Argentinian women are tired of living in silence, or being silenced when they dare to speak. This is a reality not just in Argentina, but one found across Latin America. As a result, 70,000 women reunited in a march against Femicide earlier this month in Santa Fe, Argentina. It was not the first time a march centred on the ‘Ni Una Menos’ (‘Not One Less’) message has happened. In the previous year’s Buenos Aires march, the mostly women’s march gained attention and notoriety because of police repression and attacks from far-Right groups. This year, the protest ended more peacefully, albeit with reports on social media of some police violence at the end of the march. So, why are women murdered more in Latin America than in other regions of the world?
Femicide has a broad range of definitions, but it largely boils down specifically homicides against women that have something to do with their gender. Surprisingly, despite the above paragraph, Argentina’s rate of femicide does not look so bad when compared to its neighbours’ incidence of gender-based violence. Latin America is the home of 7 of the 10 most dangerous countries in the world for women in terms of femicide. For example, “El Salvador heads the list with a rate of 8.9 homicides per 100,000 women in 2012,” Insight Crime reports, “followed by Colombia with 6.3, Guatemala with 6.2, Russia with 5.3 and Brazil with 4.8.”
The sexist nature of Latin American culture is also reflected in their regulations. ‘Soft’ laws make violence against women pass by unacknowledged, unreported, and without justice. In neither Latin America, nor the Middle East, does the law sufficiently protect women against sexual violence, the BBC reports. The U.S. Department of Staterecognises that 53% of Latin American women have suffered some type of domestic violence. The rate is believed to be in fact higher because many women fear retaliation or are not even aware of places to go to report their cases and obtain the right support.
A great deal of the Latin American economy is sustained by illegal markets such as drug and human trafficking – bringing profits of up to $320 million a year in the region, according to the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (UNODC). These activities are controlled by powerful gangs and, unfortunately, those who are most affected by it are the young, poor, and uneducated women. In other words, some of those with the least power, influence, and privilege; the most marginalized in society. As noted by Ms. Angela Me, Chief of the Surveys and Statistics Section of the UNODC, there are more men killed than women in the global homicide statistics. “Looking at the global data…80% of victims are men and most perpetrators are also men…Why then discuss femicide?” Me asked, “The great majority of women are killed in the domestic context and this is not an issue of a specific country/region”. In short, more men are killed in pure numbers, but more women are victims of domestic murders. Femicide is global but Latin American women face a particularly terrifying reality. “The femicide rate in cases of human trafficking (in Latin America) for victims is very, very high,” said Amado Philip de Andrés from the UNODC, “Especially for the purposes of sexual exploitation, which might account for 91 or 92 percent of the cases.” That’s the why, but what about what we can do.
The first motion in the creation and implementation of a solution to a problem is acknowledgement of its existence. Second, the need to quantify, compare, catalogue, and analyze the context and the severity – and for this to happen women cannot be afraid of speaking when feeling intimidated and must feel supported. Third, the solution needs to be proposed and appropriate to the circumstances, the culture, and the region. Fourth, there needs to be an increase in awareness. Fifth, and this is where all of us – anyone – comes in ‘stage right’, we inform ourselves, become involved, and contribute in the best ways that we can with the resources and restrictions that we might at the current moment. Argentina and, indeed, Latin America are no different.
Scott Douglas Jacobsen is the Founder of In-Sight: Independent Interview-Based Journal and In-Sight Publishing. Jacobsen works for science and human rights, especially women’s and children’s rights. He considers the modern scientific and technological world the foundation for the provision of the basics of human life throughout the world and advancement of human rights as the universal movement among peoples everywhere.