On June 3, 2015, hundreds of thousands of protesters filled the streets of over 70 cities in Argentina. They gathered as part of the campaign #NiUnaMenos, Not One Less. Protesters also marched in Miami, in the United States; Santiago, Chile; and Montevideo, Uruguay. The spark that set this campaign and these marches off was the brutal murders of 14-year-old Chiara Páez, by her boyfriend, and 44-year-old María Eugenia Lanzetti, by her husband. Those tragedies were the spark, but the fire was the understanding that only a movement, a real social and political movement, could end sexual violence.
On May 11, Chiara Páez’s corpse was found in the city of Rufino, in the Santa Fe province. She was three months pregnant. Her boyfriend beat her to death and then buried her in his family’s backyard. He has since confessed.
María Eugenia Lanzetti’s death was, initially, much more public. Lanzetti was separated from her husband and had initiated divorce proceedings. She also had a restraining order placed on him. On April 15, her husband entered the kindergarten where she taught and, in front of the class, killed her.
In Buenos Aires, a small group of women said, “NO!” No more killing, no more violence against women, no more acceptance of violence against women as inevitable. Not One Less. Journalist Marcela Ojeda hit the Twitter nail on the head, “Actrices, políticas, artistas, empresarias, referentes sociales … mujeres, todas, bah.. no vamos a levantar la voz? NOS ESTAN MATANDO”. Actresses, women politicians, women artists, women businesspeople, social references, all women… Aren’t we going to raise our voice? THEY ARE KILLING US”
Then the women started organizing a campaign, a hashtag, a day of demonstration, a slate of public policy actions, and more. They committed to leaving no stone unturned and no corner untouched. They pulled together disparate political parties and factions as well as different sectors from across the country and across society. They demanded action from the State. They argue that Argentina doesn’t need new laws; it needs the State to vigilantly implement the laws already on the books.
The women revised the national conversation. Instead of “why is there no reliable data on violence against women”, the women argue “the State has refused to gather reliable data on violence against women, and, in so doing, has failed.” The women are pushing for more than a few laws here and a few training sessions there. They are demanding serious budgetary action be taken … or else.
As I watched and read reports of the campaign and of the march, I thought of Anene Booysen and the muted response to her horrible death. Many, such as Kathleen Dey and Sisonke Msimang, wrote compellingly. There were some protests, but they weren’t national and they died down pretty quickly. Why? When will hundreds of thousands, and millions of people fill the streets of South Africa and shout, in the richness of the eleven official languages of the rainbow nation, Not One Less! Not One Woman Less! When? When will thousands take to the streets to demand real funding of the Sexual Offences Courts? When? It takes a movement to transform outrage into justice.
Dan Moshenberg writes at Women In and Beyond the Global and at Africa Is a Country, and is Director of the Women’s Studies Program at The George Washington University in Washington, DC.