“If they don’t stop killing us, we’ll go on strike”, they said. Clear as day. Argentine women have taken the bull by the horns and said “Enough” with the wave of murders, violence and kidnapping of young women for human trafficking networks. Therefore, they have taken it upon them to carry out an hour-long national strike on Wednesday, October 19. This strike, as well as the multitudinous protests named “Not One Woman Less”, that were replicated throughout the continent, is a cry of outrage that attempts to finally shake the foundation of the system and cause it to change and make something about this intolerable situation.
The chronicles we read every day are devastating. Women and girls are raped, murdered, tortured, kidnapped. The most recent cases that horrified the country were the rape and murder (“death by impalement” with a blunt object was the description given by media) of Lucía Pérez and the stabbing of three girls that were hanging out with their friends by a man that specifically targeted the women in the group. There are also vast amounts of violent husbands that hurt their wives time and time again, while the police impassively replies “try and not make him angry”, which is the mandate of centuries of patriarchy.
As feminist fighters wrote, as spokeswomen for this self-convened act of resistance, “This strike means that we’re not going to tolerate this anymore or act as if nothing happened. In every city, in every town, and in every corner we will raise our voices because #WeWantToLive! (#VivasNosQueremos)”.
They add other equally important reasons for the strike: “Because behind the increase in patriarchal violence there’s also an economic aspect, which is the lack of economic autonomy of women that leaves us unprotected when we want freedom, and also makes us vulnerable to human trafficking or “cheap mules” for drug trafficking and dealing.
“Because average unemployment is of 9.3 percent, but for women it’s 10.5 percent. Because 76% of unpaid domestic work is carried out by women. Because the caretaking tasks we take on expose us to greater work precarization. Because in precarious jobs the pay gap between women and men increases from 30 to 40%. Because 20% of the women that earn their salaries in exchange for their work carry out domestic work —later on, many become teachers and nurses, essential but discredited works. Because when we have children, it’s up to us to take care of them and so the amount of us who work drops from 54 to 39%. Because maternal leaves are short and there are almost no nurseries in workplaces —either from the state or private sector.”
Evidently, there are more than enough reasons for the women’s strike and it could even deserve much more than one hour (from 14 to 15 hs), to wake everyone that still hasn’t become conscious of the fact that, today, this movement is at the frontline of all of our struggles. Each and every one of them.
On the other hand, it’s important to remember that just a few days ago there was an impressive demonstration of women in the city of Rosario, during the context of the National Women’s Meeting, where over 100,000 marched with their flags and banners and the police decided to repress them with rubber bullets and tear gas [see pictures here].
These horrifying crimes against women happened only days after that huge attention call against gender-based violence. It almost looks like a vengeance of machismo, which still belies our society. A sign of that was the fact that mainstream media blatantly turned a blind eye to the event, and didn’t speak a word about it. They could learn a lesson or two if they paid attention, since they frequently publish articles loaded with patriarchal ideology or comic strips where women appear mostly as prostitutes or as crazy, hysterical people for publicly protesting against what’s wrong.
And what happens with institutions? All of them look the other way. From the holy ecclesiastic hierarchy, still rooted in its inquisitorial past, to governments, nobody wants to hear a word about free and safe abortions, and keep tolerating the fact that poor women die every day for having unsafe clandestine abortions. Some pretend they care when they have to campaign, but then completely forget about it.
All of society has to hear this claim and support it so that it can lead to actions that effectively end this sickening violence. This problem, as many others, can never be solved by sending the police to repress those who denounce it. The police and the justice system have proven to be two of the most cruel institutions for women, due to the power they hold. They protect abusive boyfriends and husbands, accuse the victims and release rapists, pimps and pedophiles “due to lack of evidence”. This criminous offensive of patriarchy must be resisted on the streets. We must stand besides our female comrades and support them. If justice doesn’t act as it should, then we will take it upon us to publicly shame those who torture, rape and murder women so that we don’t have to shed tears over another fatal victim.
Patriarchy and machismo, lesbofobia, transfobia and every form of discrimination must also be resisted through education. We must transmit it to our children, to youth, by demonstrating our values to them and using anti-patriarchal language. Not letting any of out words make a girl or woman feel less for being one. And we must also demand this at schools, high schools and universities, and practice it at work, where sexual harassment is common and often becomes rape.
If we don’t act, if we don’t listen to this red alert that the women of our society and of all of Latin America are giving, we will become, by omission, accomplice to every attack they suffer.
So this October 19, we must all stand with them. From 13 to 14 hs, work stoppage, demonstration, and hanging of banners at the entrance of every workplace and educational institution. At 19 hs, we will march from the Obelisk to Plaza de Mayo, outside the government palace.
Not One Woman Less!
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