OnAugust 13th,some ofmygirlfriendsand mejoinedthe marchorganized to protestviolenceagainstwomen in Peru. Originally weweresupposed to be just fourfriends, but inourway to thegatheringpoint wecame across other friends(friends from work, fromourneighbourhoods, even from past jobs), and together we made a groupof 11 women.
We joined the biggest march ever to happenin my country. The taxi driverssaidto usthat theyhad never seenso many peopleon the streets for asinglecause, and journalistscoveredthe event in 4 or5 differentTV channels.
It was around 3:30 pm when we were ready tostartmarching, but wecouldn’tmove:there weresomanypeople that,in fact, thepersonsleadingthe march were already walkingabout4 kilometresahead of us, and we (the 11 friends)couldn’t move because we hadto wait for the people in front of us move as well: the number of people was so vast that it seemed as though no one was moving.
There werewomen and also men,fathers with his boys and girls on arms, motherswith their babieson their backs or inbaby strollers, there weregroups of sportswomenandfemaledrummers.
We made a single voice with the peoplearound us and startedyelling:
“No isNO, I saidNOto you, what partof ityou didn’tget?Was it the‘N’orwas itthe‘O’?”
And we yelledthis motto over and over again, and with every iteration the message reverberated with increasing intensity among the crowd. I saw mothers with her little girls(around 5 or maybe 7 yearsold),and they were teaching their girls how to yell and how to cheerother womenup. I sawa little boy carrying a banner with the message:“My mother didn’t raise a male chauvinist!”embellished with Pokémon pictures init.
In that momentI really regrettednot havingtakenmy baby boy with me,so thathe could see the power of people protesting and claiming for justice, for equal rights and fora stop to violence.
Maybe one of the most significantmomentswas when I sawa group of women who cameto Lima all the wayfrom thePeruvianhighlandsdressedwith their typicalattire(pollerasand ponchos). Suddenlyit dawned on me thatthey were the victims of theforcedsterilisation of womeninflicted by the government duringthe 90supon an approximateof 300thousandwomen,who underwenttubal ligation surgerywithout their consent andin the most terriblesanitaryconditions(sleepingoff the anaesthesiaaftertheprocedurelaying ondirty blanketsspread on the floor, with theirnew-bornsintheirarms). Thesebrave women werealsopresent in this march, and they walkedin silence, andfrom time to timeone of themblew a kind of “horn” that we callPututu.Every timethe hornwas blown, I got goose bumps all over myskinandmy heart was overwhelmed:I wantedto get close to them,give them abighugand tell themthat I’mreallysorry… I don’t know whyIwantedto say that to them, butit’s a sincere feeling that comes fromone woman to another.
I was standingwith a friendlooking at those brave and wonderful women, and when I finished recording alittle video with mycell phone,I turnedto herand saw her smiling atme.
Ijustmanaged to say:“I got the video”, butat the same time, my heart sank when I realised that I haven’tgotin meeven an ounceof the strength that those women showedin their silent walk. I really appreciated that my friend wastherewith me,becauseotherwiseIwould have probablystartedcrying,rememberinghow many times I didn’tfight for my rights becauseI letfearget the best of me, remembering all those timesIallowedsomeonecall me “silly” or “stupid”, remembering the times I failed to speak up whenever someonetook my work and successas his/hers.
This march wasorganisedto call the attention ofthePeruviangovernmentand the judiciary system, particularly regardingtwo cases:
The “Arlette” case:a womanwho was chased, beaten and dragged all over the floor of a hotel lobby while being pulled by the hair, by her ex-boyfriend. He showed no shame at all even though hewas in front of the security cameras and the staff of the hotel.The judges’verdict was:it wasn’t attempted rape, the injuries sustained by the plaintiff were minor, and it should be taken into consideration that the defendant was under the influence of alcohol (“and everyone can get a little bit aggressive when drunk, right?”). And so, he was released.
The “Lady” case:a young womanwho was beaten by her boyfriend. Hepunched her in the face repeatedly, bit down her eyebrows and crashed her head against the walls time and again. Lady claims she thought she was going to die.Four yearslater,the judges’verdict:thereleasingofLady’s aggressor, condemning him to “4 years of suspended prison”, which means that he will not be imprisoned at all unless he incurs in an act against the law again.
Allin all, the march was organised to protest every singlecase of violence against womenthatdidn’t get justice,all those cases whichwereignoredbythe police,and all those instances in whichwomenlost their lives bythe hands of their abusers. Women are here and now, and we are notdumb, we know about our rightsAND WE WANT JUSTICE!
“What do we want???”…”JUSTICE!”…“Andwhendo we wantit???”… “NOW!”…wasanotheroneofthe most common choruses uttered during the march.
This march wasapowerfulevent, andit arose out of somany powerful reasons;but for me,in a personal way, helps meremember me that I am not alone:I am surroundedbyother women whoalsowant justice for them, for their childrenand for their friends, andabove all,that Ishouldnever ever let anyoneinflictanykind ofdamageuponme.
After all,if some women can walk insilence and inspire such awe and sense of empowerment,who can tell thekind of powerthat us –women whocan write, talk and scream– would be able to wield and harness?