Independent News from Alternative Sources
The huge march this month under the banner Not one less, was driven by popular revulsion after several cases which made media headlines, and confirmed the concerns about gender violence in this country.
The most recent case was that of Chiara Páez, a girl of 14 and 3 months pregnant. She was beaten to death by her 16-year old boyfriend who had already prepared a grave in the garden of his house, presumably with the help of his parents.
The protests involved hundreds of thousands of people in over 100 cities, including some in Chile, Uruguay and Mexico.
They supported several demands: implementation of a violence prevention plan; support for women and elimination of violence against them; guarantees of justice; the creation of an official register of victims; more action on gender equality and. . . . combating the culture of machismo, which they point to as the ultimate cause of the problem.
According to La Casa Encuentro, an NGO which helps victims of gender violence, a woman is murdered every 31 hours in Argentina. Shameful. Official statistics don’t exist. Institutional politics is following a different route.
A paradox: in 2009 gender violence was already a serious problem, and as a result the Argentine government proposed Law 26.485, to eliminate violence against women.
However, it has still not come into force, no budget has been settled for it, and the programmes it creates have still not been implemented: effect zero.
According to Casa Encuentro, 1800 women have been murdered in the last 7 years, at the hands of partners, ex-partners or would-be partners.
In reality, violence against women is an extremely old problem in Argentina.
The Tango Amablemente (Calmly), written by Iván Diez and popularized by Edmundo Rivero describes a common everyday situation. The man finds his wife with another, and calmly explains to the intruder that he has to go.
But he makes one thing clear: the man is not to blame in cases like this. Then he asks his wife to make some Maté tea, and – calmly- stabs her 34 times. Femicide is part of Tango as much as it is part of everyday culture in Argentina.
But it has not acquired the category of an important social problem. Some cases have gained widespread media attention, like that of Maria Soledad in 1990.
The young woman was raped and murdered in Catamarca by the sons of influential local politicians. The tragedy was recounted in the film El Caso Maria Soledad, but then life carried on as if nothing had happened.
Marcello Tinelli, the well-known Argentine TV presenter has a programme Bailando por un Sueño (Dancing for a Dream).
It has been breaking audience records for years, and for that reason has attracted a procession of famous personalities from many countries.
It consists of a dancing competition in which the couples are each made up of a well-known person and a professional dancer.
A detail is that in general the competitors are good-looking, the dances sexy, and their clothes very light, especially those covering the womens’ bottoms.
Of course this is not the only kind of programme on TV, but people without any threats or obligations have chosen to see bare bottoms. Democracy.
A few days before the murder of Maria Soledad, Tinelli was the target of criticisms.
President Cristina Fernandez on her Twitter account pointed to Tinelli, and said that in her opinion “there is previous violence” to any physical attack which is “more subtle, including appraising looks, and even ratings: the woman is turned into an object, breasts and bums . . touched in public, and rated by IBOPE”, (the organisation responsible for measuring audiences).
It’s strange that they criticise TV but not the Tango.
What is certain is that, as Mariana Gras the president of the Consejo Nacional de las Mujeres(National Women’s Council) told the news agency Telam after the demonstrations, she was sure that social awareness of the problem had grown, and calls to their advice line on gender violence increased enormously.
Giving details, she said that “30% of calls are from people in violent situations, 40% friends and relations wanting advice, and the remaining 30% those who wanted to check that the line is working”.
But after the demonstrations tragedy returned, this time it was in Santiago del Estero.
A 56 year-old man tied his wife to a chair, doused her in fuel and set her on fire.
Then he did the same to his children aged 3 and 4, but they survived although they are still in serious condition.
The woman had made a complaint against her husband, and asked for a separation order. Justice takes its time in Argentina, a lot of time. Sometimes too much.
The demand for justice
Monte Hermoso is a small place, of less than 8,000 people on the south coast of the province of Buenos Aires. Katherine Moscoso was 18 when she disappeared.
A week later her body was found: she had been buried alive and died of asphyxiation. The killer would be identified later as one of her friends, Daiana Sánchez. The motive was jealousy. Machismo?
Motivated by their anger, a group of neighbours went into the street and destroyed public buildings, as well as burning down the house of the local secretary of Municipal Security, a police station and several police cars.
Later they found Juan Carlos Canini González, aged 60, the owner of the house where the suspect was living.
Canini had collaborated in the crime, so a large group of neighbours beat him to death, while others filmed the killing and called for mercy. Others encouraged the attackers and confirmed openly the ‘sentence’: “He has to be killed, let him die”.
Another act of citizen justice, although a bloodless one, happened in La Asunta in Bolivia. The place has 7,000 inhabitants with only 7 police officers, and rapes are very common.
To prevent more conflicts, a group of neighbours imposed a 30 day prohibition on alcohol, and went looking for the presumed rapist.
When they found him he was dragged from his house, and marched through the streets with a card around his neck saying ‘I am a rapist’, before being handed over to the police.
A culture of violence?
But the problem of these murders is not simply a question of lack of public safety. This is confirmed in a study by the Argentine Supreme Court of Justice.
It is the culture of violence. Of the total murders committed during 2012 in the province of Buenos Aires, only 15% happened during a robbery.
Most of them were during quarrels, as a way of resolving disputes. In 4 cases out of 10 the victim and the aggressor knew each other, and had some kind of social connection.
So the question to ask about femicide is whether it is really a gender problem – or the logical consequence of a culture which accepts violence as an effective way of resolving conflicts?
Author: Marcelo Moriconi