators. Here are the 5 main things I took away from the experience:
- People were eager to fight for women’s rights: People weren’t only gathered in droves in the capital – demonstrations took place all over the country. On my way to Congress, where the march began, I could sense the anticipation and excitement of the people around me – thousands of Argentinians gathered to fight for the rights of women and to express their frustration with the current state of affairs. People from different backgrounds were united to speak up for an important cause.
- The number of femicides remains high: According to the Marisel Zambrano Femicide Observatory from La Casa del Encuentro 275 cases of femicide have taken place since the first march in June 2015. These statistics are not official, but it is precisely this lack of official government data that concerns the #NiUnaMenos movement. Of the 275 victims, 39 had previously reported violence to the police. And 171 of the femicides occurred inside the home, confirming that the private, domestic sphere remains one of the most dangerous places for women. Additionally, the murders of these women left 216 children without a mother.Credit: Trak Producciones
- Argentinians are lucky to be able to march without fear: Ni Una Menos represents a coming together of Argentine society to confront discrimination, violence and the culture of “machismo”. The march included an impressive number of attendees holding signs, singing songs and making their demands known. Even though the reason we were gathered was to bring attention to a grave violation of women’s human rights, the atmosphere seemed festive. I believe this was the result of having a space to present our complaints freely and safely. We weren’t afraid to shout and demand our rights. We were all there for the same purpose and that gave us confidence and reassurance. Given the fact that exercising the right to defend and promote human rights remains a dangerous activity in the Americas, I felt fortunate to be part of this demonstration without fear.
- #NiUnaMenos is about much more than just femicide: Even though this movement was born as a response to the number of murders of women in Argentina, it has quickly grown and evolved into a broader claim for women’s rights. The importance of access to sexual and reproductive rights for all women is among the many topics this movement is now fighting for. An example is the incorporation of the claim of freedom for Belen, a woman sentenced to eight years in prison for a miscarriage. Amnesty International recently released a report showing how the state can be a catalyst for violence against women by failing to combat and eradicate gender-based violence in the region. Released in March 2016, the report states:
While discrimination against women is evident in almost all areas of life, it is in the area of sexual and reproductive health that it reaches shocking levels. It is the regulation of women’s sexuality and reproduction that most clearly reveals gender stereotypes and bias. It also brings into focus prevailing ideas about the role that women should play in society and how they are imposed on all women through legislation and highly discriminatory practices… discriminatory norms not only violate a range of human rights, they also generate violence against women and constitute torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
- We are not alone in this fight: Argentina’s movement is not an isolated case. Many countries in Latin America have been organizing demonstrations to fight for women’s rights. A recent example is the massive march that took place in Brazil after a young girl was not only raped by over 30 men in Rio de Janeiro but a video of the incident was shared and liked by many on social media. The demonstration was also a reaction to the way authorities handled the young victim’s case. As often happens, many questioned the girl’s actions instead of condemning the brutal men who raped her, prompting people to take to the streets and create the hashtags #EstuproNuncaMais and #EstuproNaoECulpaDaVitima (meaning “rape never again” and “rape is not the victim’s fault”).
This fight still has a long way to go, but the fact that the movement exists is a victory in and of itself. Latin America will not stay silent and I will continue fighting to defend women’s rights and encourage others to do the same.