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News > Chile

Chilean Mothers Perform Feminist Dance Act to Protest “Historic Abuse”

  • The emotion was palpable in the first few rows of the performance – consisting of the eldest women – when they shouted the punchline “the rapist is you” in unison.

    The emotion was palpable in the first few rows of the performance – consisting of the eldest women – when they shouted the punchline “the rapist is you” in unison. | Photo: EFE

Published 6 December 2019

The choreographed dance begins with a simple side-to-side movement, amid silence, while the participants mark the rhythm with their heels.

About ten thousands of Chilean senior women took part Wednesday in the “Un violador en tu camino” campaign (“A rapist in your way”), a made-in-Chile dance routine that has spread worldwide as a powerful tool of protest against “historic abuse suffered by women in a patriarchal system.”

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Organized by the women’s group “Las Tesis Senior” at the gates of the National Stadium – located in Santiago’s eastern Nunoa district – the demonstrators arrived from all areas of the capital dressed in black and wearing a red handkerchief and a blindfold.

The choreography went viral on Nov. 25 after a group of women with black blindfolds over their eyes performed the dance in front of the Santiago’s Palacio de La Moneda, the seat of the country’s president, to mark the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women.

Since then, the routine composed by the inter-disciplinary women’s group Las Tesis – originally a group of elderly from the coastal city of Valparaiso – has been performed in cities across the world, including London, Paris, Barcelona, Santo Domingo, Mexico City, Bogota and New York.

Marcela Betancourt Saez, the driving force behind Wednesday’s event, told EFE that she and her friends decided to hold a performance led by women above the ago of 40, but had not expected such a massive turnout.

“I believe that there is a need for women, especially of the earlier generations, to denounce the abuses that we have suffered throughout history in a patriarchal and misogynist world,” she said.

Watching from a distance, 68-year-old Julia said she admired those heading the feminist movement.

“I envy their courage to say what they think, something which I couldn’t do during my youth under the dictatorship of (Augusto) Pinochet (1973-1990), when we had to live segregated and oppressed lives,” she said.

“I thought I would never see something like this, that my struggle had ended with the end of the dictatorship. But now I see that the country has waken up and women are always going to be at the forefront,” a visibly emotional Julia added.

“Patriarchy is a judge that judges us for being born and our punishment is the violence that you don’t see,” says the first verse, a sentiment echoed by Magdalena Contreras, aged 49.

“I was raped at an early age, and my sister as well. Today, I have come here for her, for my daughter, my mother, for all women,” she said, proclaiming that women would “never be trampled over again,” because they are “more empowered than ever.”

By her side, her best friend, 72-year-old Marta Vazquez, acknowledged that she had come to show support and had never seen anything like the ongoing social upheaval in Chile, which began seven weeks ago and constitute the most important protests that have taken place in the country since the return to democracy in 1990.

“And it was not my fault, nor where I was, nor how I was dressed,” continue the lyrics of the song, which describes the “oppressive State” as a “male rapist” and says “the rapist is you, they are the police officers, the judges, the State, the president.”

For Valentina Julia, who attended the protest along with her mother and performed in the first row, the lyrics are “a powerful message being sent to the world from Chile.”

With her baby in her arms, Valentina said she was going to show him the videos of the performance when he was older, because “it’s important to educate our sons and daughters” about gender inequality and sex-related issues.

The socio-political crisis in Chile has already left at least 23 people dead and thousands injured, in addition to serious accusations against the army and the Carabineros (the Chilean national police force) of human rights violations, many of them related to sexual offenses.

The issue of sexual violence has also been raised in the protests that have shaken the country since Oct. 18, when people revolted against a hike in metro fares, with the movement later morphing into general discontent at the government of President Sebastian Piñera and an economic structure that promotes high levels of economic inequality.

The country’s National Human Rights Institute, an independent public body, has filed four complaints of rape against security forces and 75 complaints for orders to undress, threats and inappropriate touching.

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