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Where Latin America women are fighting the world's highest murder rates

by Oscar Lopez | @oscarlopezgib | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Saturday, 7 March 2020 05:00 GMT

In a region where femicide claims the lives of 12 women a day, Latin American women take to the streets to demand action

By Oscar Lopez

MEXICO CITY, March 7 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Women took to the streets over the past year across Latin America - from Mexico and Chile to Argentina and Brazil - demanding governments take action in a region where machismo reigns and gender-based violence is widespread.

In Latin America and the Caribbean at least one out of every three women has experienced physical and/or sexual violence at some point in her life, according to the United Nations.

In Focus: International Women's Day

Femicide claims the lives of 12 women a day in Latin America which is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide globally but 98% of these killings go unprosecuted.

Here are some of the countries which have witnessed the largest mobilizations of women across Latin America over the past year, with street protests scheduled in many on International Women's Day on March 8:


In Chile protests broke out in October and raged until mid-December over social inequality, sparking a feminist song and dance routine that went viral.

The Chilean Network Against Violence Against Women said 42 cases of sexual abuse were reported on average daily in Chile in 2018 and last year 46 women were killed because of their gender, a crime known as femicide.

To protest feminist theatre collective Las Tesis organized a public performance of "Un Violador en Tu Camino2 (A Rapist in Your Path), a group song and dance drawing attention to the complicity of governments in sexual violence.

A video of the routine last November went viral, with similar performances then taking place in Mexico, Colombia, France and Spain. In December, thousands of women performed the song outside the National Stadium in Chile's capital, Santiago.

The viral protest struck a chord. Earlier this week, a law expanding punishment for femicide from 15 years to life in prison was signed by President Sebastian Pinera.

In another historic move, Chile's members of congress voted this week to ensure equal numbers of female and male lawmakers decide on the country's new constitution.


South America's answer to the #MeToo movement was born in Argentina - known as #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less) - prompting hundreds of thousands of women to protest against the high rates of sexual and domestic violence.

Femicides have risen in Argentina in recent years where one women is killed on average every 32 hours, according to La Casa del Encuentro, a local NGO.

Often clad in trademark green bandanas symbolising the surging #NiUnaMenos feminist movement, protests have also focused on abortion rights in Argentina where abortions are only allowed in cases of rape or if the mother's health is at risk.

While lawmakers rejected a bill to legalise abortion in 2018, Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez said earlier this month he will send a bill to decriminalize abortion to Congress.


Brazil's latest feminist wave can be traced back to the presidential elections of 2018, when tens of thousands of people took to the streets in major cities in women-led protests against then front-runner Jair Bolsonaro.

Angered by Bolsonaro's history of making demeaning comments, which include belittling rape, women protesters used the hash tag #EleNao, or #NotHim, to drum up support for a series of protests against the former army captain.

Brazil is among the deadliest countries in the world for women, according to the Brazilian Forum on Public Security, a non-governmental organization. Hundreds of women are hurt each hour, mostly by their current or former male partners.

Last year, the women-led protests erupted again after Bolsonaro took office, with thousands marching through the streets in nine Brazilian cities on International Women's Day.

In August, a group of hundreds of indigenous women occupied a health ministry building in Brasilia to protest Bolsonaro's policies towards indigenous groups.

Days later, thousands of women took over the Brazilian capital as part of a protest held every four years known as the 'March of the Margaridas', named after murdered Brazilian union leader Margarida Maria Alves.


In Mexico, the femicide rate rose almost 10% in 2019 and more than 75% of women say they feel unsafe in their city, according to a survey by statistics body INEGI, sparking women-led protests in cities across the country.

Large groups took to the streets last August after local news reported the rape of two women by police officers, and the abduction and murder of 7-year-old Fatima Cecilia Aldrighett in February this year sparked a new round of protests.

Protesters sprayed graffiti on the Mexico City Angel of Independence monument and doused the capital's security chief in bright pink glitter.

On March 9, women across the country are planning to not turn up for work in a protest supported by many large companies and the government.

(Reporting by Oscar Lopez, Christine Murray in Mexico City, Anastasia Moloney in Bogota. Editing by Belinda Goldsmith Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers the lives of people around the world who struggle to live freely or fairly. Visit http://news.trust.org)

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