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ARGENTINA | 07-03-2020 10:51

Surge in femicides sparks renewed concerns over gender violence

As demonstrators prepare to take to the streets for International Women’s Day with a host of demands, a string of femicides has once again pushed the issue to the fore.

A string of femicides since the turn of the year has reignited concerns and outrage over gender violence, with the topic set to be high on the agenda when demonstrators take to the streets this Sunday for International Women’s Day.

A staggering number of women have been murdered during the first months of 2020, according to NGOs who track femicides. In the first three days of March, for example, at least five women have been murdered – almost one every 14 hours.

Demonstrations in Argentina tomorrow will focus on a myriad of issues at the core of the feminist movement. These issues include: femicide, abortion rights, labour violence and the gender pay gap.

This year’s event will be a little different though, according to Ni Una Menos member Cecilia Palmiero. For the past four years protesters have walked off the job as part of the International Women’s Strike.

“We transformed this ‘day’ into a strike, giving back the radicality of the day and the idea that we are workers,” Palmiero told the Times.

She went on to that the Día Internacional de la Mujer as originally rooted in the mistreatment of women labourers: “It remembers the killing of a lot of women workers in a New York City textile factory. They were striking and the owner set the factory on fire and there was this purple smoke that covered the city. This is why the feminist movement uses the colour purple, to remind us that we are all workers.”

As feminist and gender-violence-focused organisations, such as Ni Una Menos and Mujeres de la Matria Latinoamericana (MuMalá) feminist organisation, look to celebrate the power of women workers in Argentina and throughout the world, ending violence against women remains at the forefront of the movement.

GRUESOME FEMICIDES

A total of 63 femicides were registered in Argentina during the first two months of the year, according to figures from gender violence NGO Observatorio ‘Ahora Que Sí Nos Ven’ – one woman murdered roughly every 23 hours.

Once again the issue returned to the headlines this week. Mónica Edith Ra mos, a 61-year-old teacher originally from the Mendoza city of San Rafael, was murdered in San Luis on Tuesday, March 3.

The teacher was killed by several stabs at her home, which was later set on fire, according to local reports. Firefighters found the body in the bathroom when they entered the home Tuesday afternoon.

It was established that Ramos had been stabbed in the neck and the chest and presented other injuries that indicated she had tried to defend herself from the aggression, according to the Diario de la República site.

According to police sources, no suspect has been detained.

Meanwhile, 28-year-old Jordana Belén Rivero, was also found dead the same day, after falling from a seventh floor building in the heart of Mar del Plata. The victim fell after allegedly being beaten.

Bernardo Luis Baraj, 50, has been arrested in relation to the death, according to local reports. The detainee is originally from Ushuaia, has been living in Buenos Aires, and arrived in Mar del Plata this summer.

Four days ago, came the shocking news that eight-year-old Guadeloupe, from Lobos, Buenos Aires Province, had been found dead. A suspect, Sergio Ramón Oliveira, 22, has been arrested. He is suspected of having burnt Guadeloupe, his cousin’s daughter, alive after attacking her.

On Monday, March 2, 19-year-old Brenda Micaela Gordillo was murdered by her boyfriend, 19-year-old Naim Vera in San Fernando del Valle de Catamarca. He surrendered to police later that day. Vera dismembered and burned his girlfriend’s body on a parrilla, before scattering some of the remains in sectors adjacent to provincial Ruta 4.

According to data provided by the Observatorio Ahora que sí nos ven, “in 66 percent of cases, women were victims of those who said they loved them.” In 49 percent of the first 63 cases of 2020, the aggressor was the woman’s current partner, the NGO has found.

This new year, however, is not unique in the troubling number of femicides seen in Argentina. According to the MuMaLa Observatory, 284 femicides took place in 2019, with 88 percent of those committed by someone the victim knew well. Some 63 percent were committed by the victim’s partner or ex-partner.

Both organisations stress that their numbers, however, come from those that make it into the media,

“The problem is that there is no official data,” said Victoria Aguirre, MuMalá’s Coordinator in Buenos Aires City.

“What we think is important is that the new government works to publish official data to be able to finally end gender-based violence,” she told the Times.

WIDENING THE SCOPE

The demands of the feminist movement extend past that of ending gender violence. Specifically, much of the focus of the movement today has been geared toward legalising abortion – an aim that now seems within sight.

Opposition PRO party lawmaker Silvia Lospennato said this week that she believes there are enough national deputies in favour of the reform to see a bill pass through the lower house, after President Alberto Fernández announced last Sunday he would seek to legalise abortion this year.

In an interview with a local radio station, the Cambiemos deputy said she believes that President’s Fernández’s strong backing of the bill has been “a very important differential” in the debate, when compared to 2018’s failed effort that received no backing from then-president Mauricio Macri.

Other calls from demonstrators this weekend relate to violence more generally.

“Not only femicide, but more general forms of gender violence that are often less visible like, for example, obstetric violence, violence in educational spaces and workplace violence,” Agostina Gonzales, a lawyer for the Equipo Latinoamericano de Justicia y Género, explained to the Times.

The gender pay gap is another key issue for campaigners, though it has not received the same amount of attention as abortion reform or femicide.

In 2020, Argentina ranked seventh among 25 Latin American countries in terms of the gender pay gap, according to Statistica. The same study found that local women are 25 percent less likely to have equal economic opportunity than men.

In the capital, the International Feminist Strike will continue into Monday, March 9, said Palmiero, during which thousands of women will march to the Congress at 5pm with the intention of making visible the importance of women in the workplace.

“[During this strike], we refuse to work and collaborate in every productive process to show how important our labour is, even if it is invisibilised, unpaid, and devalued,” she explained.

MOVEMENT FOR EVERYONE

The feminist movement also seeks to include more than just biological women. Palmiero explained that the organisation includes all sexual dissidencies: lesbians, transgender and non-binary individuals, among others.

“After the first real strike against the Macri government on October 19, 2016, we came to the conclusion that the real general strike is a feminist strike,” Palmiero describes. “It allows all workers to strike – not only those who are formally employed – and have a union backing them up”.

Addressing solutions, Gonzales reinforced “the need for public policy related to prevention,” as well as “the response that the judicial power grants women in cases of violence.”

Certain measures have been taken to ensure that violence against women is taken seriously by the law. The ‘Ley Micaela’ was enacted in 2018 after a young woman, Micaela Garcia, was killed by a man with prior charges of violence. The law requires all public officials to be trained in handling gender-based violence.

Gonzales, however, believes these measures are inadequate.

“Of the 63 femicides that took place in January and February, 15 of the women had filed a previous complaint against the offender and three of them had some measure of restraining order,” she argued. “This shows that the measures offered to women who are victims of violence are not efficient.”

by BY JENNIFER HEIMAN & ANINA HOFFMAN

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