This is the title of the news story that came out last week covering the release of a report on the number of women killed by their “husbands, partners, lovers, boyfriends, former partners, neighbors, relatives, or unknown assailant committing an act of sexual violence against them” in Argentina between January 1st and June 30th, 2009. Another nine cases are still under investigation. In 2008 a total of 208 women were murdered in Argentina by their “husbands, partners, lovers, boyfriends, former partners, neighbors, relatives, or unknown assailant committing an act of sexual violence against them” putting Argentina just behind Mexico and Guatemala, although it is noted that no mention of Colombia or Brazil’s standings are included in the report.
The report on femicides in Argentina during the first half of 2009 was conducted by “La Casa del Encuentro“, an Argentine civil society association. It is revealing in many regards. Not only does it bring to light to the magnitude of violence against women in Argentina, it also confirms that the problem is not one of isolated criminal cases, but “a social, political, and human rights” issue. This is a crucial point to make as I’ve mentioned in previous posts, my experience is that there is little awareness about the prevalence of domestic violence in Argentina, and when confronted with the topic, the tendency is to downplay the gravity of the problem, or to push it onto “the other”. Perhaps this is because there is little news generated on the issue, scarce statistical data to date, and no citywide or countrywide awareness campaign on the issue.
The lack of statistics is noted by Fabiana Tunisia, General Coordinator of La Casa del Encuentro. In several news articles covering the report she is quoted as saying the initial 2008 investigative report came about as a result of the fact that those working in the field of gender-based violence realized that no such report existed in Argentina. After spending time learning about and meeting with some of the numerous governmental and nongovernmental agencies working on women’s issues and gender-based violence in Argentina, it is quite alarming that so few statistics exist. Those of us working at APP on the Disarming Domestic Violence Campaign in Argentina welcome and applaud the release of a report that include such statistics, and pledge to continue working towards the development of additional statistics, including those that differentiate between methods of violence. While the articles covering the report refer to several examples of armed domestic violence cases, the report makes no direct links between arms and the deaths of these 82 women.
Having already mentioned some of the real problems associated with statistical collection and analysis in Argentina, it is perhaps less surprising, though no less discouraging, to find that the same articles covering one of the best reports of late are also culpable of perpetuating statistical errors on the topic. No less than four sources in two different languages included the following information: “Reality also shows that so far in July there were 21 cases of femicide, which gives an average of two women per day are murdered in Argentina”. These articles were published on the 19th of July, 2009. After a long attempt to understand how this figure could have come about, I determined it must have been an error in reporting. If there were 21 cases of femicide (female homicide) over a 19-day period in July, there is just no way that you can conclude that an average of 2 women per day are murdered in Argentina. It is important to mention this because as we recognize the power that statistics can play calling attention to the severity of domestic violence in Argentina, and in turn, the role that they can play in affecting policy and legal changes in the country, we also realize that we must first establish a history of statistical integrity in the field. This will be difficult to accomplish when careless computations are made, quoted, and then repeated throughout the media.
Despite the statistical error quoted in these news stories, the report itself is free of such errors and contains several positive implications for the Disarming Domestic Violence Campaign. For one, it calls for the immediate reform of domestic violence laws in Argentina, as a means to “making clear that society does not endorse such behavior”. It also demands the immediate loss of parental rights for anyone who kills, or attempts the life of the mother of their children, along with the unequivocal protection of women victims of violence under law.
In its conclusion, the report highlights some of the important challenges which the DDV campaign hopes to overcome: a lack of official statistics on femicides in Argentina and a lack of sufficient public policies (and laws) to influence the social and cultural behaviors that cause the death of hundreds of women each year. And most importantly, it reinforces that combating violence against women and children is not something that social organizations or the state government can accomplish alone, it is everyone’s responsibility. We hope that through the implementation of the DDV campaign in Argentina, along with the important work of associations like La Casa del Encuentro, positive and necessary change to end violence against women in Argentina can be acheived.
Posted By Athea Middleton-Detzner
Posted Aug 3rd, 2009