Thousands gathered to protest against “femicide” in Argentine capital Buenos Aires and over 80 cities across the country on Wednesday, as well as in neighbouring Chile and Uruguay.
The marches in Argentina brought together women’s rights groups, unions, political parties from opposing sides and the Catholic Church who all condoned violence against women.
In Buenos Aires, marchers wore badges with the Twitter hashtag #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less), the rallying cry for the campaign.
Argentine news agency Telam estimated more than 200,000 people gathered in the rally in the square outside congress in Buenos Aires.
“Enough femicides. We join all Argentines today in shouting out loud ‘not one woman less,’” wrote football star Lionel Messi on Facebook in support of the movement.
Argentina President Cristina Kirchner was on Twitter, posting about the objectification of women and the violence they endure daily, condemning a “culture that devastates women.”
Argentina has been jolted by recent cases of violence against women carried out by men. In 2014, local women’s rights group La Casa del Encuentro (The Meeting House) reported 277 femicides.
Since 2008, there have been 1,808 femicides across Argentina. Despite the 2012 law that punishes femicide with a life sentence, the violence has not decreased.
In a telephone interview in May, the head of La Casa del Encuentro, Ada Beatriz told Thomson Reuters Foundation that femicide was “a cultural issue.”
“The aggressor feels a woman belongs to him and he can do what he wants with her. We’re talking about machismo that sees a woman as an object, as inferior and as someone who has to obey. If she doesn’t, disobedience is punished with beatings and even death,” she said.
Beatriz said that the Argentine government needed to increase funding to ensure that laws to protect women, while improved since 2009, needed to receive increased funding to be put into practice.
“More shelters for survivors of domestic violence are needed and a significantly larger budget to implement gender laws,” she said.
Beatriz was speaking after the body of Chiara Paez, a 14-year-old girl, was found buried under the patio of her boyfriend’s family home. She had sustained injuries from beatings to the head, face and body.
Her 16-year-old boyfriend was charged with aggravated murder, femicide and forced abortion, Reuters reported.
The campaign organisers said several reasons could explain the massive support it received: the femicide of Paez, the media coverage that followed and the shock wave caused by social networks, reported the Buenos Aires Herald.
They pointed out that the movement was a long time coming. “We cannot say this movement is the result of a summons issued by a group of journalists on Twitter,” said activist and writer Agustina Paz Frontera.
Organisers told the Buenos Aires Herald before the rally that they were seeking to have a pluralistic demonstration.
“This march is not against anyone. It is just to say that society is rising up to say no more gender violence,” said Fabiana Tunez, a leader of La Casa del Encuentro.