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Arts & Culture

International Women's Day: More than a topless protest

BBC | Wed,2017-03-08

Last month dozens of women gathered in central Buenos Aires to demand the right to sunbathe topless. The protest came after three women sunbathing on a beach in the capital were asked to leave by the police or face arrest.

The law is not clear about the right to sunbathe topless, but doing so is not the norm in Argentina. The incident went viral on social media and generated huge controversy.

Luciana Danquis
 Luciana Danquis

And as if to prove the protesters' point, dozens of men came to watch the demonstration, flirting, laughing and generally behaving as if they were at a cattle market, the women said.

One of the protesters, 31-year-old Luciana Danquis, said that the police should be concentrating on protecting Argentina's women from gender-related attacks rather than worrying about what they choose to wear on the beach.

"Instead of protecting us from abuse and violence, the only thing the police are doing is restricting our right to go topless," she said.

Karina Flores
Karina Flores

Karina Flores, 40, said that women were taking back control.

"We are protesting so we will stop being used as scum," she said. "Men tell us they want to lick our breasts on the street. Well, it's over, no more breast licking."

Although women are actually less likely to be murdered in Argentina than they are are in most other Latin American countries, the country's size means the number of women who are killed is still staggering - an average of one every 30 hours, or 250 women each year, according to the Buenos Aires-based NGO La Casa del Encuentro.

In relative numbers Argentina's female murder rate is low - with one murder per 100,000 inhabitants compared to a regional average of 2.5, according to the Observatory of Gender Equality in Latin America and the Caribbean.

The country also has a long history of women's activism and strong civil society groups. Two years ago, it became the birthplace of Ni Una Menos, a movement tackling violence against women which has now gained huge traction throughout the region.

The name of the movement means Not One Woman Less and references a poem by a Mexican women called Susana Chavez. In 1995 she wrote Ni una muerta más (Not one more woman killed) in protest against a femicide in Ciudad Juarez. A few years later she herself was murdered in the same city.

The first Ni Una Menos march was held on 3 June, 2015 after several cases of violence against women, including the grisly murders of several teenagers earlier that year, which generated shock and horror across the country.

Ni Una Menos has since made a powerful impression across Latin America, with three marches in two years bringing together millions of women across the continent.

Dozens of groups, including unions and NGOs, are planning to join a national women's strike on Wednesday to proclaim women's importance in both the business and domestic spheres.

Machismo in Latin America is deeply-rooted. The way women are treated reflects a well-established macho culture, and widespread conservative social values. It's quite common to hear that a woman has been attacked by her partner. Some men have several partners, or even families. Men verbally harass women on the street with complete impunity.

But in recent years, media coverage of sexual violence and femicide has increased. It has had the effect of turning some victims into martyrs.

The movement is now spreading beyond Latin America. Two weeks ago in Spain, for example, eight women went on hunger strike under the Ni Una Menos banner after the murder of 11 women in one year by their partners. The strike was supported by hundreds of people at a march in Madrid.

Women everywhere it seems are taking to the frontline.

(BBC)