#NiUnaMenos- A Force to be Reckoned With
In 1995, activist Susana Chavez wrote a poem that resonated with the heavy hearts of the women of Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The machismo(sexism) one commonly experiences in Latin America has gained its own name and reputation for its violence, and what Chavez expressed in her poetry was associated to the skyrocketing number of femicides within the city, which is located on the border with the United States. What is most chilling about the now immortalized line from her poem “Ni una mujer menos, ni una muerta más” (not one woman less, not one more woman dead) is that not two decades after writing it, her mutilated body was found on the street, her head in a black bag beside it, her left hand severed off. Though the police wrote it off as an “unfortunate incident”, they claimed to be entirely unrelated to her activism and her voice being on the frontline of a progressively more powerful movement, her bravely spoken words remain fresh in the memories of those who have kept her image alive all over Latin America since the birth of a widespread and influential movement four years later.
The brutal murder of 14-year-old pregnant Chiara Paez in May 2015 at the hands of her boyfriend sparked the #NiUnaMenos (in Brazil, #NenhumaMenos) trend. Its origins can be situated in Argentina as a grassroots movement created between female thinkers, artists, and journalists meant to tackle the issue of gender violence, in particular the concept of femicide (a word that had not been added to the Royal Spanish Academy’s dictionary until 5 years ago). In time, however, it has rapidly expanded across a continent and due to its intersectional consciousness has managed to address a variety of topics related to classism, racism, LGBTQ+ rights, indigenous people’s rights and more. Feminist marches within Latin America have become recognized as protests spearheaded by women in green scarves with hearts full of rage and purpose, walking in solidarity with one another. A language of emblems has been developed within the movement itself, with violet, green, and raised fists symbolizing a struggle that has come to gain enormous social and political pull.
Ni Una Menoshas come to focus largely on forms of institutional violence perpetrated against women, and on making visible the shocking statistics regarding a lack of government interest in providing safety for women as well. The National Femicide Watch in Mexico, for example, reports the fact that an average of seven women are murdered on a daily basis, and of those that are reported to the police, only 25% are investigated as femicides. In Brazil, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, four women are murdered a day. The newfound attention that this issue is receiving has pushed over 15 countries in the Latin American region to pass laws creating more severe consequences for femicide. What is most important to notice is that as this movement gradually gains ideological significance and presence, it continues to grow, and since it is not tied to a perishable entity, it becomes a newfound part of the Latin American consciousness surrounding the staggering inequality of the region. Moreover, the fact that there is an evident lack of clear leadership within these massive protests shows the decentralized nature of the movement in its entirety. What can to an extent be recognized as the most notable feature of Ni Una Menosis that though feminist efforts have existed for a long time within Latin America (just as they have all over the world), this movement in particular has a highly democratic element that has managed to create unity across borders on a massive scale. It has created the capacity to make the concept of diversity a strength rather than a divisive force. Women spanning an entire continent are being given a platform to express their concerns on social media as well as on the streets, and the effects of this have been revolutionary on the discussion around gender in a highly stratified society where there exists a great aversion to changing the status quo.
The movement has opened a discussion on the question of the humanity of the woman by linking the concept of the deaths of these women as a social pattern to the idea of gendered necropolitics. By politicizing the image of the violated, dead body as a symbol there has been a visualization of “a war against women in Latin America,” tying the deaths of women to understanding the dysfunctional political systems of the region. This in turn allows a new comprehension of democracy and the importance of its inclusion and service to every member of society. As a result, organizations and movements that are not fundamentally affiliated to feminism ideologically have created ties with Ni Una Menos, constructing new definitions of community within a democratic scope. In an article published for the journal Contexto Internacional, Natália Maria Félix de Souza states that they come together as an act of solidarity: “these movements open our political imaginaries to the possibilities of new attachments, filiations and articulations that are not subsumed under abstract universal categories and values, nor limited to identitarian and thus legalistic affirmations of the political.” Ni Una Menos’ effect has further affirmed the idea of politics not just being in the hands of the people but also of the fundamentally shifting, dynamic nature of solidarity and tolerance.
The future of feminism in Latin America appears as though to be moving power to the 99% and making the problem of government accountability the forefront of its struggle. Just as Ni Una Menos has popularized and made the concept of feminism accessible to everyone, it has gone on to promote values of bodily autonomy in relation to equality. In turn, it has managed to alter general perception on reproductive rights, consent, human trafficking, and the creation of the “mysterious other” that blatantly permits the objectification and brutalization of marginalized groups in society. As the social conscience of Latin America changes, so do its policies, and hopes for a more accountable and proactive government concerned with its citizens become increasingly feasible.