By Adriana Ramírez, MINT Human Rights and Humanitarianism
Latin America’s history of protests and demonstrations surrounding women’s rights and gender equality has been a long one, particularly during International Women’s Day.
From Chile and the dance that moved a region, Mexico, and the tide of purple jacarandas to Argentina and the green scarf movement. On March 8th, 8M, hundreds of thousands of courageous girls and women raise their voices to shape a region and fight for their rights. These protests have taken different forms including; strikes, marches, rallies, the intervention of public spaces, and the building of anti-monuments. All of them tell the story of the grim reality of Latin America, which is considered one of the most dangerous regions in the world for women, but they also tell a story of hope, as the feminist spring continues to flourish, leaving no voice behind.
According to data from the United Nations, ECLAC, in 2021 alone, it was estimated that 4,473 women in Latin America were killed due to gender-based violence; this represents at least 12 femicides, violent deaths of women based on gender every day in a non-conflict affected region. The extremely high rates of impunity for femicides, which can be over 95%, completes this chilling picture as many cases of violence against women go unreported or are not properly investigated and prosecuted.
But femicides are not the only evil that touches the region; child marriage which affects 1 in 5 girls, violations of indigenous rights, and glass ceilings, among others, add to the bleak panorama that is being contested. Therefore, from denouncing mining and extractivist practices to enforced disappearances and gender-based violence, the protests aim to be cross-cutting and intersectional. Latin American feminism does not claim to have a single agenda or to consider itself a single movement. In its diversity, it includes peasants, Afro-descendants, queers, and trans. It includes indigenous peoples, sex workers, trade unions and children, and their grievances. It also goes beyond the traditional objectives of feminism: it does not stop at demanding civil rights and formal equality and includes a community and decolonial perspective that understands women’s bodies as a territory in dispute, and territorial disputes as a gendered issue.
This year’s 8M will be commemorated – not celebrated – across Latin American countries with a range of activities and mobilizations. Thousands of women will take to the streets to reconfigure International Women’s Day as a platform of resistance, encouraging a sense of solidarity that aims to leave no voice behind, an inclusive and intersectional engine for action and coalition building.
In Ecuador, for the first time, the Confederation of Indigenous Nationalities has announced that it will join the March 8 mobilizations and has called all peoples and nationalities to join the national mobilisation in Quito against all forms of oppression. The protest was intended also to show solidarity with the people of Peru and invite all women and dissidents to resist and fight in the community.
In Chile, meanwhile, various organisations are calling for a General Feminist Strike and a massive protest, under the motto “Our history is resistance and rebellion”. As the 50th anniversary of the civic-military coup approaches, this year 8M will aim to vindicate the memory of resistance that has been constructed ever since, denounce the precariousness of life that is expressed in migrant women, gender-sex dissidents, peasant and indigenous women subjected to extractivist practices (such as mining). They also aim to re-emphasize the claim of the constituent process, which included proposals for sexual and reproductive rights and the recognition of care to be included in the Constitution. Uruguay’s Central Union of Workers, likewise, has announced a general strike in support of International Women’s Day, with the slogan “for a feminist, anti-racist, and anti-capitalist class.”
In Argentina, organisations such as the Mujeres de la Matria Latinoamericana (MuMaLa) have denounced the feminization of poverty and adopted the slogan “Austerity is Violence,” arguing that the lack of gender-sensitive public policies that seek to strengthen economic independence leaves women vulnerable to violence and femicide.
Similarly, in Mexico City, –an mobilisation that is close to my heart and will deeply miss this year– there is a call for people to join one of the various groups protesting and marching from the “Glorieta de las mujeres que luchan” (a monument dedicated to women fighting for justice in cases of forced disappearance and femicide) to the city centre. The protest includes a diverse group of people, such as Indigenous groups, mothers of victims, trans women, and even professionals who will use their absence from work as a form of resistance. Together, they will raise their voices to honour the victims of sexual violence and disappearance, singing, dancing, and taking over public space as a way to promote healing and ensure that the victims are not forgotten, and atrocities are not repeated.
International Women’s Day is a global event that seeks to celebrate women’s achievements and to call attention to the ongoing struggle for gender equality, but, in certain parts of the world, it is more than that. Marching, joining a strike, dancing, denouncing, and performing can also be experienced as an act of catharsis, of collective healing amidst the shared struggles.
Today, in solidarity, we stand with women’s struggles around the world, but also with all those who fight and resist injustices, violence, inequality, and oppression. We say their names out loud, denounce, and remember all the injustices to which they have been subjected! Free and without fear until dignity becomes an everyday reality.
And as the singer Vivir Quintana says, in a powerful song that encompasses 8M sentiment,
Cantamos sin miedo, pedimos justicia
Gritamos por cada desaparecida
Que resuene fuerte “¡nos queremos vivas!”
Que caiga con fuerza el feminicida
(We sing without fear, we ask for justice
We scream for each disappeared
Let it resonate loudly “we want to live!”
May the femicide be held accountable.)
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