Ar­gen­tine girl’s bru­tal rape, murder sparks new demos

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The bru­tal killing of a 16-year-old girl who was al­legedly raped and im­paled on a spike by drug deal­ers has sparked out­rage in Ar­gentina, where pro­test­ers plan a “women’s strike” yes­ter­day. Lu­cia Perez, a high school stu­dent in the re­sort city of Mar del Plata, died on Oc­to­ber 8 af­ter be­ing brought to the hospi­tal by two men who said she had over­dosed on drugs. But af­ter doc­tors no­ticed signs of vi­o­lent sex­ual pen­e­tra­tion, in­ves­ti­ga­tors pieced to­gether a dif­fer­ent story.

Pros­e­cu­tors say the two men drugged, raped and im­paled her through the anus, caus­ing pain so ex­cru­ci­at­ing that she went into car­diac ar­rest and died. The lead pros­e­cu­tor, Maria Is­abel Sanchez, could barely hide her dis­gust. “I know it’s not very pro­fes­sional to say it, but I’m a mother and a woman, and I’ve seen a thou­sand things in my ca­reer, but noth­ing equal to this litany of ab­hor­rent acts,” she said. The killing is just the lat­est in­ci­dent of hor­rific gen­der vi­o­lence in Ar­gentina, which has seen more than a year of mass marches to protest bru­tal­ity against women.

Last year in June, protests broke out na­tion­wide over a trio of grue­some killings: a kindergarten teacher whose es­tranged hus­band slit her throat in front of her class; A 14-year-old girl whose boyfriend al­legedly beat her to death be­cause she got preg­nant; and a woman whose ex-boyfriend stabbed her to death in broad day­light at a Buenos Aires cafe. In the lat­est protest, 50 ac­tivist groups have called on women across the coun­try to go on “strike” at 1:00 pm (1400 GMT), tak­ing to the streets dressed in black.

One or­ga­nizer, Sab­rina Cartabia, said the goal was to protest not only Perez’s killing, but a cul­ture that values women less than men. That is vis­i­ble in sta­tis­tics such as the un­em­ploy­ment rate, she said: 9.3 per­cent na­tion­ally, but 12 per­cent for women. “In a con­text of so­cial inse­cu­rity, with chil­dren to care for and no ac­cess to eco­nomic au­ton­omy, it’s much more dif­fi­cult to over­come do­mes­tic vi­o­lence,” said Cartabia, a lawyer for an ad­vo­cacy group called the Women’s Net­work.

‘Bar­bar­ity’

Perez met her al­leged killers a day be­fore her death, when she and a friend ap­proached them to buy a mar­i­juana joint, pros­e­cu­tors say. The menMa­tias Farias, 23, and Juan Pablo Of­fid­i­ani, 41 — were known for sell­ing drugs near her school and had prior con­vic­tions. In­ves­ti­ga­tors say they forced Perez to con­sume a large amount of co­caine to in­ca­pac­i­tate her, then had a vi­o­lent orgy with her. “Her nose was pur­ple from all the co­caine they made her take,” said her fa­ther, Guillermo.

“We can’t un­der­stand such bar­bar­ity. It’s im­pos­si­ble to un­der­stand,” said her mother, Marta Mon­tero. To­gether, the cou­ple led a protest Satur­day in Mar del Plata that drew 1,000 peo­ple de­mand­ing the judge deny bail for the al­leged killers.

Ev­ery 36 hours

De­spite the protest-and a long string of oth­ers in re­cent months-at least four other women in Ar­gentina have been killed by their hus­bands or exes since Perez’s death. Na­tion­ally, do­mes­tic vi­o­lence kills one woman ev­ery 36 hours on av­er­age. Ar­gentina is one of 16 Latin Amer­i­can coun­tries that have writ­ten the crime of “femi­cide” into their pe­nal codes, set­ting down harsher pun­ish­ments for the killing of a woman by a man when gen­der plays a part in the crime. But the au­thor­i­ties are not do­ing enough, ar­gued Cartabia, who says Ar­gen­tine so­ci­ety needs a wake-up call on women’s vul­ner­a­ble place within it. A decade ago, the ac­tivist said, women who suf­fered do­mes­tic abuse took six years to re­port it on av­er­age. “To­day, that av­er­age has gone down-by one year,” she said.

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