Updated 4 months ago

Argentina: hundreds of thousands of women set to protest against violence

Hundreds of thousands of women in Argentina are expected to join a national protest over violence against women on Wednesday, after a 16-year-old girl was raped and tortured.

Organizers of the “women’s strike” have called for every woman in the country to stop work, study and other activities for an hour at 1pm.

“In your office, school, hospital, law court, newsroom, shop, factory, or wherever you are working, stop for an hour to demand ‘no more machista violence’,” wrote the march organizers.

The protest – marked with the Twitter hashtag #MiércolesNegro, or Black Wednesday – was prompted by the abduction of Lucía Pérez, a schoolgirl who was drugged, raped and tortured earlier this month in the coastal city of Mar del Plata.

The cruelty of her attack was such that Pérez suffered a cardiac arrest, according to prosecutor María Isabel Sánchez, who described it as “an act of inhuman sexual aggression”.

Following their assault, the assailants washed the 16-year-old in an attempt to erase forensic evidence and took her to a nearby hospital, where she died shortly after arrival.

“I know it’s not very professional to say this, but I’m a mother and a woman, and though I’ve seen thousands of cases in my career, I’ve never seen anything like this,” prosecutor Sánchez told local media.

But Pérez’s murder is just the latest in a harrowing sequence of “femicides”, crimes usually committed by husbands, boyfriends, family members or acquaintances of the victim. In more than one case, the woman has been set on fire by her partner.

Government statistics show that crimes against women have risen 78% since 2008 in Argentina, a rise which may be partly attributable to growing awareness of the phenomenon, but has prompted a national debate over sexist attitudes.

Every 30 hours a woman is killed in such crimes, according to statistics kept by La Casa del Encuentro, an NGO which helps female victims of violence.

The killing of Lucía came only a few days after a march by tens of thousands of women protesting crimes against women in the central city of Rosario ended in violence when police fired rubber bullets and tear gas into the crowd gathered outside the city’s cathedral.

Tomorrow’s strike starts at 1pm, with the ceasing of all work and private activities, followed by a march congregating on the main Plaza de Mayo square in Buenos Aires.

Three suspects have been arrested in the Pérez case, but her family has since reported receiving death threats.