Video of woman’s attack stirs femicide debate in Peru

Screen grab from a video filmed by Anahi Aguilar on October 8 in Miraflores, a district of Lima.
Screen grab from a video filmed by Anahi Aguilar on October 8 in Miraflores, a district of Lima.

A video posted on Facebook on October 8 shows a woman being dragged on a sidewalk, then up the stairs of a building in an upscale neighbourhood of the Peruvian capital, Lima. This video was widely shared in Peru and sparked a vivid debate on the laws meant to protect women from violence, which many critics argue are insufficient.

This video was filmed and shared on Facebook by a woman named Anahi Aguilar, who accused the social media site of later taking down the video. But before it disappeared from her profile, it was copied and shared widely both on social media and by Peruvian media outlets.

In the video, a man is seen dragging a young woman, who is screaming and on the ground, by her arm. The man then forces her into a building -- the same building from which Aguilar is filming. Camera still on, Aguilar hurries down the stairs and starts yelling at the man: “What are you doing?”

Screengrab from the video.

According to Peruvian media outlets, the video’s author then helped the victim get to a police station where she pressed charges against her attacker, whom she knew; he was her partner. The man was then arrested.

'Threatened with a knife'

The young woman in the video told local media that her partner had threatened her with a knife and yelled that he was going to kill her. She said he forced her to give him the code to her mobile phone and that she then managed to run away, but that he caught up with her and started dragging her on the sidewalk.

In a Facebook post, the attacker’s sister said she felt ashamed by what her brother had done. She said that he was a drug user and that their family had tried to get him to stop, but that he refused their help. She nonetheless added that “nothing can justify the actions of [her brother] ­  neither his emotional problems nor the drugs".

Rare images

This video was very widely shared for two reasons. First, the attack took place in Miraflores, an upscale district of Lima, which surprised many Peruvians. Secondly, in an interview with BBC Mundo, journalist Paola Agaz explained that it is very rare for such scenes to be caught on camera and for victims to press charges. Agaz frequently writes about women’s rights, including the movement Ni Una Menos (“Not one more”), a movement in several Latin American countries that seeks to denounce violence against women.

Insufficient laws

In reaction to this video, many Peruvians asked for tougher laws on violence against women:

“How long will the authorities do nothing? How many women will become victims before the authorities change the laws, which clearly do not protect us?”

“It’s unfortunate, but until exemplary sanctions are taken against these [perpetrators], they will be ever more numerous and it will never end. This disgusting machismo lives on in Peru, where values are being lost and where the laws are lenient with abusers.”

In this case, the attacker, who was charged with attempted femicide, was detained for 48 hours, which is the maximum amount of time for this type of accusation. This is insufficient, according to Ana María Choquehuanca, the Minister for Women and Vulnerable Populations. She called for laws to be reinforced, and pledged to bring this matter up in parliament.

On October 10, a judge ordered that the attacker be temporarily detained in jail for nine months. Criminal proceedings have been brought against him.

Femicide was added to the Peruvian penal code in 2013. It is punishable by a minimum of 15 years in prison.

238 femicides and attempted femicides between January and August 2017

This attack is far from being an isolated incident. According to the Ministry of Women and Vulnerable Populations, 82 femicides and 156 attempted femicides were reported between January and August of this year.

These figures have stayed stable for the past few years, despite the emergence of the Ni Una Menas movement. The movement has called for a massive protest on November 25.

As in many other countries, victims in Peru are often blamed in situations like this one. For example, on October 11, the president of the parliamentary committee on women and families, Maritza Garcia, said: “Why do femicides occur? […] Women […] give men the opportunity to commit these types of acts.” Her words were criticised by many Peruvians, including the victim in the video.