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Women Strike in Argentina After the Brutal Rape and Murder of a 16-Year-Old Girl

Oct 19 2016 8:05 PM
Women Strike in Argentina After the Brutal Rape and Murder of a 16-Year-Old Girl

Photo of women in Mexico City protesting the femicides in Argentina by Pedro Pardo via Getty Images

Argentina has seen 226 femicides in 2016, with 19 in just October alone. Following the news of Lucia Perez's murder, women gather to protest the ongoing violence against women in the country.

Today, women across Argentina are participating in a national protest against gender-based violence after a 16-year-old girl was drugged, raped, and murdered earlier this month. Prosecutors told media that two drug dealers forced Lucia Perez to consume a large amount of cocaine to incapacitate her, and "impaled her through the anus, causing pain so excruciating that she went into cardiac arrest and died," The Straits Times reports.

"I know it's not very professional to say this," said Maria Isabel Sanchez, lead prosecutor on the case, "but I'm a mother and a woman, and though I've seen thousands of cases in my career, I've never seen anything like this."

Perez joins a long list of victims of femicide in Argentina. Since her death on October 8, three more women were killed in separate incidents just in Córdoba, Argentina. The naked, strangled body of another woman, 22 years old, was discovered in a box in a vacant lot near Buenos Aires last week.

Read more: Peru Prepares for Protests as Outrage Over Violence Against Women Grows

According to local media, Argentina has seen 226 femicides in 2016 so far, with 19 in the first 17 days of October alone.

In response to these killings, and in particular Perez's brutal rape and murder, women's rights organization Ni Una Menos and other groups dubbed today Black Wednesday to mourn those lost, calling for a "women's strike" to demand an end to the violence and draw attention to the economic disparity between Argentine men and women. According to Economía Feminista, the wage gap between men and women in Argentina is approximately 27 percent; for informal jobs, which one-third of Argentine women have, that figure jumps to 40 percent.

Women were asked to wear black and walk out of their jobs and houses at 1 PM "to be seen, to be heard." The hashtags #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less), #NosotrasParamos (Women Strike) and #VivasNosQueremos (We Want Ourselves Alive) have united protesters on social media.

In a document addressed to participants, organizers wrote: "Because behind the increase and viciousness of femicide and violence against women, there's also an enormous economic plot; the lack of women's autonomy leaves us unprotected when it comes to saying 'no.' In consequence, this lack of autonomy turns us into moving targets of trafficking networks or of 'cheap' bodies that are used for trafficking and retailing."

Cassia Roth teaches Latin American history at the University of California-Los Angeles. She says socioeconomic factors influence gender-related violence. "Poverty requires many women to work outside of the home," she tells Broadly, and when they do, men often feel emasculated because of a long history of "patriarchal gender relations that privilege male power and female submissiveness," a lot of which has to do with family honor, toxic masculinity and a double sexual standard.

"All of these factors can converge in a patriarchal system that stresses male superiority and which normalizes violence towards women," she says.

In July, Argentine President Mauricio Macri announced a national plan to lower the rates of violence against women. The plan includes working to change the patriarchal culture by introducing gender violence awareness into school curriculum.

But more needs to be done, Roth says. The protests today reveal a shift away from blaming the victim toward blaming the system, she continues. "This a larger problem and not an individual problem. The onus is not on women; the onus is on changing the way women are viewed in our culture."

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In an interview with Americas Quarterly, Ingrid Beck, one of the founders of Ni Una Menos, calls machismo a global issue. "Well if you look at what's happening in the US, what [Donald] Trump is saying, to me it speaks to the fact that the problem isn't just of the countries of Latin America."

Roth agrees. "This culture is also present in the United States, where victim-blaming for both sexual crimes and domestic violence is still common, and a presidential candidate can be caught on tape talking about sexually assaulting women and pass it off as 'locker room' talk.'"

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