Ni Una Menos march in front of Congress. Photo: Santiago Carreras

June 3rd 2017, marks exactly 2 years since Ni Una Menos’ first march, demanding immediate and practical measures to end gender violence and establish gender equality. If one were to claim that the streets of Argentina were Ni Una Menos’ oyster, we’d be talking about a pretty riled up sea mollusc right now. To honor this anniversary, and the uphill battle still lying ahead for women’s rights, today sees their third annual march take place across the country.

The agenda is the result of 3 feminist assemblies held earlier this month, the first of which set out the 23 demands to the State which will be read out in Plaza de Mayo at 6pm. Around 100 political, social, feminist and human rights organizations came together in these meetings to produce the schedule, which is as follows:

At midday, gender violence workshops will be held outside Congress, while in Tribunales various organizations will stae a protest outside the Supreme Court of Justice at 3pm. One hour later, at 4pm, 9 de Julio avenue will be surged from all directions, as the protesters make their way towards the Plaza de Mayo, where journalist Liliana Daunes, (who spoke at the International Women’s Day march on March 8) and Nora Cortiñas (one of the founders of Madres de la Plaza de Mayo) will deliver a speech at 6pm. Beyond the capital, similar demonstrations will be held in front of government buildings and main squares all around the country.

Make no mistake; Ni Una Menos won’t be prancing around in the ope of their ideologies falling neatly into place at the sake of a stick, or carefully homemade banner. They know what they are demanding, and the policies they support to make this happen. Protection and comprehensive containment for female victims of gender violence; publication of official femicide statistics to influence public policy; legalized abortion; the completion of a Core Sex Education law; an end to State complicity in human trafficking, and the release of Higui and Milagro Sala are all top of the agenda.

If you see a swarm of purple ribbons, they are associated with the feminist cause, too. According to the Congressional Union for Woman Suffrage, “purple is the color of loyalty, constancy to purpose, unswerving steadfastness to a cause.” It was also the color chosen to celebrate International Women’s Day as it symbolizes justice and dignity.

The Ni Una Menos snowball has only gathered speed since its early days. Indeed, the first march was simply the fruit of a group of journalists on Twitter in reaction to the death of Kiara Pérez at the hands of her boyfriend  – testament to the weight of social media among social organizations, (and that not all journalists are evil!).

140 characters later and more than 200,000 people showed up to support the cause. Some measurable positive changes have occurred since then. Just this week, a new anti-femicide law was approved by the Senate, stripping those who commit femicide from parental rights over their children, and supporting another law to financially support children whose mothers are murdered by their fathers.

But these steps forward do not lessen the fact that the rate of femicide has been steadily increasing since Ni Una Menos creation, and the inequality indexes across various fields have remained at a stagnant level. In their statement ahead of tomorrows march, Ni Una Menos brought attention to this fact, writing: “In April, there was at least one woman fewer each day; on some days one or two names appeared among the dead and missing…The machista cruelty shows us no mercy.”

In fact, they point to several things they are still not happy with, and define the aims of the march in light of them. Organizers hope that the march will be “massive, anti-repressive and anti-punitive”. The first is simple; they are hoping for a big turnout, not least because June 3 falls on a Saturday. The latter two establish Ni Una Menos’ stance in opposition to many of the government’s choices.

Milagro Sala has been in prison since January 2016 Photo via La Izquierda Diario
Milagro Sala has been in prison since January 2016
Photo via La Izquierda Diario

Their anti-repressive statement is a reference to the International Women’s Day march, after which 26 people are facing legal action, accused of causing grievous harm, vandalism, and resisting authority. Ni Una Menos’ statement earlier this month also described “Machismo” as “the fascism that takes place inside our homes” which also illustrates how NUM perceive repressive nature of gender inequality.

The anti-punative element continues NUM’s line of criticism of the way the government is trying to tackle femicide, which seems to be more focussed on punishment rather than prevention. In other words, NUM believe the government isn’t fighting the cause of the problem, only dealing with the effects.

Photo via Ni Una Menos Facebook
Photo via Ni Una Menos Facebook

Recent issues being discussed in Congress were subjected to this same criticism. When an amendment was proposed to Law 24660, which regulates the release of prisoners [after Micaela García was allegedly killed by a convicted rapist on parole], Ni Una Menos representatives stressed the need for “more prevention and care, more equality and justice” rather than harsher prison sentences. Many human rights and feminist groups also claimed this would further penalize many women unjustly serving time in jail. The proposed amendment would limit temporary and conditional release for convicted criminals.

Again, NUM’s statement ahead of the plans for this year’s march addressed this punishment-focus that the government are pursuing: “They set out traps for us; they offer more prison cells, or greater punishments, or their favourite catchphrase: declaring an emergency in security, which affords them more restrain rights, and allows them to be more coercive.”