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LATIN AMERICA | 05-12-2019 15:42

Chilean battle-cry against sexual violence goes viral

In the wake of national social unrest and rising femicides across the region, protesters in Santiago perform rendition of a feminist anthem making waves across the world.

Thousands of women mobbed the National Stadium in Chile's capital on Wednesday for a flash denunciation of sexual violence – the latest performance of a battle-cry that has seized public attention during weeks of national unrest.

According to data from the local media, the protest accumulated anywhere from 4,000 to 6,000 participants, who ran through the choreography no more than four times and dispersed without causing any additional disturbance. 

Brought together via social media and called to action by “LasTesisSenior”, a branch of the Chilean feminist collective LasTesis geared specifically toward older women, the performers accumulated outside the stadium and rehearsed, before beginning their battle-cry, denouncing the “oppressor state” and calling out abusers.

"The fault is not with me, nor where I was, nor how I was dressed... The rapist is you!" they chanted.

The women – most aged over 40, some in wheelchairs, others accompanied by children and grandchildren – were directed by designated leaders over megaphone. “To the left; to the other side!; (to avoid saying ‘the right’)” On the sidelines, their families and other supporters applauded and drummed to the rhythm of the feminist anthem. 

Throughout this latest rendition of the viral hymn known as “Un violador en tu camino” ("A rapist in your way") the group sang, dressed entirely in black with red and green handkerchiefs around their necks, some sporting blindfolds, stomping their feet and waving their arms in a routine that has in recent weeks been staged around the country and around the world, as part of a global wave of outcry against gender violence and inequality. 

"It was a great experience to share this with thousands and thousands of women," Jacqueline Saintard told AFP after Wednesday's demonstration.

Saintlord was especially overwhelmed to see that during the performance, many women began to scream slogans targeted at their own specific abusers. 

“You could hear yells amongst it all, outside of the performance, alluding to personal experiences and that is very impactful.” Explained the 66-year-old economist.

“This is a truth that is repressed all over the world. Women are mistreated all over the world, and there is a pact of silence among the majority of men in the world.” asserted Carmen, a 60-year-old biologist, explaining her reasons to participate in the artistic intervention. 

Similar versions of the performance have been organised by women as far away as Paris, Barcelona and Mexico City.

“There’s a global awakening and people are starting to say what they feel. Women have a lot to say about gender violence and inequality.” said 58-year-old Magdelena Serrano, director of a municipal development corporation in the township of Independencia in Santiago. 

First created by the feminist collective LasTesis, based in the Chilean seaside town of Valparaiso, the protest song began to be emulated after reports of police violence against women and as countrywide demonstrations against the government gained steam. 

Those protests initially erupted in mid-October over metro fare hikes but quickly escalated into the most severe outbreak of social unrest since the end of the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet nearly 30 years ago.

More than 3,500 women were killed across Latin America and the Caribbean in acts of gender-based violence last year, according to UN data.

– TIMES/AFP

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