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Behind the Song That Gave the Feminist Movement a Voice in Latin America

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“Patriarchy is a judge who judges us for being born. And our punishment is the violence you see,” hundreds of women sang during protests in Santiago de Chile on the Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women on November 25.

“And it wasn’t my fault, nor where I was or how I dressed,” the women chanted. “The rapist was you.”

Thousands of Chilean women have made these lyrics their anthem. Dressed in black, mostly blindfolded and with a red or green scarf around their neck, these ​​women sing the song, titled “A Rapist in Your Path”, to reject gender violence in their country and ask for justice for the fallen victims. According to data from the Chilean Ministry of Women and Gender Equality, 41 femicides have been recorded this year, and only 8% of them have been prosecuted. The women of Chile who have since filled out stadiums with their chants.

The authors of the song, Chilean feminist collective LasTesis, initially intended for the song to be a small part of a bigger artistic event about rape that included performance art and a play. However, they decided to release the performance early after complaints of police abuse of women emerged during a crackdown on recent social protests in Chile.

“Guilt, grief, humiliation and moral shame must be felt by abusers and not by women whose bodies have been violated,” LasTesis said in a statement for the newspaper El País. “We are proud to realize how quickly we can organize between women and dissidents. LasTesis was only the starting point, or maybe even the excuse for releasing great contained emotion.” 

The objective of the LasTesis was to take feminist authors’ theses and translate them into a performance format in order to reach multiple audiences.

“Basically, within the investigation we conducted and seeing figures, we saw that in general the of cases of rape in Chile only 8% end with some type of condemnation, so there is clearly something systemically wrong where the public policies are not working,” Sibila Sotomayor, a member and co-founder of LAsTesis, told the Chilean newspaper Interferencia. “That is why we point the finger to different institutions that are part of this, including the media that time and time again blame the victim, saying that somehow, she deserved it, she looked for it because she was dressed in such a way, because she was drunk or because she had ‘psychological problems.’”

According to data from the Gender Equality Observatory of Latin America and the Caribbean (OIG) at least 3,529 women were murdered in 2018 for gender reasons in 25 countries of America Latin and the Caribbean. What’s more, the United Nations reports that, although the actual data could be much higher, at least 3529 women were killed in 2018 for gender reasons in 25 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

“A Rapist in Your Path” is now being replicated by women in different cities around the world. Hundreds of women have sung along to the lyrics in the streets of Paris, London, Barcelona, ​​New York, Mexico City, Brussels, Buenos Aires, Istanbul, Berlin, Madrid, Caracas and Bogotá, and even India, where demonstrators sang the song as they took to the streets to protest the death of a rape victim who died after being set alight by gang of men—including her alleged rapist—while she was on her way to court.

However, the popularity of the song has riled some critics. Many protestors have been targets of humiliation and ridicule. Dozens of spoof versions of the song have popped up online, with internet trolls changing the images of women for other people, or changing the lyrics into misogynistic messages. Nevertheless, LasTesis assure the haters that they will not be intimidated. 

“To people who wish us rape and death, among other things, we want to say that we are not afraid of them,” the group said to El País. “We are now thousands.”

The anthem has already been translated to French, English and Turkish by protesters seeking equality and justice for women and girls. 

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Alexandra Tirado Oropeza is a Venezuelan journalist covering politics, immigration, entertainment and social justice. She moved to the U.S. in 2014 to pursue a Writing degree at The University of Tampa, and after graduating, she moved to Los Angeles where she works in broadcast and as a freelance writer. She’s passionate about equality, freedom of speech, art and dogs.