An Argentine court ruled Monday to acquit three men on charges of rape and femicide of 16-year-old Lucia Perez, whose death helped spark a national and Latin American movement against femicides in the region. Two of the men were sentenced to eight years in prison for drug possession, a third was absolved.
Three Mar del Plata judges acquitted Alejandro Maciel (61), Matias Farias (25), and Pablo Offidani (43) for the rape and murder of 16-year-old Lucia Perez on Oct. 8, 2016, but convicted Offidani and Farias for "possession of, and intent to sell narcotics.” The two were forced to pay US$3,475 while Maciel, charged of helping to cover up the crime, walked away free.
The case prompted massive demonstrations in Buenos Aires just after the rape and murder of Perez in Oct. 2016 and contributed to the growth of the #niunamenos (#notoneless) movement that formed the year before to demand justice for the rise of femicides in Argentina.
At the time of Perez’s murder, prosecuting lawyer Maria Isabel Sanchez, who later resigned from the case, said the young woman had been drugged, raped and killed from an "inhuman sexual assault," having never seen a victim who had suffered from "such a deviant act."
Protesters who waited outside the court cried at the decision and the victim’s mother, Marta Montero, said she felt "horrible pain" upon hearing the verdict. "They were condemned for the drugs, but not for the death of Lucia. It’s a shame," she added.
The lawyer for the Perez family, Gustavo Marceillac, who was trying to get life in prison for Farias and Offidani, and four and a half years for Maciel, said he will appeal the ruling. Local media says that while lawyer Sanchez initially said Perez was “impaled” to death, the court dismissed these claims saying that she probably died from "toxic asphyxiation," but the exact cause of death is still inconclusive.
Public defender, Guido Lorenzino, said that the ruling "normalizes violence against women."
He added: "Impunity in the face of the death or murder of a woman not only encourages new abuses but conveys the message that violence against women is acceptable or normal." The public defender said: "It seems that murder is only collateral damage to the purchase and sale of drugs. In addition to denying justice to the victim and her family, (the ruling) reinforces the prevailing gender relations and structural inequalities of domination."
At the time of Perez’s murder in October 2016, the organization Women of the Latin American Motherland reported there were already 226 femicides that year in Argentina, 19 of which took place in October alone.
Over the past two years, femicides have been increasingly brought to light by protests, legislation, and the media in Argentina, but unfortunately, the statistics remain the same. The Femicide Observatory of Argentina found that 225 women were murdered between Jan. 1 and Oct. 31, 2018. Of these, 200 were committed by former partners or relatives of the women.
Since 2015 the #niunamenos movement has spread to all of Latin America, a region with high levels of femicides.
In the framework of the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women, the United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Sunday, Nov. 25 that violence against women and girls is a “global pandemic.”