Rage boils over amid Argentina’s unrelenting femicide disaster | Ladies Information
Buenos Aires, Argentina – The women huddle together, stretch their necks and take photos of the ornate advertising stand in the center of the Argentine capital, which is covered with posters of men who have been charged or convicted of murdering women.
The word “FEMICIDA” – murderess – screams under each name in large black letters.
The posters, like the thousands who gathered in protest in front of the Supreme Court of Argentina last week, are a measure of the anger that prevails in the country at the widespread violence against women.
It was the murder of 18-year-old Ursula Bahillo who brought the women’s movement to the streets on February 17 in a number not seen since the Argentine Congress legalized electoral abortion in December. This time the mood was much darker.
Bahillo was killed on February 8 in her hometown of Rojas, Buenos Aires province. Her ex-boyfriend, the police officer Matias Ezequiel Martinez, was charged with femicide with aggravating factors of intent and cruelty.
“We want to be able to walk the streets without looking over our shoulders,” said Fabiana Costa, a 26-year-old mother who lives in Quilmes on the outskirts of the capital and who has a sign saying ” feminist judicial reform ”before the Supreme Court.
Proponents say Bahillo’s case was a lightning rod because it clearly shows the ways the state does not protect women.
She had filed multiple police complaints against her ex-boyfriend and received a restraining order that was not enforced. The last time she went to the authorities to file a complaint, she was told that they were not working on the weekend and that she would have to come back another day. The following Monday, the day her panic button was due to arrive, she was dead.
An autopsy revealed that Bahillo was stabbed 15 times in the back, torso and neck with a butcher’s knife found at the scene. Martinez, her ex-boyfriend, was found in the same rural area where her body was discovered, with a self-inflicted stab wound.
More cases of femicide have been reported across Argentina since Bahillo’s death. Ivana Modica’s body was found buried behind a hotel in the city of La Falda, Cordoba province, after her ex-boyfriend confessed to the crime. Miriam Beatriz Farias, who was set on fire in the city of Cordoba by her partner, also a police officer, died of her injuries.
A sign depicts the names of other victims during a protest after Ursula Bahillo’s femicide on February 17 in Buenos Aires, Argentina [Flor Guzzetti/Reuters]On Tuesday evening, 21-year-old Guadalupe Curual was stabbed to death on a busy street in the southern town of Villa La Angostura, reportedly by an ex-boyfriend against whom she had also received an injunction.
“The cases are everywhere. We all have a neighbor or someone we know who went through it, who lives it now, but the judicial system is doing nothing about it, ”Costa said at the rally in Buenos Aires.
“You go to the police station to complain and they just look at you. You record your complaint and that’s it. The injunction never arrives. [Or] it arrives after the person is already gone. We want to live. “
High levels of violence against women sparked a new wave of activism for the Argentine feminist movement in 2015 after the body of 14-year-old Chiara Paez was found buried in the courtyard of her friend’s family. The pent-up outrage drew hundreds of thousands of people onto the streets under the banner of #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less).
The movement seeks to eradicate gender-based violence and has spread to several Latin American countries.
Nearly 300 femicides were reported in the country in 2020, according to organizations tracking cases through the media. There were 43 femicides and transfemicides in the first 52 days of 2021, according to Mumala, a feminist organization that pools the cases. Of these, 38 were direct victims and five were children or other people connected to the woman who was killed.
However, the crisis extends beyond Argentina. Most Latin American countries have changed their laws so that the murder of a woman appears explicitly in the criminal code as femicide or is seen as an aggravating factor in murder.
Honduras, El Salvador and the Dominican Republic had the highest rates of femicide in the region in 2019. More than six women were killed for every 100,000 people in Honduras, and around three in El Salvador and the Dominican Republic.
An average of 10 women are killed every day in Mexico.
“Femicides are the bloodiest expression of a macho society that we have to end once and for all,” said Argentine President Alberto Fernandez on Twitter on the day of the protest in front of the Supreme Court.
He met with Bahillo’s parents and announced a plan to create a federal council for the prevention of femicides, transvesticides and transfemicides. Its mandate will be to coordinate an integrated response from various government agencies to the problem.
“We know that the state has a duty to ensure the prevention, support, sanction and reparation of gender-based violence, but we also need everyone who introduces cultural change that eliminates violent machismo in all aspects of our lives”, so the president wrote in a letter to the governors of the country.
But for many, the Council won’t cut it.
Patricia Nasutti, the mother of Ursula Bahillo, speaks during a protest against violence against women in Buenos Aires on February 17 [Flor Guzzetti/Reuters]Soledad Deza, a well-known lawyer from Tucuman Province who has worked extensively on women’s rights, said Argentina already has a ministry for women, gender and diversity and does not need to set up any other organizations.
Instead, she said the focus should be on prevention. “We tend to believe that violence is a personal problem. Violence is a political, social and cultural problem based on inequality patterns that enable violent masculinity, ”she told Al Jazeera.
For them, education that breaks these cultural patterns at a young age is crucial. The government also needs to ensure that a gender-based approach pervades every corner of the state.
Argentina has a law requiring training on gender-based violence in the executive, legislative and judicial branches. However, Deza said the sheer number of femicides this year suggests that much more is needed.
“We need public policies, and we need effective implementation of those public policies in order for what we have to work,” she said, adding that more men need to be involved in discussions about how this violence is prevented, eradicated and sanctioned can be.
“Since they are part of the problem, they have to be part of the solution.”
‘More of the same’
For Marta Montero, what she hears from the government is “more of the same”.
The murder and rape of her 16-year-old daughter Lucia Perez in 2016 became a symbolic case of femicide in Argentina. Three men were acquitted of sexual abuse and femicide, and two were convicted of drug administration only. A new process has now been ordered.
Montero is now part of a group of families of femicide victims seeking an audience with the government to improve what they describe as the painful, labyrinthine journey families must undertake in search of justice for their loved ones.
There isn’t enough help or financial support for the litigation, she said, and the speedy justice they seek rarely arrives.
“I don’t need the state to pointlessly spend money on people who talk. As families of femicide victims, we want action. We want things to be done, we want things that are specific, ”she told Al Jazeera.
“Why do we have to spend three, four, or five years looking for justice?” She said. “I need the state to get to work, to take responsibility for the deaths, the orphans and the families that will end up being destroyed.”