Argentine women hold national strike demanding end to violence

Argentine women hold national strike demanding end to violence

Women in Argentina are protesting together to tackle violence against women in the country. They are being heard by politicians and the Catholic Church, but still have a long way to go to end violence against women altogether.

On 19th October 2016 Argentine women dressed in black went on a one-hour national strike followed by a national protest later in the day called for by #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less), a group of activists demanding an end to violence against women, with the support of at least 50 other Argentine organisations and unions. This unprecedented strike, the first of its kind in Argentina, came after the death of 16 year-old Lucía Pérez, who had been drugged, raped and tortured before being murdered in the night of 8th October in the city of Mar del Plata in the province of Buenos Aires. The strike’s date also marks the third time #NiUnaMenos held protests on the streets of Argentine cities against violence of this nature, following their first protests in June 2015 after the murder of a pregnant 14 year-old by her boyfriend, which attracted hundreds of thousands of participants from across the country.

Despite wide-ranging support from various societal sectors, including feminist groups, the Catholic Church and all presidential candidates for the 2015 general elections, #NiUnaMenos is still far from achieving its goal of eradicating gender-based violence in Argentina. The new government under President Mauricio Macri has introduced measures to tackle violence against women through the implementation of the ‘National Action Plan for the Prevention, Assistance and Eradication of Violence against Women’ and the appointment of Fabiana Tuñez, a prominent women’s rights activist, as the head of the National Women’s Commission. However, official statistics still report that in 2016 there have already been 170 cases of femicides in Argentina, which is equal to around one death every 41 hours.

The government could claim that the number of femicides in the country has lowered since 2014 when an estimate by an NGO put the number at one death per 30 hours. Yet no governmental estimate for that year is available for comparison as the National Femicide Registry in charge of this estimation was only created in 2015 in response to protestors’ demands. The Public Prosecutor of Mar del Plata also gave an interview that the number of people reporting domestic violence in the city where Lucía’s death took place had increased by 42% in the period from January to October 2016 compared to the same period last year.

There is a consensus among officials and activists that Argentina’s macho culture is one of the main reasons behind the frequency of these incidents. Florencia Abbate, a prominent campaigner, told La Nación, a national newspaper, that one main reason behind the one hour strike and protest was for everyone to “look back at their own practices and become aware of the necessity for a cultural change”. While President Macri cited society’s failure to educate children as one cause of gender-based violence alongside a culture of machismo and victim-blaming among judges as reasons for inadequate sentences given to those charged with such crimes.

Aside from this cultural factor, #NiUnaMenos’s spokesperson Florencia Mincini commented to Télam, the Argentine national news agency, that in order for violence against women to fall the state has to do more to improve gender economic equality and empower women in order to reduce the likelihood of them becoming victims of gender-based violence. Statistics such as the higher unemployment rate among women in Argentina at 10.5% compared to the national average at 9.3% and the fact that 76% of unpaid domestic work was done by women, according to #NiUnaMenos, are reasons why some women find themselves in situations where they are abused but unable to protect themselves, as they still need to depend economically on their abuser. To these activists, governmental programmes to close the economic gap are crucial for combating violence against women. However, with the current government focusing on reducing its expenditure after years of high deficits and an IMF prediction of a 1.5% contraction in Argentina’s GDP this year, it may take a while before this demand is accomplished.

Featured image: Wikimedia

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