Today, March 8, is International Women’s day. While flowers are given to colleagues and workmates and cakes are shared there remains a distinctly bleaker side to the day’s celebrations.
A recent study by Amnesty International has revealed that gender-based violence in Latin America has reached that of an “institutional” level against women, with the finger pointed at various government in their failure to address this problem.
Femicide, or the act of committing violence against women, is becomingly increasingly commonplace in Latin American press, as acts committed against women too are recognized in the penal codes of 16 countries from across the region, according to 24 Horas.
Femicide, or the act of a man murdering a women purely based on her gender, is a chilling, and increasingly commonplace act. Yes machista culture has previously been cited as one of the main culprits, but ignorance and a lack of government recognition are also to blame.
In Argentina alone, there were 2,041 femicides committed in the country between 2008 and October of 2015. That’s one murder every 30 hours.
The country has also been somewhat of a political stage for protests and rallies against femicide, thanks to the Not one less campaign, as women have taken to the streets in a mass crackdown against gender-based violence.
Yesterday’s article, which saw various Latin American countries rated as being unsafe for female backpackers is certainly shocking. It resonates with the tragic death of Argentine travellers Marina, 22, and María José, 21, who were murdered in cold blood during a trip to the Ecuadorean beachside resort of Montañita.
But it has been social media’s extreme response to this crime which has seen women, and their rights, propelled back into the headlines.
A Facebook post by Paraguayan student Guadalupe Acosta became a viral hit. “As time went by [the letter] was getting hits, in truth I was scared. It was a mix of emotions between sadness and a lot of fear. I’m a quiet girl, I don’t like to attract attention,” the 20-year-old told Vice.
In her post, Acosta writes “It was only on my death that I understood, in this world I’m not equal to any man. That dying was my fault, it will always be.”
The Facebook message has had a mixed response, from condolence and sadness at the injustice of events to posts suggesting that the girls themselves should not have undertaken solo travel.
Indeed, a chilling revelation from Colombian daily El Espectador, outlines how one of the men “Segundo P” and his accomplice “Eduardo D” hit one of girls in the head, prior to stabbing her companion, after they refused to engage in intercourse with a group of men.
For Catalina Martínez, Regional Director for the NGO Reproductive Rights, enough is enough. “It’s essential that the states within the region recognize that women’s reproductive rights are fundamental rights which should be promoted, protected and guaranteed.”
Wearing a pair of shorts isn’t an open invitation that a woman wishes to sleep with a man. Nor is it fair to assume that a female solo traveller may have ‘looser morals’ or is in search of sexual relations.
While celebrations continue International Women’s day, two families in Argentina are instead mourning the loss of a daughter, granddaughter or sister. Marina and María José’s tragic death highlights a very real problem. Yes there is awareness but much is still, as yet, to be done to improve women’s rights across Latin America.