Amid a carnival-like atmosphere complete with drum circles, roaming cotton candy vendors and chorizo grilling stations, close to 300,000 women, men and children gathered before Buenos Aires’ pink-lighted Congress building on June 3 to denounce a trend far more grim than the festive rally suggested.
“Women, we want you alive!” was a common refrain heard through the throngs of mate tea drinkers, chatting teens and family members and friends holding images of loved ones lost to gender-based violence.
Ni Una Menos (“Not One Less”) began as a social media campaign in which celebrities and the non-famous alike posted pictures of themselves holding signs featuring the hashtag-friendly phrase, and culminated with the June 3 march.
The movement arose in the wake of a highly publicized string of femicides in Argentina, notably the murders of Chiara Páez – a 14-year-old from eastern Santa Fe province beaten to death by her boyfriend after he discovered she intended on keeping the fetus with which she was three months pregnant – and María Eugenia Lanzetti – a 44-year-old kindergarten teacher from the city of Córdoba, whose husband slit her throat in front of her classroom.
According to statistics gathered by Argentine NGO La Casa del Encuentro, one woman is murdered every 30 hours in Argentina, making it the nation with the fifth highest rate of femicide in Latin America. That list is headed by Mexico and followed by Guatemala, Costa Rica and the Dominican Republic.
With growing media attention, the moment was ripe for event organizers – a group of artists, intellectuals, activists and journalists – to launch Ni Una Menos.
According to organizers, the movement seeks the following five objectives:
- That Argentina’s National Plan of Action Against Gender-Based Violence, passed in 2009, be implemented and monitored
- That victims have access to a lawyer and be able to seek justice
- That there be an official registry tracking and providing official statistics on gender-based violence
- That sexual education be guaranteed and expanded in schools
- That victims receive adequate protection
“I think the march has been effective in putting the issue on the public agenda. People have shown their support on social media and by coming out to the march,” said Natasha Urman, coordinator of La Marcha de las Putas (the Buenos Aires chapter of SlutWalk, an internationl movement against gender violence).
“The march makes our demands visible.”
“What’s especially novel is the variety of people present here today,” she added. “There are people from different social classes, genders, ages, many who wouldn’t have come out for something like this a few months ago.”
Argentines of all stripes and colors seemed to be represented among the marchers: university and high school students; anarchists; young couples pushing strollers or carrying children on their shoulders; porteños from the capital and other Argentines from the surrounding province. Some clearly fit the bill of the activist, while others looked like they’d accidentally wandered into the rally on their way to the grocery store.
“This is a huge step forward: it’s the first time we’re seeing so many people mobilize,” said Giuliana Pignataro, coordinator of Acción Respeto.
She emphasized that the march could only be a first step.
“We still need to raise awareness, starting in schools, and reinforce the mechanisms by which we can put an end to gender-based violence,” she said.
Law 26.485 was enacted in 2009 to purportedly “prevent, sanction and eradicate violence against women.” However, many say that failure to actually implement the law has made any progress on prevention challenging.
Many politicians, including Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri and President Cristina Kirchner – known for being at political odds – voiced their support for the march.
No es sólo un problema judicial o policial. Estamos ante una cultura devastadora de lo femenino.
— Cristina Kirchner (@CFKArgentina) June 3, 2015
Attendees and supporters of the march now hope that the supposedly apolitical rally – so defined in order to eliminate partisan bickering – will pave the way for actual political action.
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