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ARGENTINA | 08-03-2023 12:33

International Women's Day: Argentina's state and justice system owes a debt to the victims of femicide

Femicide numbers are not decreasing and Argentina lacks the effective government policies to prevent them. The State – and the Judiciary – has an outstanding debt with the nation's women.

A trial for the femicide of Lucia Pérez, the 16-year-old girl who was drugged, sexually abused and murdered in Mar del Plata in 2016, is entering its final stages. Its the second time the crime has gone to a trial – a first acquitted the accused for her murder.

The murder happened a year after the first massive Ni Una Menos anti-gender mobilisation on June 3, 2015. That was triggered by another brutal slaying of a woman: that of Chiara Páez in Santa Fe, a young pregnant 14-year-old girl who was beaten to death by her boyfriend.

Over the past eight years, the impact of this spontaneous organisation has reverberated around the world and, together with '#MeToo' movement, shone a light on the enormous amount of rights still denied to women and the lack of justice achieved in investigating sexual crimes.

A recent report on Argentina by the international NGO Human Rights Watch gives a clear summary of the progress made in the country in terms of gender equality, and what more needs to be done.

According to the study, Argentina was one of the first 10 countries to ratify Convention 190 of the International Labour Organisation (ILO), which obliges the state to protect women from harassment and violence in the workplace.  The nation was also one of the first countries in Latin America to pass a law legalising the voluntary termination of pregnancy up to the 14th week, although, the report clarifies, the measure has not yet reached all women nationwide due to a lack of information or professional training.

Despite the introduction of a 2009 law that provides for comprehensive measures to prevent and punish violence against women, impunity for homicides remains a serious problem. In 2021, the National Registry of Femicides reported 231 femicides (i.e. gender-based killings of women) and only six convictions. Other figures in the report paint a truly alarming picture: from 2008 to 2022, 4,131 femicides were committed. So far this year, another 48 have already been committed.

Journalist Claudia Acuña, the creator of the Observatorio Lucía Pérez (which keeps an exhaustive record of femicides and homicides of transgender individuals), has closely followed the struggle of the family of the young woman from Mar del Plata and their quest for justice.

"We have a justice system that does not combat violence, on the contrary, it consecrates it," says Acuña.

 Bringing a case to trial can take up to five years and when violence occurs, there are no teams to accompany the victims to protect them and support them in their complaints, she adds.

"Comprehensive Sex Education (ESI) is taught in schools, but what does taking care of sexual and reproductive health have to do with violence? Femicides are not part of the agenda, what we have are palliatives. And each femicide is the result of a lack of public policies, because each femicide compels us to prevent the next one. And that is not done," says Acuña.

A few days ago, Argentina's Women, Gender & Diversity Ministry presented a report detailing the statistics behind cases of gender-based violence, looking at incidents from all over the country and how preventative policies work. According to the data, 97.1 percent of cases correspond to domestic violence, with 1.3 percent a result of workplace violence and 1.2 percent defined as institutional violence. Looking at the perpetrators, 95.8 percent were male and 87.8 percent were carried out by the partner or former partner of the victim. 

UN Women collects similar data worldwide. Their data shows that internationally, 56 percent of the victims of femicide are killed in the home, mostly by their intimate partners.

The figures from Acuña's organisation include not only the number of victims, but also the number of orphans left behind by these deaths. This figures show the incalculable effect that femicide has on a family and the environment in which it occurs.

"'Ni una menos' is a cry. We have to construct 'Nunca mas'  ["Never again," a reference to the call that followed Argentina's brutal 1976-1983 military dictatorship] and that is up to us. We don't see the numbers going down because if nothing is done, the same thing will continue to happen," concludes Acuña.

"We need the support of the state to gain access to justice, and if we don't get it, the only thing left is the street. No-one can save themselves," she adds.

 

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María Pastore

María Pastore

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