Battle Cry of #NiUnaMenos Echoes Through Latin America

06/22/2015 03:54 pm ET | Updated Jun 21, 2016

There's a prominent movement happening right now based out of Argentina, where radio journalist Marcela Ojeda, fed up with the number of femicide stories landing on her desk, organized a call to arms. She tweeted "They're killing us," with a hashtag: #NiUnaMenos - not one less.

She and several other female journalists who covered similar stories organized a march for June 3, expecting a modest turnout. Instead, they led 200,000 woman in a march to the Capitol building in Buenos Aires, as other demonstrations took place across the country. Since then, the movement has garnered a great deal of attention, taking hold in several other Latin American countries such as Mexico, Brazil, Chile and Uruguay.

But it's especially notable that the current movement originated in Argentina, a place where there is an intensely pervasive culture of aggressive masculine pride.

The term femicide is "generally understood to mean the intentional killing of women because they are women," according to the World Health Organization. Statistics on the issue are generally difficult to gather, but those that are available are startling. Domestic violence kills nearly one woman a day in Argentina, more than five a day in Mexico and 15 a day in Brazil, according to this article from Business Insider.

One reason the issue is so pressing is thanks to the rash of extreme violence against women in Argentina.

Take the instance of the woman who was killed by an acquaintance in a public cafe last month. He learned she had recently gotten a divorce, and had been bothering her for about three months before she agreed to meet him somewhere public to talk. They chatted, she stood up, and he stabbed her seven times before breaking through a window and stabbing himself.

Or perhaps look at the kindergarten teacher who was separated from her ex-husband and had a restraining order against him, as well as a panic button on her phone. On April 15, he came into her classroom and slit her throat in front of her students.

Changing the legislation would seem to be a key component in fighting against these types of crimes, but many countries already have femicide laws on the books. Unfortunately, many of them have been proven to be nearly impossible to enforce, according to activists quoted in the Business Insider article.

Based on the laws in some countries such as Mexico, femicide is difficult to effectively prove, so many officers choose to charge the criminal with homicide instead, which is a lesser charge. In Chile, domestic violence has to be reported by the involved party, meaning that an observer or third party can't do anything to help.

So what can be done? According to Gabriela Alegre, an Argentine lawmaker, "We have to confront the problem by changing the culture and educating people."
Many women are working to do so. Cartoonist Maitena Burundarena read the protesting group's list of demands outside of Congress, but she's also cautioned that governmental change won't bring an end to the problem.

"The solution has to come from society, it won't come from the state," she told the New York Times. "Not all men are like that, we have to win over the good ones, no right-thinking man can tolerate violence against women. But someone has to start teaching the ones who don't understand it that women are not the property of men."

To begin educating yourself and others, or to make a donation, visit UNiTE to End Violence Against Women, a United Nations campaign that aims to raise public awareness and increase political will and resources for preventing and ending all forms of violence against women and girls in all parts of the world.