Hundreds of thousands of women in the largest cities in Latin America gathered on the streets for International Women’s Day Sunday, anger at inequality, feminicide and strict abortion controls turning into violence sporadic.
As Women’s Day events took place around the world, women wearing purple to symbolize feminism, the Latin American marches took place against a background of wider social unrest in the region.
Police said 150,000 protesters gathered in Santiago, the capital of Chile, and another 40,000 marched elsewhere in the country. Many carried signs calling for access to abortion and an end to violence against women. Organizers said the number of protesters was much higher.
“We are a generation of women who have woken up. We are not afraid to speak up and fight,” protester Valentina Navarro, 21, told Reuters during her march to Santiago. She and a group of friends who accompanied her had green bandanas around their necks, a symbol of support for abortion rights.
Incidents of violence have been reported while demonstrators clashed with police near government offices. Nineteen police officers were injured, authorities said, and 16 people arrested in the unrest. Other Chilean cities have also witnessed protests, with 1,700 police deployed across the country to control crowds.
Wider protests in Chile against social inequality started last October and peaked at more than a million people.
In the Mexican capital, police and protest groups said up to 80,000 people gathered, including young girls and women in wheelchairs, for a march in which they hoisted signs and shouted. screams against the femicides, which have more than doubled in the past five years.
Miriam Hernandez, 42, a preschool teacher in the State of Mexico, wiped tears as she watched thousands of people fill Mexico’s largest public square, remembering the recent morning when she was almost kidnapped then that she was walking to work.
“I fought and fought, then I ran,” she said. “I want more security, I want my daughters and I to always leave the house and know that we are going home.”
Groups of women clashed outside Mexico City’s main cathedral with male anti-abortion protesters, some with shaved heads and making Nazi greetings. Activists threw Molotov cocktails at the gates of the National Palace.
Outside another historic building, demonstrators in black masks demolished a metal barricade erected to protect a monument, then doused the imposing statue with pink and purple paint. Elsewhere, demonstrators overturned a vehicle and sprayed it with graffiti.
Some women said that they felt compelled to attend their first march to make the voices of the killed women heard and because they felt the government did not understand the seriousness of the problem.
“The situation has gotten out of hand … we have to walk for those who can no longer,” said Daniela Molinero, 29, owner of a jewelry store wearing a purple bandana and eyeliner.
In Sao Paulo, Brazil, about 1,000 women surrendered, police estimated, along with numerous protesters, right-wing president Jair Bolsonaro, who was criticized for comments he made about two women reporters.
Protesters also targeted violence against women in Brazil, where four women were killed every day in 2019, according to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
Many walkers in Colombia’s capital Bogota carried signs in support of safe and free abortion services. The country’s Constitutional Court this month maintained limits that limit abortion to cases of sexual assault, fetal malformation or risks to maternal health.
Women’s Day in Argentina lands just over three months after the start of the new administration, which has announced plans to create a minister for women and support a new effort to legalize abortion after failed attempts previous to the Congress.
On Monday, Women inBuenosAires had planned work stoppages to support equal pay and legislation to tackle violence against women and reduce barriers to abortion.