Women in Argentina are empowered as they speak out against gender violence


“Without equality there is no justice” reads a mural with an image of that justice, demanding greater protection for women’s rights, painted in the Caballito neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The women’s movement gained great visibility this year in Argentina, with campaigns, for example, for the decriminalisation of abortion, although it was defeated in parliament. Credit: Daniel Gutman/IPS

“In 2001 I was raped. I was 31 years old, had two university degrees and was still doing postgraduate studies, I had family, friends, a job. Many more resources than most rape victims have. Even so, it was the start of an ordeal whose scars I still feel today.”

Stories like this one, published on Twitter on Dec. 13 by Ana Castellani, a sociologist and professor at the University of Buenos Aires, are popping up all over Argentina’s social networks these days.

At the same time, public and private institutions dedicated to the defence of women’s rights are overwhelmed by an unusually heavy stream of demands.”Her public statement broke down the common idea that these issues should not be talked about in public…In the case of sexual assaults on women in Argentina, the shame was not on the side of the aggressor but on the side of the victim, because it was thought that she had surely done something to turn him on.” — Eleonor Faur

This South American country is experiencing an explosion of reports of sexual violence against women and children, following a shocking public event that occurred on Dec. 11.

That day, at a Buenos Aires theater, more than 200 actresses surrounded a young colleague, Thelma Fardín, who reported that in 2009, when she was 16, she was raped by a well-known soap opera star, Juan Darthés, almost 30 years older, during a tour of Nicaragua with a children’s television programme.

“Thanks to the fact that someone broke the silence, I can now talk about what happened,” said Fardín in tears, referring to two other actresses who had reported weeks earlier that they were the victims of sexual harassment by Darthés. In the days prior to this public revelation, Fardín had traveled to the Central American country to file a criminal complaint against the actor.

“The public repercussion was much greater than we expected. What Thelma said encouraged thousands of women to who were silent to speak out,” Mirta Busnelli, a renowned actress with more than 40 years of experience in film, theatre and TV, told IPS. She is part of the group that backed the complaint with her presence.

“When you talk to women, inside and outside the arts scene, almost all of them have suffered a situation of sexual harassment or abuse, which they silenced even in their own conscience,” said Busnelli.

She added: “This doesn’t happen by chance. It happens because the person who dares speak out is usually revictimised. The veracity of her story is questioned or people wonder whether the woman herself has not provoked the problem because of how she was dressed or because of her attitude. We trust that things will begin to change.”

The magnitude of the wave of reports of sexual violence was such that political leaders felt compelled to take an active stance.

Just a few hours after Fardín spoke out publicly, President Mauricio Macri announced the inclusion, during an extraordinary session of Congress, which usually holds a recess in December, of a bill that establishes mandatory training on the gender perspective for public officials of all branches of power.

The bill was presented by an opposition congresswoman in 2017 after the rape and murder in the eastern province of Entre Ríos of 17-year-old Micaela García by a man who had already served time for rape and was on parole.

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