In Peru: Gender Violence and #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneLess) Protests
Trigger Warning: This piece contains material about domestic and sexual violence (assault and murder).
Written by: Flor Correa
Edited by: Abigail Goh and Brenda Tan
For the last five years, Latin America activists have organised through the hashtag #NiUnaMenos (#NotOneLess) to fight against all types of violence against women. This campaign on social networks was born in Argentina 5 years ago, but immediately went beyond the virtual sphere and materialised in massive mobilisations in the streets of the region. Violence against women is a structural problem that becomes evident when observing national surveys of various countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. Between 60 and 76% of girls and women have experienced some type of violence throughout their lives and in different areas; the domestic, public space, workspace, and even in cyberspace. Furthermore, during 2019, there were at least 4,640 cases of femicide in 24 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.
In this scenario, Peru ranks 6th in Latin America in terms of femicides. With 168 confirmed femicides occurred in 2019; the highest figure in the last ten years. In addition, it is estimated that 85% were perpetrated by a person with whom the victim had emotional ties such as spouses, cohabitation, courtship, or love relationships. Despite these high figures, Peru's femicide rate is one of the lowest in Latin America, leaving much to be desired in the face of the situation.
For this reason, the #NiUnaMenos marches have become an essential strategy to combat this problem in Peru. In this country, the movement started when an impressive number of women - many of them recognised and famous Peruvian artists, actresses and women from academia - began to tell their own stories of violence and abuse, motivating women from all ages to share their stories through the use of social media. The hashtag rapidly became popular and the fact that it was common to read bitter experiences from close friends that had not been shared before, made it clear how much everyone assumed the problem was distant. #NiUnaMenos made gender violence visible and close, and the hashtag became a platform to accompany each other, to make catharsis regarding painful experiences and to publicly denounce and seek justice.
Despite how powerful #NiUnaMenos was on social media, the movement took to the streets when the footage of a hotel surveillance camera was made public through national newscasts, showing a young woman being dragged by the hair by her partner after screaming for help and trying to run away. This outrageous event began the call for action and diversity of women, from feminist activists to women with no affiliation to any institution, organized themselves into the first march to be displayed on August 13th, 2016. It has been calculated that this was the first of many biggest marches in defense of women’s rights, with approximately over half a million people in the streets across the country that year. #NiUnaMenos became a means to empower women individually and collectively.
The massive mobilisations across the country have made the issue visible; increasing the rejection of violence against women. Likewise, the marches are full of demands for concrete actions by the State to achieve justice for those women who are victims of harassment, violence, or femicide; and to speed up the search of women disappearances, whose main suspects are recent partners. Equally, the marches also demand the implementation of preventive measures; focused mainly on education, so that gender equality issues are included in the school curriculum, thus attacking the culture of violence and the structural forms in which chauvinistic attitudes have permeated society, causing women to be objectified or represented as property.
Nevertheless, the demands were not fully embraced. However, although insufficient, there are achievements obtained from the mobilisations of #NiUnaMenos and feminist organisations in the country. Making the issue visible and placing the problem as part of the political agenda is in itself an important achievement, but never enough. Other triumphs lie in reversing court decisions that are deferential to the perpetrators and rarely represent justice for the victims. Despite accomplishing crucial steps, it is only beneficial for media cases and not for all those that exist and that demand justice. Plans, commissions, specialised systems on gender violence issues have also been designed, and the national budget has even been increased to address the problem; however, only some of these initiatives are effectively implemented or do not receive continuous monitoring.
It is clear that #NiUnaMenos mobilisations are necessary. However, due to the covid-19 pandemic, this is the first year since 2016 that the march has not been possible in Peru. More critically, in the Peruvian context, in which compulsory social confinement lasted approximately six months, the cases of gender violence have increased alarmingly. Many women, adolescents, and girls have been forced to live with their abusers; have fewer alternatives to press charges; and a significant decrease in their coping strategies. As a result, during the first half of this year, there are already more than 3,000 complaints of domestic violence and, until September of this year, more than 4,000 adult women and girls have been reported missing. These statistics are enough reason to continue fighting and the #NiUnaMenos marches cannot stop:
"For the ones we have lost, for us and
for the ones to come."