On Monday November 26, the day after the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the Criminal Court in Mar del Plata, Argentina ruled that the Matías Farías, 25 years old, and Juan Pablo Offidani, 43 years old, accused of raping, torturing and murdering 16 year-old Lucía Perez in October 2016, were not guilty of femicide nor of sexual abuse. The court convicted them for selling drugs to a minor (Lucia). Alejandro Maciel who was accused of tampering with evidence was completely absolved.
The acquittal of the men for the femicide of Lucía Perez was a shock to feminists and activists across Argentina. Last week on December 5, tens of thousands took the streets in Argentina to reject the ruling and the impunity of the patriarchal justice system. Mobilizations were held in Buenos Aires, La Plata, Córdoba, Mar del Plata, Misiones, Tucumán, Rosario, Reconquista, San Jorge, Mendoza, San Luis and Corrientes.
One of the critiques of the legal process is that much of the case focused on the personal life of Lucía Perez rather than those that abused and killed her. The judges concluded that “From the chats analyzed, it clearly emerges that her [Lucía’s] experiences completely alienate the possibility that she would have been subjected without her will”, they added. “She was absent from school for more than 20 days because she had been consuming drugs, she had relations with all of those who enjoyed them”.
About the age difference and the clear abuse of power they said: “Lucía was 16 years old and Farías 23, so it would be very forced to talk about a situation of inequality or superiority, especially keeping in mind the personality of Lucía who did not act like a girl of her age and also had mentioned having relations with men of up to 29 years old”.
The decision shocked the family of Lucía. Her mother who has been on the front-lines in the struggle for justice for her teenage daughter said after the ruling “They didn’t rape her, they didn’t kill her, they didn’t give her anything. And my daughter’s death, was it a gift?” She said the sentence is like “killing Lucía again”
Two years ago in October when the men brought Lucía Perez dead to the hospital in Mar del Plata, the doctors reported that her body had been washed and she was dressed before being brought in, in order to cover-up the abuse. When the doctors did a forensic analysis they discovered that she was drugged, raped repeatedly, and impaled, which eventually lead to her death.
The incident shook the country and the feminist movement #NotOneLess (#NiUnaMenos), a grassroot movement against gender violence, along with the other social and political movements in Argentina organized the first women’s mass strike. Thousands of women and gender diverse or non-conforming people stopped work and held a mass mobilization on October 19, 2016. Actions were also held in other Latin American countries like Chile, Peru, Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico and Brazil.
In Argentina between January and October 2018, 255 women and girls were abused and killed, i.e. one in every 32 hours. The Femicide Observatory coordinated by Mujeres de la Matria Latinoamericana denounced that between November 22 and December 2, thirteen femicides occurred in Argentina. Of those, 46% of the victims were killed by their partner, 23% by their ex-partner, 8% by a family member and 8% by someone they knew. While 23% of the assailants pertain to some security force. Despite the enormous strides made by the feminist movement in Argentina, violence against women, lesbians, trans and travestis is still extremely prevalent, and those who commit this violence often enjoy complete impunity.
Lucía’s family and their lawyers plan to appeal the decision which acquitted the two men who raped, tortured and killed Lucía and absolved Alejandro Maciel who was accused of aggravated cover-up.