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By Lucía Baigorrí Haüen

Ten years ago, terms such as “femicide” and “gender violence” were not part of Argentine mainstream media and were definitely not featured in everyday discourse. Now, in a time when reality is pervasively mediated by virtual experiences on social media, channels for denouncement, protest, and discussion are open to practically everyone. On the one hand, this allows for the advancement of people’s education on issues such as identity, gender equality, and the many facets of violence.

Additionally, alternative media and online platforms have contributed to exposing the horrifying actuality of human trafficking, forced labor, and sexual exploitation in Argentina. On the other hand, my perception is that the general public is becoming more and more desensitized to these realities. Overexposure to pieces of news that are posted, liked, shared, and retweeted (and more often than not, modified in the process) results in audiences being only mildly shocked when learning that another teenager has gone missing, or that two young children have died following a fire in a clandestine textile workshop. Apart from the naturalization of violence and oppression, what I find to be deeply troubling is the confirmation that some tragedies seem to deserve less attention and public outcry than others. Diana Sacayán’s death is one of such tragedies.

Diana was a locally and internationally prominent LGBT activist, better known for being part of the first group of people who was issued a Documento Nacional de Identidad (I.D.) that recognized their gender identity. This was possible thanks to the Gender Identity Law, a groundbreaking body of legislation that was passed in 2012 and allows individuals to change their names and gender identities without having to seek approval from a judge or doctor. However progressive the law may be, it is far from having pushed towards significant reform in general attitudes towards transgender people’s rights. Ms. Sacayán was found dead and brutally wounded in her Buenos Aires apartment on October 13th. The investigation that ensued indicates that she was murdered over the weekend and evidence suggests that this was a hate crime.

As noted by the article,”Prominent Activist Becomes Third Trans Woman Recently Murdered in Argentina,” Diana’s murder follows the trend reported by the European Trans Murder Monitoring Project, which estimates that more than half of the murders of trans people reported since 2008 have taken place in Latin America. At the local level, Diana’s killing was one more on the list of femicides to have taken place in less than a month. The weekend before her body was found, she was supposed to join the 30th National Women’s Meeting. This three-day long symposium meets annually and offers attendees the opportunity to participate in talks and workshops that open up conversations and offer training on women and workers’ rights and reproductive health, among others. This year’s meeting was especially charged due to the recent upsurge in gender violence incidents. Diana’s unexpected absence was perceived as strange by her close friends and her passing has fueled the demands for concrete policies that address the issue.

Being away from home, I cannot really evaluate the repercussions this tragedy had on Argentineans at large. In terms of media coverage, I was able to find articles written both in Spanish and in English, released by mainstream online publications, but mostly statements made by LGBT organizations. Far from ideal, I have found Facebook to be my best barometer. Sadly, out of my 100+ Facebook “friends,” only a couple posted something in relation to Diana’s murder. Yes, I understand that I should not take online social media at face value, but the impact of this loss has been considerably weaker and fragmented.

Is this exceptional? I do not think so. Apart from a having a history of crimes committed against women and, generally speaking, people in a socially vulnerable position, the reporting of those events is disproportionately biased. The cases of Melina Romero y Lola Chomnalez, two teenagers who lost their lives between 2014 and 2015 are exemplary in that, particularities aside, the discourse implied that Melina’s death was more likely to happen than the other. In this editorial decision-making process, the economic status, cultural background, and social expectations of each of the victims was key. Some victims are re-victimized after death, what happened to them was to be expected.

The article I selected concludes with a quote by Mariela Belski: “Unless this latest wave of murders is effectively investigated and those responsible taken to justice, a message will be sent that attacking trans women is actually OK.” Some of the strongest statements usually present in signs and banners carried by demonstrators in marches is that those who engage in gender-based violence are not sick people, but “healthy sons of patriarchy” (hijos sanos del patriarcado). Unless renewed efforts are devoted to educating present and future generations of people (not just men) in the way we relate to one another, healthy offspring will continue to either exercise violence or stand by it, unmoved.

/!\Please note: the statement made in these articles do not reflect the view of Willamette University or the countries of the respective contributors./!\

If you’d like to read more from Lucia, check out her Spanish blog!

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