Thousands of Argentinians took to the streets on Wednesday to join feminist groups and labour unions protesting a court ruling that acquitted two men accused of sexually abusing and killing a 16-year-old girl in 2016.
The groups that organised the protests, which took place in several cities, are part of Ni Una Menos, an Argentine grassroots movement to fight violence against women in a country where a woman is killed every 30 hours, according to the United Nations.
Wearing green and purple, colours traditionally adopted by women’s rights movements, demonstrators lay down in the streets of the capital, Buenos Aires, holding photos of Lucia Perez, whose death caused public outcry and fanned the flames of Ni Una Menos.
The 16-year-old was reportedly force-fed drugs before being gang-raped and penetrated with a wooden stick. Her body was then washed and left outside a hospital where she died.
“Today we have anger,” Lola Jufre, a women’s rights campaigner, told the Associated Press news agency. “In spite of our fight, we are being decimated in the most cruel ways”.
The demonstrations followed a high-profile court ruling last week in the coastal city of Mar del Plata, which decided in favour of the two men accused of abusing and killing Perez.
Despite medical reports that she had suffered extreme sexual violence, the ruling stated Perez had had consensual sex with one of the men and died of an overdose, citing a lack of evidence.
Two men were convicted of selling drugs to a minor, sentenced to eight years in prison and fined, while a third defendant was acquitted of all charges.
Speaking to local media after the ruling, Perez’s father, Guillermo, called the decision “an embarrassment and a lie”.
“This tribunal doesn’t understand a thing about gender-based violence,” he said.
In Argentina, at least 1,800 women have been murdered since 2008, according to La Casa del Encuentro, a women’s rights organisation.
Ni Una Menos, whose name means “Not One Women Less”, was formed in 2015, following a string of femicides, defined by the UN as the violent, deliberate killing of a woman.
It aims to draw attention to deaths such as Perez’s, encouraging society to view them as violent expressions of a “machista” society, rather than isolated incidents.
The movement has spread across Latin America, a region which includes seven of the 10 countries with the highest femicide rates in the world.
Sixteen Latin American countries have written femicide into their penal codes, setting out harsher punishments for the killing of a woman by a man when gender plays a part in the crime.
In addition to the femicide law, Argentina has legislation to crack down on violence against women, but activists say that neither is being effectively implemented.