The women’s rights movement in Argentina that is driving new policies to stop ‘machista’ violence
The ascendant Argentinian women’s rights movement Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) published on Friday the country’s first index of violence against women after collecting survey responses from more than 59,000 people.
The data measure indicators like discrimination, stigmatization, and emotional and physical violence. According to the survey, 67 percent of women have experienced a physically violent situation with their partners, 79 percent have been touched inappropriately on public transportation, and 20 percent have been raped.
Compiling official data about violence against women and femicide was one demand of the Ni Una Menos group when it first organized in May 2015.
“Without precise information, it’s very difficult to form public policy to resolve this situation,” said Ingrid Beck, one of the group’s organizers and editor of the satirical magazine Barcelona.
The group came into being after a series of brutal femicides made headlines in 2015. After an Argentine radio journalist tweeted “Aren’t we going to raise our voice? THEY ARE KILLING US,” female journalists, artists, and activists began to discuss what needed to be done.
They decided to organize a march in downtown Buenos Aires on June 3, 2015 using the name Ni Una Menos. About 300,000 people showed up, including prominent politicians and celebrities. Similar marches were held in cities all over Argentina and neighboring countries.
‘We are planting the seeds, and in that aspect, I’m optimistic.’
The following day, Argentina Supreme Court Justice Elena Highton announced that her office would begin to gather and publish national femicide statistics. The subsequent data show there were 225 femicides in 2014 and 235 in 2015.
“Ni Una Menos is responsible for the government starting a plan to have a unified system for gathering data on femicide,” said Adriana Quinones, the UN Women Regional Special Advisor on Ending Violence Against Women. “Civil society demanded that femicide be addressed in a systematic way.”
But there was still no plan to gather data about violence against women, known as machista violence in Argentina, that didn’t end in the women’s deaths. Martin Romeo, a social science professor at the University of Buenos Aires, met with Beck in December 2015, and the pair — along with other Ni Una Menos organizers — decided to gather the data themselves with no outside funding.
“Machista violence is like a train with many stations,” Romeo said. “The last station is femicide. It’s so important to show what happens before.”
They enlisted the help of psychologists, sociologists, and activists to draft an online survey to collect information. The final survey had 186 wide-ranging questions, such as:
- Has a stranger ever showed you his genitals in public?
- Has your partner ever prohibited you from using particular clothing?
- Has your partner ever threatened to hurt you?
The survey was released on the first anniversary of the first Ni Una Menos march, and over the course of the next four months, more than 59,000 women filled it out.
“We feel that we were successful,” Romeo said. “We never thought we could reach this many women.”
Beck added that “although this isn’t a scholarly study, with 59,000 responses, I think that this can give us a good indicator about what is really happening in Argentina with machista violence.”
Ni Una Menos has several other demands, one of which is funding for a national plan to eradicate violence against women. A plan to do so was actually part of a law passed in 2009, but no program was ever implemented. This past September, the government announced a budget for the plan, saying it was “a debt that the executive power had with the women of Argentina and with society since 2010.”
The group also wants there to be domestic violence offices of the Supreme Court in all 23 of the country’s provinces. So far only five provinces have these offices.
Beck hopes that the data brings awareness not only to the events of extreme violence against women like femicide and rape, but what she calls the “micro-machismo” that women suffer every day in public.
“We have to talk about it so that everyone knows and we can start working on the cultural shift,” she said. “I hope for a cultural shift, a big change that I am not going to get to see. Maybe my grandchildren, I don’t know. We are planting the seeds, and in that aspect, I’m optimistic.”
Margarette Macaulay, the Rapporteur on the Rights of Women of the Inter American Commission for Human Rights who traveled to Argentina last month to meet with politicians and hear about their plans to combat machista violence, said she hopes that the Ni Una Menos movement will inspire similar movements around the world.
“Governments do not move ahead to eliminate violence against women on their own, they have to be pressured into it,” she said. “I think this movement did that.”