GENDER-BASED VIOLENCE AND THE ENEMY AT HOME

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In 1993 countries in the General Assembly of the United Nations declared their commitment to end violence against women. To this date, UN Women has reported that “35 percent of women worldwide have experienced either physical and/or sexual intimate partner violence or sexual violence by a non-partner (not including sexual harassment) at some point in their lives”. According to the same office, the percentage goes as high as 70 in some countries.

Latin America and the Caribbean is a region where women and girls suffer from gender-based violence and the place in which a global movement started. According to the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), 3,529 femicides were committed in 2018. Governments have taken actions to legislate and create programs to address the issue. However, as with many laws, the problem is a lack of implementation rooted in pre-existing power dynamics: the patriarchal domination of women.

In October of this year, Chilean activists that seek to end gender-based violence came up with a performance (“un violador en tu camino“) that protested against one of the main tools of the existing structure; the song calls to highlight the constant practice of re-victimization. The song and choreography, which have resonated all over the world, voice the demand for States to recognize their complicity with rapists and sexual harassers by claiming that the victim was ‘on the wrong place and provoking their attacker’.

A study conducted by Oxfam shows that many young people in the region still believe that violence against women is justified in ‘domestic’ instances such as marriage. Governments also resort to the strategy of blaming the victims in order to justify their inability to address the issue. As such, the power structure is created and recreated by the same institution that is supposed to protect all the people who live in the State.

The Chilean movement however replicated all over the world given the fact that the same power structure affects women regardless of geographical location. Data shows that 58 percent of the women intentionally killed were murder by partners or family members. Movements like the one started in Chile voice a complaint that seeks to address the underlying structure behind the ‘acceptance’ of violence against certain groups of individuals, i.e. the life of a straight male is more valuable than that of others.

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