Chilean President Sebastián Piñera, during the enactment of Gabriela Law that expands the legal framework to address femicide, made misogynist, patriarchal and sexist remarks, evoking strong condemnation. “Sometimes it is not just men’s desire to abuse, but also the women’s position to be abused,” said Piñera, putting equal responsibility on the abuser and the victim.
“We need to punish the abuser, and we also need to tell the person abused that they cannot allow this to happen and that the whole of society will help and support them in denouncing these events and ensuring they don’t happen again,” added Piñera, trying to give clarification for his controversial statement.
Piñera has been fiercely criticized by women’s rights organizations and feminist movements for his lack of empathy and tacit normalization of machista aggression in the society. Several social and political leaders as well as opposition deputies also rejected his statements, describing them as “unacceptable” and “justifying machista violence.”
Feminist Coordinator 8M slammed the president through their Instagram account. “He blatantly tells us that women have the will to be abused. He, who believes that sexual abuse is a joke to make his business friends laugh, tells us that we want to be raped. The fault is not and has never been ours. The fault lies with those who abuse and rape us, and with the institutional framework that protects them. It is the State, the judges, the police and the president,” posted the collective. In the same post, the Coordinator manifested their will to strengthen their measure of protest against the government on March 8, on the occasion of the International Women’s Day. “Our will is clear: Piñera has to face the Feminist General Strike (this March 8 & 9), in which we will go to the front line against State terrorism and against this criminal and misogynist government,” wrote the movement.
The spokesperson of the Powerful Feminist Front, Estefanía Campos Figueroa, also rejected the president’s statement and said that “it is a slap in the face of women across the country. He is unable to understand the levels of violence we are exposed to everyday.” “President Piñera once again expresses his disinterest in raising concrete public policies against violence against women. For this reason, we will mobilize with greater strength this March 8 in the feminist march,” she added.
The Gabriela Law (Ley Gabriela), officially enacted on March 2, is named after Gabriela Alcaíno, a 17-year-old girl, who was murdered by her ex-boyfriend, Fabián Cáceres on June 12, 2018. According to the police investigation, Fabián broke into Gabriela’s house and first stabbed her mother, Carolina Donoso, and then killed Gabriela. Her murder was not tried as a femicide by the legislation that governed in 2018, because the abuser and his victim did not live under the same roof. Gabriela’s case served as a catalyst to demand the necessary change in the legislature to guarantee complete justice to all victims of gender-based violence.
The new law doesn’t any more concern only married couples or those living together but also penalizes the murder of non-married partners, such as during a love relationship, a sexual relationship, a courtship or by an ex-partner, as well as the murder of women who practice prostitution. It defines crimes against women as anything that represents a manifestation of hatred, contempt or abuse because of gender, and covers physical, sexual, economic, institutional, political and workplace violence. It sets sentences for femicide from 15 years to life.
Gabriela’s father, Fabián Alcaíno, also criticized Piñera’s statements and said “these are rather unfortunate words, because it is like not listening and understanding that the fault here is not of the woman.” “Unfortunately, these types of men, who abuse, are a super lethal combination of intelligence and ability to shroud and weaken a woman, but the fault can never be of the woman in these cases,” he added.
The president’s sexist comments have once again highlighted the practice of the same patriarchal culture by his military and police forces witnessed during the past four and a half months of social uprising, which began on October 18 against his neoliberal government. The Chilean State has been denounced nationally and internationally for illegal kidnapping, torture, and sexual abuse against women.
According to the National Institute of Human Rights (INDH) in Chile, between October 17 & February 18, over 197 women were sexually harassed by police and military personnel. The reports released by the INDH revealed that women detained during the anti-government protests were forcibly undressed and forced to stand in the squat position. Several also denounced that security personnel touched them with their weapons and simulated penetration with their firearms.
Following such abuses, in November 2019, Las Tesis, a Chilean feminist movement, made a feminist song called “A rapist in your path”, also known as “the rapist is you”, to protest against the abuse suffered by women in a patriarchal system in Latin America, particularly in Chile. The song spread worldwide and was heard in protests in Argentina, Colombia, Mexico, Spain, France, UK and Turkey.
During all these months of popular insurrection in the country, the participation of women and feminist organizations has been of vital importance in maintaining the mobilizations and the social movement demanding a new and inclusive constitution. This month, with the resumption of protests against the neoliberal and patriarchal government, women’s organizations and feminist movements have also gave calls for mobilizations throughout the country. They will be the main protagonists of the series of anti-Piñera demonstrations all during the month.