Today, 8 March 2018, is International Women’s Day. People all over the world will be gathering at different events both to advocate for women’s rights and to celebrate women’s greatness. Organizations will be taking to their digital platforms to launch campaigns while others take to the streets to march for justice and equality.
Some will be choosing to strike, to show the world what it’s like to not have women around doing their part, while others will be wearing black in solidarity with movements like #NiUnaMenos, #TimesUp and #MeToo. Others will be creating or exposing a variety of art works to highlight the causes they care about the most, from films to essays to photos to poems.
The issues are many: racism and discrimination, intersectionality, indigenous rights, sexual and reproductive health, mental health, the gender pay gap, domestic violence, sexual violence in conflict, sexual assault and harassment, access to education, immigration, climate change, and many more. All of them so important for women everywhere and all of them in need of being addressed on a global scale.
I hope that, wherever you are today, you can take advantage of global attention to advocate for the causes that speak the most to you. I hope you have the chance to march, strike, write, film, dance, speak out. But I also hope that you are able to surround yourself with women who support you and inspire you. I hope you take the time to tell the women in your life how much you appreciate them and that you receive those messages in return too. I hope you treat yourself well and take care of yourself, which is a form of activism in and of itself.
This International Women’s Day, while we continue to fight for equal rights all over the world, let’s not forget to celebrate ourselves and each other.
Back in April, I saw on Facebook that one of my high school friends from Argentina was posting about a missing friend called Micaela García. Before long, my social media was flooded with posts from other people asking for information about her – asking if anyone had seen her recently or knew where she was. But my friends’ posts were the most shocking to me.
She knew Micaela. She wasn’t just helping look for a stranger, she was looking for her friend.
Micaela García was missing for an entire week before her body was found. She was an activist in the Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) protest movement against femicides that emerged in Argentina in 2015 and spread across the continent all the way to Canada. Micaela was a part of the movement for years. She would travel from her home in the province of Entre Ríos to Buenos Aires every year for the Ni Una Menos march on June 3rd and would organize activities to raise awareness in March each year for International Women’s Day. She had dedicated herself to ending this violence yet ended up as a victim herself.
Micaela’s murder lead to protests for justice. Then it became public knowledge that her attacker had been jailed for nine years in 2012 for raping two women in 2010, but a judge had ordered his early release in July 2016 after he had completed only half of his sentence. The entire country was furious, and rightly so. Suddenly there were two men responsible, Sebastián Wagner and the judge that set him free.
Wagner was sentenced to life in prison in October this year. It was too late for Micaela though. I don’t believe he should ever have been sentenced to just nine years in prison in the first place, never mind been granted early release. His victims shouldn’t have had to live knowing that their attacker would one day be released.
The case left a lasting impact in the country. Micaela’s loved ones created the Micaela García “La Negra” Foundation to continue her activism and volunteer work in Villa Mandarina, a low-income neighborhood where she would feed children, help them with homework, celebrate their birthdays, and participate in programs to reduce poverty rates and inequality.
There were also 13 laws proposed regarding violence against women, including sexual violence and femicides. They are known as the ‘Micaela García laws’ and they tackle both prevention and reaction. They are designed to help victims and their families recover physically, psychologically, and even economically. They also focus on improving the government’s attitude towards victims by trying to make employees in the public sector take courses on gender violence. Regarding the general public, these laws are trying to educate all people, no matter their gender, not to be violent towards women.
I’ve talked to my friend, Micaela Villa, about how losing Mica in this violent way has affected her. She says Mica had already inspired her to become involved in the Ni Una Menos movement, but now that femicides have reached her on a personal level, she is more committed than ever before:
“Gracias a la violencia de género perdí una amiga. Hoy en día no dejo pasar por alto ninguna situación que tenga que ver con la violencia, que capaz antes si lo hacía. Y desde lo profesional, como estudio derecho, para en el futuro ser una abogada con una mirada sobre la violencia de género, empecé a tomar cursos, leer libros, ir a marchas, etc. Pienso que es lo que Micaela hubiese querido, y yo lo quiero hacer por ella y por todas. Las que fueron y las que lastimosamente vendrán.”
(“Because of gender violence I lost a friend. Now I don’t leave any violent situation unattended, which maybe I was doing before. From a professional standpoint, since I study law, I’ve been taking classes, reading about the subject, going to protests, etc. so that I can be a lawyer with a gender perspective. I believe that’s what Micaela would’ve wanted, and I want to do it for her and for everyone. Those who were victims and those who sadly will be.”)
I hope that Micaela’s suffering won’t be in vain. Real reform needs to happen, both legally and socially.
Too many women and girls have suffered. Too many lives have been lost.
We don’t want to have to keep fighting for justice. We don’t want to be scared when walking alone or taking a cab. Micaela would be proud to see her loved ones continue her activism against violence against women. We’ll keep her in our hearts every time we march for her cause, our cause.
Earlier in 2016, Brazil experienced a similarly shocking case of violence against women such as the one that shocked Argentina in October. A teenager from Rio de Janeiro was gang raped, and videos and photos of her undressed and unconscious were posted and shared around the Internet. As soon as the case became public, social media was flooded with messages, videos, art work, poems and more of people supporting the victim and protesting yet another case of violence against women in the country.
A shocking survey came out recently where 1 out 3 of the Brazilians interviewed said that in some cases, rape could be the victim’s fault. Even more shocking is that 32% of women interviewed agreed with this statement. 30% of the interviewed agreed with the statement that “a woman who wears provocative clothes cannot complain if she’s raped.” The explanation for this attitude that many Brazilians – men and women – have is definitely complex, but the long lasting culture of machismo is usually mentioned when trying to explain the violence and discrimination suffered by women in Brazil.
The most common statement made on social media in the aftermath of the gang rape case was “I fight against rape culture.” Indeed, Brazilian culture remains largely complacent and indifferent about this serious issue that plagues the country. As someone who lived in Brazil for 16 years I unfortunately know well about this culture and how subtle, yet dangerous rape culture can be, from song lyrics that mention rape and violent sex, to a degrading comment guys will tell girls but then say “I don’t really mean that, it’s just a joke.”
Despite the dire reality and increased violence against women in Brazil, I, as a Brazilian woman, feel encouraged. So many women, activists and not, are not losing hope or quitting the fight to end violence against women in Brazil – and beyond – anytime soon.
You can learn more about Latin American women’s fight against gender-based violence by reading this post from fellow Girl’s Globe Blogger Bita Aranda.
On October 19th, women all over Latin America took to the streets and protested for all the women missing today from gender violence. As a plea to governments for a better justice system, women of all ages wore purple and black in solidarity for the cause. What we were fighting against was a system that promotes violence by allowing femicide cases to go unpunished, among many other things.
Women from Mexico, Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Paraguay, Brazil and Guatemala stopped activities and marched together on a strike. Those who could not leave their jobs, wore black head to toe. The movement exploded after October 8th, when Lucía Pérez, a 16 year old girl from Argentina, was brutally raped and killed.
“Black Wednesday,” as the strike was named, was organized by 50 activist groups in Argentina, and quickly went viral. Through the hashtag #NiUnaMenos, (Not even one less), women all over Latin America marched not only for the femicides, but against a culture that views women less than men, a culture that goes beyond law and bails those who have perpetuated similar crimes.
Unfortunately, this is not the first time women have marched against a system that protects the abuser. Last summer in Perú, women striked against gender violence not being a punishable crime. When men physically and mentally abuse their partners, it’s a process that becomes a burden for the victim and is often left unsolved by the authorities, leaving the woman and any children she has more vulnerable to further violence.
The feminist movement in Latin America, takes a special cry against the machista system and culture that we endure day by day. It is believed that a man who is “strong” is more attractive, so it is expected of him and his “temperament” to explode and be violent against their partner, or female population in general.
In Mexico, where I am from, we experience things from catcalling and harassing in the streets and public transportation, to facing trending topics that judge a woman about what she did at her bachelorette party, to the70th femicide reported this year in Puebla, the 4th largest state in the country. It is now all so common, it is terrifying. They are killing us, raping us, abusing us, and our countries have done nothing about it.
Revictimization is something that women have to endure whenever they are harassed or abused. Most of the time, femicides won’t be filed as such because it takes a toll on the country or the state’s reputation and therefore tourism and foreign direct investment. Instead of calling it femicide, these crimes are only labeled “crimes of passion.”
Here is a look at a few numbers that show how women live among gender violence in Latin America:
In 2015, in Chile, there were 45 femicides committed victims family members and 112 other attempts of femicide.
In Perú, 70% of the populationjustifiesdomestic violence in “certain cases,” especially in situations of infidelity.
So yes, we are fed up, we are angry, we are terrified. Whenever I see a woman, a person of the LGBTQ community, or a girl walking down the street, I hope they arrive home safely. I mourn for all the women and transgender women killed, and for those who are not here yet, who will be Latinas, and could become a part of these statistics.
Please, join us, march with us, ask your governments to pressure ours. Join the movement #NiUnaMenos on November 25th.