Equal parts antiquity and refinement, the thronged streets of Buenos Aires feel safe, crawling with urbanites, coffee addicts and audacious artists. The city vaunts a culture redolent of so many others, and yet it’s charmingly inimitable, sitting pretty on the estuary of the Río de la Plata on South America’s southeastern coast. A sweet mélange of the architectural romance of Paris, the cool urban vibe of Casablanca and the swift pace of New York, the city thrives well into the night and early into dawn. It’s a vivacious capital awash with visionary street art, a profuse intimacy through dance and a carnivore’s cuisine.
But it’s in Argentina that 275 women were murdered in the last year, 166 of whom were victims of domestic violence, according to a report published by the Casa del Encuentro NGO. And where 317 sons and daughters were left motherless. The report came just hours before the second large-scale mobilization by #NiUnaMenos, or #NotOneMore, earlier this month, which drew hundreds of thousands of doleful supporters to the streets of Buenos Aires.
Nine female journalists led the initial demonstration on June 3, 2015, demanding government action and heightened public clamor surrounding the epidemic, in initial response to the femicide of 14-year-old Chiara Páez who was murdered by her 16-year-old boyfriend. A year later, the numbers have not fallen but risen. This year’s protest took place after the killings of three 12-year-olds in Argentina and the gang rape of a 16-year-old girl in Brazil. In Argentina, there is almost one femicide per day.
“‘Ni una menos’ was a really huge manifestation against femicide that took place last year, and this year again, and that’s not because of exaggeration from the media or from the people,” Sara Nardelli, 27, of Buenos Aires told Her Report.
Women between 31 and 50 years of age made up 100 of the reported femicide cases, and women between 19 and 30 years of age made up another 95. As anticipated, the geographic spread of femicide in Argentina is concentrated in the provinces such as Buenos Aires province (103), Santa Fe (23) and Córdoba (20).
Even in the dead of the Argentine winter, the swathing sun pools in the city’s cavities, run over by countless cabs and city buses. But it’s below the ground, in the subway carriages of Buenos Aires, where women feel a heightened, besieging sense of insecurity.
A controversial draft bill to create subway carriages exclusive to women during weekday rush hours (7 am to 10 am and 5 pm to 7 pm) was put forward and subsequently put down. It was intended to prevent sexual harassment, abuse and violence perpetrated by male passengers, and is also in place on some trains in Israel, Japan, India, Egypt, Iran, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia and the United Arab Emirates. The earliest instance dates back to 1912 Japan, and the then-called “Flower Trains,” which terminated services during World Word II.
“Both men and women have the right to travel by public transport and to feel safe using it,” Deputy Graciela Ocaña, author of the initiative, was quoted stating in Clarin newspaper. “We are constantly witnessing scenes of abuse and violence against women on public transport in Buenos Aires. As women, we know that this problem affects all of us equally and that any of us could be a victim at any time.”
But the bill did not sit well with too many women who argued for educating men rather than isolating women.
“The situation from one neighborhood to another will be totally different, so it depends on that,” said Nardelli, who has experienced theft a handful of times. “But my personal opinion about female subways is that it is ridiculous. I think that because, if it is true that there are some kind of risks in the subways, that’s not the solution.”
“There have been many cases of violent murders in the past few years,” explained 27-year-old Sofia Cavadini of Buenos Aires. “The media and the social networks are using the campaigns to create stupid proposals like the one about public transportation. The thing is that we need judges to make people respect the law or pay for what they do. That’s the situation here.”
And while Cavadini said she has not experienced any abuse on public transportation, herself, she doesn’t believe that segregation will solve the problem.
“The fact is that the proposal was offensive for a lot of women and men,” added Lucero of Buenos Aires, 24. “There are hundreds of women and girls’ homicides per year, and sexual harassment is an everyday thing. But we are talking about it. It’s part of the agenda and in the protests you could see hundreds of men. It’s really exciting. The female-only subway car proposal is offensive because men who commit felonies should be charged and imprisoned. We shouldn’t need to be separated for our own protection. But they tend to get away with it. Or girls don’t report it because they’re scared of what the reaction might be. Sometimes when you go to the police to report a rape, they don’t believe you. This is real; it happens every day and mostly with the low class population.”