"It was the drop that filled the glass. Many women felt like, if a video like this does not provide us any protection, it is pretty obvious that no one will protect us. The State is definitely not going to be there," says Jimena Ledgard, promoter of the "Ni Una Menos" (Not One Less) protest.
The video she refers to was recorded a year ago in a hotel in Ayacucho, Peru and uploaded to YouTube. The horrific footage shows a naked Adriano Pozo dragging his girlfriend Cindy Arlette Contreras by her hair across the floor.
A judge gave Pozo a suspended sentence of one year and a fine of 5,000 (roughly $1,500) in July. The suspended sentence means that Pozo will not spend time in prison.
The court's decision to release Adriano Pozo coincided with the release of Ronny García, who was accused of kidnapping his former girlfriend, Lady Guillen, in 2012. Graphic images Guillen's face covered in bruises made the front page of several outlets. Together, the instances became a rallying cry for a protest against violence toward Peruvian women. The main protest is set to take place in downtown Lima on August 13.
"In Peru, feminist groups have been working for many years, but machismo is so rooted in our society that feminist causes never got much attention from mass media. If they got a thousand people marching on the streets, it was a total success," explains Ledgard, who expects the protests this weekend to be the biggest mobilization against gender inequality in Peru yet, with fifteen cities planning to march simultaneously.
"This was a great need in Peru, after seeing previous experiences in Argentina, Mexico, and Brazil," adds visual artist Natalia Iguíñez, another early member the group organizing the protests.
Within less than a week from when it was created, a private Facebook group planning the protests gained 51,000 members. "I knew about the movement through a friend from work. She invited me to a Facebook private group on Monday and two days later—boom! We were at about 38,000 members," says Estefani Campana, a Lima-based graphic designer who plans to attend the march.
"Some women started to get organized; we did not even know each other. It kept growing to what we thought it should be, but could not have imagined happening," Iguíñez recalls.
At their meetings in Lima to organize and plan the protests, the group identified two general objectives—to keep "Ni Una Menos" spirit alive beyond August 13, and to recognize the violence women suffer from an intersectional perspective. "We have thought of a very broad umbrella for each and every person against discrimination and violence on women, where we will find different political options, religious or non-religious beliefs," explains Iguíñez. "We are trying to not be limited by any agendas, which are valid but too narrow, and to look for what unifies us as a society."
I think outrage went massive on this particular case because we graphically saw the violence.
Seven out of every ten women in Peru have experienced domestic violence, according to official data. The Facebook group became unexpectedly a platform for collective catharsis, with thousands of women sharing stories of physical, sexual, or emotional abuse. "The images shown on that video were very powerful. What happens now is that every woman—all of us—have some story to tell," says Iguíñez.
Andrea Carrasco, spokesperson of "Ni Una Menos," agrees with the power of the Cindy Contreras video. "There have always been femicides and every year numbers grow in Peru," she says. The Peruvian Ministry of Women has registered 172 cases of femicides or attempted femicides so far this year; there were 293 cases in 2015. "I think outrage went massive on this particular case because we graphically saw the violence."
Carrasco also notes that it's not just women who are getting involved in the protests. "I feel that many men are aware of this for the first time. They are reading stories coming from friends and they see that violence happens; it happens to their friends, their girlfriends, their mothers. This can make a change in men's thinking, although there is still debate."
The protest have already made some impact at a national level; the Ministry of Interior recently discussed "Ni Una Menos" at its Council of Ministers meeting, and the First Lady Nancy Lange has made plans to attend the protests.
While many hope for political change to take place as a result of the protests, Iguíñez feels what is most important is for the judiciary system to become "aware of the consequences of going against the law. Knowing that there is such a massive response might not end injustice straight away, but we are a bit closer to making these cases politically incorrect, at least. I believe we will make some progress."
In line with the objectives of the protest, Andrea Carrasco hopes "that a long term movement is shaped, taking these events as a starting point, based on what many of us have built so far, and with the diversity of women that are about to join. Carrasco sees the protests as a starting point, and hopes that bringing in a greater diversity of women to the protests will encourage more changes to municipalities and local rulings. "It has to be a movement sustained over time, not only on the day of the march." adds Carrasco.
What we want with these actions is for women's health and freedom to be a public affair.
Jimena Ledgard would like this to be the first step of women getting self-organized, despite an impact on public affairs. "The best thing we can do for us is to become active agents of our own lives and experiences, to regain the feeling of association, collaboration, and community among women."
"What we want with these actions is for women's health and freedom to be a public affair," adds Iguíñez.