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'Not One Woman Less': Massive Demonstration Highlights Killings of Women in Argentina

As many as 300,000 people gathered in Buenos Aires and other cities on Wednesday to call attention to femicides, galvanized by the killing of a 14-year-old pregnant girl by her 16-year-old boyfriend.
June 4, 2015, 12:10am
Imagen por Natacha Pisarenko/AP

"They are killing us all, and we aren't even a real statistic," Noelia Fioritti, a 19-year old student, told VICE News while standing in front of Argentina's National Congress in Buenos Aires on Wednesday.

"I'm here because I want the authorities to be aware of this problem."

The problem is femicide, or the gender-related homicides of women, and it was the focus of a massive demonstration that took place in Argentina's capital and in more than 70 cities across the country.

Protests against the violent killings of women in Latin America were also organized in Miami, Santiago, and Montevideo, galvanized by a hashtag #NiUnaMenos, or "Not One Woman Less."

Despite laws set up to protect women and their reproductive rights in Argentina, the country is currently facing an epidemic of violence against women, according to rights advocates. A woman is killed every 31 hours in Argentina, human rights organizations say.

The tally is based solely on data collected by the group Casa del Encuentro, which counts cases based on news reports. Yet there are no official statistics on femicide in Argentina, so the true depth of the problem is unknown.

Related: Argentina's Doctors Perform Half a Million Illegal Abortions a Year, But Legalization Still Seems Unlikely

'Excuse the bother but they are killing us,' read one protest sign in Buenos Aires on Wednesday. (Photo by Gaston Cavanagh/VICE News)

The issue was thrust into the national spotlight on May 11, when the corpse of 14-year-old Chiara Paez was discovered in the city of Rufino, Santa Fe province.

An autopsy revealed that she was three months pregnant when she was beaten to death and buried in the confessed murderer's backyard. Her 16-year-old boyfriend is accused of her killing over a dispute related to whether or not to terminate Paez's pregnancy.

The young man has been charged with femicide and forced abortion. The case sparked outrage in the country and served to highlight gender-specific crimes in Argentina.

"It was just another point in the horror that we live through, in an unending wave of murdered women of all ages," one of the organizers of Wednesday's protest, journalist Hinde Pomenariec, told VICE News.

As many as 300,000 demonstrators gathered before the Congress in downtown Buenos Aires, organizers said. Large crowds also gathered in San Juan, Formosa, La Pampa, Misiones, and Tucuman.

Ahora — José Inesta (@JoseInesta)June 3, 2015

"I'm here because the situation is dire," said 56-year-old Adela Garcia. "When these femicides happen, in many cases the victim had already denounced her aggressor."

The lack of reliable data makes proposing a solution all the more difficult. "How can you solve something you can't measure?" supporters asked at Wednesday's protest.

Related: Controversial Campaign for DIY Abortions Shocks Chile, Highlighting Need For Reform

Artists, intellectuals, celebrities, and even politicians came to speak, which didn't rub well with some of the attendees.

"The fact that politicians and members of government came out to the plaza in support is like Shell protesting contamination in the Arctic," Clara Modens, 34, told VICE News. "It doesn't make sense. They are the ones who are responsible."

President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner even hopped on board Tuesday, tweeting: "How many times have you read, in block letters, the description of a young woman's murder, and asked yourself what clothes she was wearing?"

La Casa Rosada, the presidential palace, was lit up in a purple hue to mark the occasion.

En Casa de Gobierno estamos en contra de cualquier clase de violencia contra las mujeres — Casa Rosada (@CasaRosadaAR)June 3, 2015

The event's organizers asked politicians in attendance to sign a five-point "promise" aimed at combating femicide. Pomenariec, though critical of current legislation, said she believes that Argentina is making strides.

"There is one law in Argentina that's a good law," Pomenariec said, referring to law 26485, which is meant to sanction those who commit violence against women. "But without funding it cannot be put into action. If, in addition to that, security forces who assist the victims are not trained, that is a problem."

As a result of the law, in 2014 Argentina's National Women's Council received 16,233,262 Argentine pesos, or about $1.8 million, to combat the epidemic of violence. But critics point out this budget amounts to just 0.8 pesos (about nine cents) for every woman in Argentina.

Separately, Colombian lawmakers approved a bill on Wednesday meant to impose stiffer sentences on those found guilty of committing crimes against women. Though yet to be signed by President Juan Manuel Santos, if enacted, violators could face up to 50 years behind bars.

Related: Video Shows Shoddy and Shady Investigation Tainted Evidence After Argentine Prosecutor Nisman's Death

Follow Gaston Cavanagh on Twitter @GastonCavanagh.

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