Thousands of people took the streets of many cities in Argentina last October, to mobilize against a set of crimes that, astonishingly, still pervade our societies on a day-to-day basis: violence against women. In Argentina, where there is a femicide every thirty hours, collective action has been set up in the form of protests numerous times under the slogan of “Ni una menos” (which means ‘not one less’ woman). This motto has also been used in Peru and Brazil in demonstrations to claim the ending of gender violence. These constitute some examples of a striking fact: Latin America is the region with the highest femicide rates in the world. However, aggression towards women and misogyny are not restricted to this part of the globe; they are witnessed almost everywhere. What are the causes of these perverse gender attacks? Is it culture, inequality, insecurity? And which actions could reduce brutality against the female population?
The first notion that one usually takes for granted, but that is actually the cornerstone of violence against women starts with the word ‘discrimination’. As the 2004 Amnesty International Report on these matters explains “…Discrimination against women starts at birth. In some areas, families barter their newborn daughters and force young girls into early marriages. In education, fewer girls than boys attend school or go on to higher education. In adult life, women face discriminatory treatment at home, in their communities, and in employment…” Hence children grow up with the preconceived idea that all of these cultural dispositions are normal. This can be the trigger of subsequent events of violence: rigid gender roles isolate women from paths that could eventually empower them to escape from these situations, such as education, a career or an active role within their community. Gender disparity in education also generates an economic dependence of women, which makes them less apt to get out of any form of violence, as they are reliant on their partner’s financial support.
Still, discrimination is not only subjected to the most intimate nucleus of affiliation, the family, but it is also entrenched in societal norms. Less than a month ago, women gathered in the streets of Reykjavik, Iceland, to protest against the gender pay gap. The dangerous implication behind this is that individuals learn from collective rules. Therefore, a vicious cycle is put in action: historical informal norms of a woman’s role in society are ingrained in formal rules, such as salary divergence; then, since formal rules are conceived as exemplary, individuals believe that they show the correct way to act; in consequence, they create new rules according to what they have learned throughout their life. It is the self-reinforcing process of discrimination, which generates biased norms that become embedded in the social systems in such a strong way, that it requires an enormous effort to cleanse them out.
Hence violence is at our doorstep. Three days ago, a bill in Turkey was approved in an initial parliamentary reading, stating that men’s convictions for child sex assault would be overturned if they married their victim.  Impunity is the core of the persistence of violence against women. Until citizens’ mindsets are changed towards believing in gender equality, these issues will endure. Education of the sort should be established in schools, and it is paramount that access to education for girls is widened. Women should be able to claim legal representation, and the government should set in place direct means of denunciation, and have a comprehensive protection scheme for those who make these accusations. Communities should be actively involved in giving aid to women’s voice, and not turn away when they see these crimes. Involving all spheres of society and politics is vital towards ending violence against women.
“Not one less” is a paralyzing slogan, as it implies that systematic killings of females are a norm of everyday life. It is of utmost importance that societies shout it out loud, and pressure their governments, media and communities for justice, until someday, it becomes obsolete.
Lucia Cirimello, Blog Writer
Yllka Krasniqi, Blog Editor