International Women's Day: Latin American cities protest for women's rights

In Caracas, 14 feminist organizations organized International Women's Day. Photo by Daniel Echeverría, 2024. Used with permission.

Every March 8, millions of women mobilize in Latin America to be part of the agenda of International Women's Day. The problems experienced by women and gender diverse people in the region are not few: since 2018, 14 of the 25 countries with the most femicides are in Latin America, 27.4 percent of women in the region experience multidimensional poverty, and nearly 8,400 women die each year in the region due to complications in pregnancy, childbirth and the postpartum period. According the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean, in Latin America one in two women does not have a job and one in four does not have their own income. In Central America, less than 40 percent of women have a bank account.

On this day, women respond to and highlight the problems that affect them in their own contexts, causing each town and each Latin American city to have its own complaints and requests.

Here are some Latin American cities that filled their streets on International Women's Day.

Mexico City, Mexico 

In Mexico City there was a strong official presence, the use of tear gas was reported, several people were injured, and one person was reported dead. Photo by Andrea Paola Hernández, 2024. Used with permission.

More than 180 thousand people mobilized in the main Zócalo Square of Mexico City asking for justice for the ten women murdered every day in the Mexican Republic, and the 52,000 families who are actively searching for their missing relatives. With music, performance and chants, the participating contingents also marched for equal pay, sexual and reproductive education, and access to the national justice system.

Read more: International Women's Day in Mexico City: A demonstration shrouded in sorrow

This International Women's Day stands out because it occurs in a special electoral year for Mexico, where the two main candidates for the presidency are women. One hundred and sixty-four protesters had to be treated for symptoms of heatstroke, after 2024 began breaking records of extreme drought in the country. Seven people required hospitalization, including one who died from cardiac arrest. The use of tear gas against the protesters was reported on social media, but the CDMX government assures that they were fire extinguishers to put out the bonfires with which they protested in the Zócalo.

Caracas, Venezuela

In Caracas there was the right to speak for all people. Photo by Daniel Echeverría, 2024. Used with permission.

The March 8 protest in Caracas is one of the smallest in the region. This year, however, saw an increase with the attendance of just over a hundred protesters in Plaza Venezuela, among whom there was a beautiful diversity: non-binary identities, trans women, allied men, children, women of color, labor and rights activists humans. The slogans of the demonstration were focused on femicides (169 from January to October 2023), trans femicides, the right to free, safe and free abortion, salaries equal to the basic basket, the elimination of the tax on menstrual products, and justice for imprisoned women and the politicians and activists criminalized by the government of Nicolás Maduro.

Read more: Rocío San Miguel, Venezuelan rights activist and lawyer, detained and reported missing

The demonstration highlighted the gender violence that women and LGBTQ+ populations experience every day in Venezuela, but with a specific focus: the role of state institutions and the violence that the Venezuelan government has exercised over the last decade. The precariousness of work, the feminization of poverty in the context of the humanitarian emergency, and the increase in the Venezuelan state's persecution of female politicians or activists were at the center of the day. During the demonstration, police officers took photos of the protesters, which is illegal in Venezuela.

Lima, Peru

International Women's Day protest in Lima, Peru, 2024. Photo by Pierina Sora. Used with permission.

The march in Lima was organized in six blocks: Women and LGBTQ+ people, sex workers, women with disabilities, relatives of victims of femicide and disappearance; mothers and children; transmasculinities, transfemininities and non-binary people or gender non-conforming people; first-timers, independent activists, feminist groups and organizations; mixed organizations and groups; and citizens in general.

Although the protesters also spoke out against the president of the Republic Dina Boluarte, there was no type of repression.

Asunción, Paraguay 

Contingent of domestic workers in Asunción, Paraguay. Photo by Noelia Díaz Esquivel, 2024. Used with permission.

Five thousand Paraguayan women gathered in the Plaza Uruguaya in Asunción to defend the labor, political, social, cultural and economic rights of working women, in the midst of the dismissal of Senator Kattya González and the Chartist (movement of the ruling party ANR, led by former president Horacio Cartes) intention to repeal the law on comprehensive protection for women.

Read more: In Paraguay, complaints of family violence increased by 243% between 2015 and 2023

A discussion was held to analyze the setbacks and advances in terms of rights, which was attended by senators and deputies Esperanza Martínez and Johana Ortega. Subsequently, they marched to the Plaza de la Democracia where a group read a manifesto containing the demands of more than 20 civil organizations, which are part of the Feminist Articulation of Paraguay. Part of the document states that:

Nos encontramos en un momento crítico, donde el sistema capitalista, narco, mafioso y racista imperante en nuestro país, ataca impunemente y con fuerza a las familias de la clase trabajadora, violando nuestros derechos que fueron conquistados con nuestras luchas históricas. 

We find ourselves at a critical moment, where the capitalist, drug, mafia and racist system prevailing in our country attacks working class families with impunity and force, violating our rights that were won with our historical struggles.

Job insecurity was also questioned, the usurping of funds from retirement funds, the minimizing of femicides, the delay of maternity and breastfeeding protection laws and care policy systems. Likewise, organizations denounced the increase in cases of femicides in 2023, with 45 cases, and the girls and boys who are left orphaned.

Santiago de Chile, Chile 

International Women's Day protest in Santiago, Chile. Photo by Majo Montilla, 2024. Used with permission.

On the eve of International Women's Day and after seven years of waiting, the Chilean Congress approved the Comprehensive Law against Violence against Women. Last year alone, the country recorded 41 completed femicides and 221 attempted femicides (its highest number in the last decade). So far in 2024, 10 gender-based murders have already been recorded (two more than those perpetrated in the same period in 2023), that is, one feminicide a week. That is the context in which the Chileans went out to march last March 8.

Under the slogan “lives free of violence,” the center of Santiago was flooded with purple and green scarves and indignant faces. Forty-five thousand people according to figures of the the Chilean police; 350 thousand, according to event organizers. In a country where abortion is still criminalized, the social consensus seems to understand that it is not a celebration: International Women's Day is a day to protest and that is how it is lived.

Santiago's is a protest demonstration, a strike. Repression is expected and attendees take logistical precautions to avoid encountering radical groups at the end of the day. However, this year cultural expression took precedence as a form of protest. The repressive outbreaks were minimal and the acts of violence were isolated.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

International Women's Day protest in Buenos Aires Argentina, 2024. Photo by Amanda Cotrim. Used with permission.

Thousands of women took to the streets in Argentina to defend their rights and protest against the policies of recently elected president Javier Milei. In recent months, Milei's government eliminated the Ministry of Women and Gender Diversity; his party presented a project to overthrow the abortion law that was approved 3 years ago; recently the government banned neutral language throughout public administration.

Read more: President Javier Milei's parcel of laws to deregulate Argentina approved by the Argentine Congress

At the event, they shouted that the Green Wave (Marea Verde), the Latin American feminist movement born in Argentina to guarantee the legalization of abortion, will become a tsunami.

Guatemala

In San Benito, Petén they demanded justice for the femicide of Darcy Rodríguez and the girl Sharon Figueroa. Photo by Guadalupe Figueroa. Used with permission.

From Petén, to Ixcán, Quiché, Izabal, Quetzaltenango, Huehuetenango, Alta Verapaz and Santa Rosa, hundreds of women mobilized in their departments to commemorate March 8.

In San Benito, Petén, women, young people and girls asked the justice institutions to work on the shelved cases, mainly the femicide of Darcy Daniela Rodríguez Ibáñez and the case of Sharon Figueroa, who was kidnapped in the patio of her house and found murdered.

In Ixcán, Quiché, in the north of the country, representatives of different organizations held a meeting where they demanded an end to violence, respect for the rights of indigenous women and community decisions.

In Santa Cruz Barillas, Huehuetenango, the Aq'ab'al Women's Association facilitated a space for reflection where justice was requested for the fire at the Virgen de la Asunción Safe Home — which occurred on March 8, 2017, which left 41 charred girls and 15 with serious burns — as part of their demands.

#MemoriasDelFuego 🔥 In Barillas, they remember the fire in the Safe Home. They demand that the MP investigate to give justice to the families and girls. “When it is violence against women and girls, negotiations are made with the aggressor and that is not justice,” they say. 📹 Xhap Junior

Other Latin American cities were also filled with protesters, banners and chants. In San Juan, Puerto Rico, 50 years were celebrated since the first time the country's feminist movements took to the streets to protest for their rights on International Women's Day. This year, Puerto Rican women focused on highlighting the lack of access to sexual and reproductive health services.

Bogotá, Colombia, one of the largest marches in the region, gathered women who denounced a growing wave of femicides, sexual violence and impunity throughout the country.

In Montevideo, Uruguay, 20 feminist groups proposed a work strike for women, to highlight their role in the national economy. The slogan of the strike, under the motto “Not one right less, enough setbacks.”

“And what, and what, and what is this about, they kill us and rape us and no one does anything!”, “The police don't take care of me, only my friends take care of me!”, “Sexist government, oppressive government, is only feminist on television!”, “Girls shouldn't be touched!” were some of the messages that International Women's Day left us with, in what became one of the years with the greatest mobilization of women.

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