The first regional strike to protest violence against women and girls took place on Wednesday in Latin America.
An estimated 100,000 people took to the streets in Argentina after a 16-year-old girl named Lucia Perez Montero was abducted, raped, and impaled by a gang. After being plied with drugs and assaulted, her three rapists washed her, dressed her, and brought her to a drug rehabilitation center (while still alive). The center treated the case as a drug overdose until they discovered Perez Montero’s sexual trauma. She died the next day, on October 8th.
Activists called the October 19 protest, which saw many walk out of work to take part, “Black Wednesday.” Participants dressed in black and carried signs reading, “If you touch one of us, we all react.” In a heartbreaking public letter, Lucia’s brother, Matias Perez Montero expressed support for Black Wednesday, writing:
“We have to be strong and take to the streets. So that we can all together shout out, now more than ever ‘Not one less.’ Only this way can we prevent the murder of thousands of more Lucias.”
In Argentina, a woman or girl is murdered every 36 hours.
The night before the march, supreme court judge Elena Highton de Nolasco told the press: “This is a march against femicide. Cases of femicide are growing in number, they are becoming more violent, more perverse — we even had the news today that there have been 19 femicides in the last 18 days.”
Western media has often failed to accurately address the misogyny and violence women and girls in Latin America and the Caribbean face. Reporting that 235 women were murdered in Argentina in 2015, The Independent explained “femicide” as a term used to describe “gender-based killings.” But “gender” doesn’t accurately describe this violence: “femicide” is a legal and political term that exists precisely to highlight the fact women and girls are murdered because they are female.
Similarly, The Guardian reported that Black Wednesday protesters were fighting “gender-based abuse and killings,” concluding that “the campaign against gender-based violence has gathered momentum.”
The protests and strikes that took place across Latin America on Wednesday were not about “gender-based violence.” On Black Wednesday, Argentinians were joined by thousands more in Uruguay, Paraguay, Perú, Chile, Venezuela, Colombia, México, Honduras, Guatemala, Ecuador, and Spain to fight back against the violence perpetrated by males against women and girls.
We desperately need a feminism that centers ending violence against women and girls. A feminism that isn’t afraid to stand up and speak out against male violence, masculinity, and a culture of impunity. Latin America has the highest rate of femicides worldwide and men get away with 98 per cent of those murders, facing no jail time. It is important for feminists in the region to make this the focal point of our struggle, but it must also be part of a concerted effort worldwide — all sisters must join together in this fight.
This is not the time for gender-neutrality. Black Wednesday demonstrates what a feminist movement focused on ending violence against girls and women looks like. It is time for all of us to follow in the footsteps of Latin American women and name the problem — not tiptoe around it.
And if that makes some people uncomfortable… Well, to quote a popular slogan of the Latin American fight against femicide, “Sorry for the inconvenience, we are being murdered.”
— Mujeres Evita (@MujeresEvita) October 20, 2016
— Polish #BlackMonday (@BlackMonday2016) October 18, 2016
— Sergio Massa (@SergioMassa) October 19, 2016
— Vivas nos queremos (@Vivas_Ec) October 19, 2016
— Sandra Mendoza (@smendoza_news) October 19, 2016
— Soledad (@Sole_Cifu) October 19, 2016