Earlier this month, 16-year-old Lucía Pérez was abducted, drugged, raped and murdered in the Argentinian city of Mar del Plata.
The two men who left Pérez at a hospital told staff that she had overdosed on drugs – but when doctors examined the high school student, they found she had suffered extreme sexual violence. She died shortly after as a result of internal injuries sustained during her rape.
Pérez was the latest in a long line of Argentinian women to be killed by men – often husbands, boyfriends, family members or acquaintances of the victim. The Guardian reports that 19 women have been killed in Argentina in the last 18 days alone, while government statistics show that crimes against women have risen by almost 80% since 2008.
Now, thousands of women have joined protests in Argentina and across Latin America to protest Pérez’s killing – and challenge gender-based violence across the continent.
Foto from @pelameunanaranja. Today thousands of women across Latin America and across the world took to the streets to demand justice for all the women and femme folks that have been killed by machismo. Just about a month ago in Argentina Lucía Pérez, a 16 year old young woman, was raped and murdered. There is not a day that passes where I don't fear my safety. El machismo mata y ya basta! #vivasnosqueremos #niunamenos #miercolesnegro
Black-clad protesters, predominantly women, walked out of work on Wednesday afternoon and marched through the streets of Buenos Aires and other Argentinian cities, carrying signs reading: “If you touch one of us, we all react”.
The protest was dubbed #MiercolesNegro – Black Wednesday.
Solidarity demonstrations also took place in Mexico, El Salvador, Bolivia, Chile, Paraguay and Uruguay.
“We are saying ‘enough!’ We won’t go back to being submissive and we won’t tolerate any more of the misogyny or violence that all us women have to deal with,” said Sabrina Cartabia, a member of the feminist movement Ni Una Menos, who organised the march in Argentina.
Ni Una Menos (Not One Less – meaning not one more woman murdered at the hands of man) described #MiercolesNegro as a “women’s strike”, and called on all Argentinian women to leave work, school or their homes to join the march.
“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’,” they wrote.
Ni Una Menos were also behind two prior protests against gender-based violence in Argentina. Hundreds of thousands of women joined the marches in June 2015 and June 2016.
Mara Montero, Pérez’s mother, asked women to join the protest “so that no more families are destroyed like ours”.
Argentina passed legislation in 2012 against “femicide” – a term that includes domestic violence, “honour” killings and other kinds of hate crimes against women. However, campaigners say that traditional patriarchal machista attitudes have yet to be influenced by the change in the law.
The attack on Pérez was so brutal that she suffered a cardiac arrest, the Guardian reports, prompting prosecutor María Isabel Sánchez to describe it as “an act of inhuman sexual violence”.
Sánchez told local media in Mar del Plata: “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.”
“We have to gather strength and take to the streets,” said Matías Pérez, Lucía Pérez’s brother. “We all have to shout together, more than ever: ‘Not one less.’”