The Birth of Femicides in Argentina: a Recognition of Gender Violence

The Birth of Femicides in Argentina: a Recognition of Gender Violence

While the number of women killed by sexist violence shows no sign of decreasing, the funding to implement policies of prevention and assistance to women is still insufficient. 

Creator: Colectivo Manifesto. All rights reserved.

On June 3 2015, Argentina witnessed one of the largest demonstrations in its history. Millions of women from all over the country came out onto the streets under the banner “Not One Less” (“Ni Una Menos”) to protest against a series of homicides of women by men in the context of gender violence.

According to the Meeting House (Casa de Encuentro) [1] a total of 1,088 femicides occurred between 2008 and 2014, with 277 deaths alone in 2014. In the first months of 2015 statistics were much higher than for the year before and cases began to come to public notice. After finding the lifeless body of a pregnant girl buried in the patio of her boyfriend’s house in Rufino in Santa Fe Province, women’s movements and feminist organizations decided to organize a demonstration that gave birth to one of the biggest movements in the country.

After the historic mobilization in 2016 the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (CSJN in its Spanish acronym), the body responsible for official records, through the Women’s Office (OM in its Spanish acronym), published a statistical report of the femicides that had been registered in the country, listing 235 deaths in 2015. The report received criticism for not taking into account those murders where the man had taken his own life. The CDE report, in contrast, registered 286 femicides.

The CSJN also reported that women between the ages of 21 and 40 were most affected (101 out of 235 women); 26 had reported some sort of violence on previous occasions, 149 were partners of the aggressor, in 30 cases the perpetrators were family members, while in 44 cases they were men known to the victims, and in 13 cases complete strangers. Among the offenders, the age group most represented were men between the ages of 19 and 40 (139 deaths). In 2016 the number of victims rose to 254 – 90 of them in Buenos Aires, 23 in Cordoba and 21 in Mendoza. In contrast to previous reports, in this edition the OM included the gender of the victims; of the total 5 were trans or transvestites. These deaths occurred in Formosa, Jujuy, Mendoza, Misiones and Rio Negro.

One of the main demands was for the provision of legal aid as the main avenue by which to gain access to the justice system. Although law 27.210 was drawn up to create a Body of Lawyers for the victims of gender violence, it was never enacted into law. The law would not only ease the pressure on today´s limited legal aid for victims of violence but would guarantee a reliable and accurate source of information, paving the way for starting justice processes without professional help, which today is virtually impossible. But above all, it would solve the problem of financial cost, which represents a barrier for the vast majority of victims of male violence.

It should be pointed out that the passing of legislation, the creation of public policy and the allocation of funds are three elements that are difficult to reconcile in this country. As one of largest countries in South America with one of the highest populations, budget allocation and the lack of a decentralization policy are the most significant flaws. 

In 2012, Argentina modified its Criminal Code and included gender violence as an aggravation in homicides. Thus, article art. 80 inc. 11 defines that one who kills “a woman when the act is perpetrated by a man and involved gender violence”. After court decisions and legal discussions, the Cordoba High Court for Justice (TSJ in its Spanish acronym), ruled that a previous relationship or the personality of the woman [2] are not requirements for establishing an aggravation [3]. Correspondingly, a bigger budget for policies of prevention and aid to women in situations of violence were the items most requested. However, 2017 is a year characterized by another low budget for policies, a product of the obligations embedded in the National Law for the protection of violence towards women (Law 26.485). 

With regard to women’s rights, Argentina can boast comprehensive legislation, as a result of either the passing of internal laws or the ratification of international treaties. This legislative inflation, however, has not been accompanied by sufficient funding for policies, making them – and the whole system – inefficient and ineffective. As a result, the institutions that receive women and carry out policies find themselves completely overwhelmed, which also reveals how the most affected group – young women with children – was ignored when designing these policies. On the other hand, when addressing the territorial distribution and decentralization of policies, the focus was set on provincial capitals and large cities (and in the centre of those cities). This has led to an initial exclusion of women living in smaller towns or in the outskirts of cities where the legal centres and police stations do not have primary care facilities. 

In 2009, the Law 26.485 recognized the right to live without violence, to comprehensive care and to access to the legal system in all provinces. In spite of the comprehensive nature of this legislation, the lack of coordination between the centres for family law, family violence and criminal law creates a second layer of exclusion for women. This legal and institutional pilgrimage that forces people to visit different institutions in what is a male-dominated legal system is another example of the many obstacles a woman faces, especially when she finds herself in a situation of violence. Other difficulties involve the provision of legal aid which is designed to assist her, and a situation of economic struggle that urges her to leave her home or become the sole breadwinner for her children.

In conclusion, the protection of rights promised by the Argentinean State does not correspond with the level of funding required to guarantee such protection. The two exclusions that women must leapfrog in order to just gain access to the legal system or to public policies enable us to conclude that the exclusions do correspond with statistics that show femicides have not ceased. Argentina has an internal debt, and that is to women. 

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[1] The Meeting House was founded in 2003 to design a feminist project for the human rights of all women, girls, boys and adolescents. Its main activity is to maintain a femicide database. See: www.lacasadelencuentro.org
  See more at: http://www.csjn.gov.ar/om/index.jsp

[2] After court decisions and legal discussions, the Cordoba High Court for Justice ruled that a previous relationship or the personality of the woman are no requirements for establishing an aggravation.

[3] Sentence No. 56 of the TSJ of 09.03.2017, which adds femicide as an aggravation.

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