Ni Una Menos (Argentina)
Updated: Mar 10, 2021
By Vaishnavi Pallapothu
June 3, 2015 marked a revolutionary day in the herstory of Argentina’s feminist activism. Thousands of women took to the streets to protest femicide, gender-based violence and sexual violence, sparking the beginning of one of the most robust and persistent feminist movements in the country, the #NiUnaMenos movement, which translates to ‘not one less’ in English.
Origins of the movement
Fourth-wave feminists have been campaigning to put an end to the rampant violence, abuse, and threats faced by women just for simply being women and have approached their activism from an intersectional feminist lens. They have also condemned ‘machista’ (misogynist-chauvinist) culture, pushed for the professionalisation of women’s work, called to eliminate the gender wage gap and transphobia and campaigned for increased access to contraceptives and safe and legal abortions. Femicide has been a rampant social issue in Argentina for many years now. According to The Guardian, reputed NGOs in the country estimate that a woman is killed every 30 hours, in most cases by a partner or former partner, although this is likely to be a heavy underestimation due to the lack of official data.  The momentum building from increasing frustration and intolerance towards gender-based violence reached a crescendo after the murder of Chiara Paez, a pregnant 14-year-old girl who was found buried in her boyfriend’s house after being beaten to death. Ten journalists came together on Twitter to rally people from all over the country for the first nation-wide demonstrations in June 2015 under the hashtag #NiUnaMenos on social media.
Although Argentina is one among the 16 Latin American countries to have comprehensive legislation to combat gender-based violence and femicide, specifically, the laws have been virtually ineffective in neither increasing accountability for perpetrators nor reducing the number of murders.  One of the aims of the organisers of the rally was to spread awareness about the inadequate laws, measures and policies while also urging participants to demand better from their government. In the words of one of the organisers, Hinde Pomeraniec, “Budgets need to be assigned. Security forces and justice officials need to be trained in how to deal with women who wish to report violent partners. An official register of femicide cases needs to be established.” 
A sustained movement
Since the gathering of more than 200,000 people in 2015 in Buenos Aires, the Ni Una Menos movement has evolved into a much bigger feminist revolution, expanding its focus areas from beyond femicide and gender-based violence. This movement, over the last five years, has been actively paying attention to the intersecting forms of oppression, discrimination, and inequality, mobilising for a variety of issues that affect women’s lives. A truly intersectional feminist grassroots movement, Ni Una Menos has been fighting capitalist policies that prioritise profit over nature, indigenous communities, and social justice. It has denounced heteronormativity and the gender binary. It has mobilised a collective solidarity across all classes, religions, genders, sexualities, ethnicities, and races, drawing from post-coloniality and not ignoring complexity and difference.
The movement’s longstanding campaigning contributed majorly to the Argentine government’s decision to legalise early-term abortion in December 2020. Previously, the law allowed for abortions only in the cases of rape or risk to the mother’s health, but pro-choice feminists fought a long and arduous battle to legalise abortion in the first trimester with no conditionality.  From the beginning, the Ni Una Menos movement recognised gendered violence as inextricably linked to gendered structures of power. The collective consistently held the state accountable for its implicit and explicit perpetuation of oppression against women in that it refused to grant the right to safe and legal abortions despite growing calls from the public demanding them. From the individual to the state level, the movement has persistently held complicit stakeholders accountable for normalising systemic violence against women and minorities. Ultimately, it had transformed the traditionally taboo and private matters of both femicide and abortion into public and political ones and refuses to accept a society that ignores the everyday injustice against marginalised bodies.
In October 2016, Ni Una Menos organised the National Women’s Strike, also known as the Black Wednesday protest, urging protestors and demonstrators to wear black as a symbol of unity and solidarity in the pursuit of economic equality. They urged women to strike from being “productive” in all spheres of life, including the reproductive, economic, domestic, educational, and caregiving spheres, in order to highlight the indispensable and valuable role they play in society. For many in attendance, economic woes were feminist concerns as the then-new austerity and debt policies disproportionately harmed women - social service budgets were cut and the resulting debt forced women to stay in abusive relationships, be pushed into poverty or earn money through illegal or unsafe ways.  Through rapid social media mobilisation, they rallied together “those who have a formal job and those who don’t, those in cooperatives, who have precarious work, those who do care work and do not receive a salary, the unemployed, the students, the artisans, the artists, all of us.”  Ultimately, “it has managed to create a collective voice based on solidarity, without erasing differences”, bringing together women from across all classes to raise their voices against harmful neoliberal economic policies. 
The road ahead
Argentina has come a long way in terms of women’s rights. Thanks to Ni Una Menos, conversations have begun, awareness has been spread, certain laws have been changed and people have been mobilised. However, the road ahead is still bumpy and filled with hurdles. In the midst of a global pandemic and the related economic crisis, even though the abortion law came into effect in late January, the implementation has been slow. Access to abortion hasn’t improved significantly across the national health care system and there are concerns about inadequate funding brought on by the pandemic.  The organisers behind Ni Una Menos contend that the movement is more relevant and urgent now than ever as cases of domestic violence and femicide have increased multiple fold as women are stuck with their abusers during lockdowns.  Families of victims are still fighting for justice for their daughters and must wait years due to slow judicial bureaucracy, corruption and the persistence of structural violence. Ni Una Menos insists that now is not the time to pause and celebrate but to remain vigilant and determined.
Nevertheless, there is hope still. Since its inception back in 2015, the movement has now spread its roots to become a truly transnational phenomenon, with International Feminist Strikes being carried out in the region (Peru, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador) and beyond (Spain, US, Australia, Japan).  Several countries in Latin America are eager to follow in Argentina’s footsteps and join the Green Tide in legalising abortion. Ultimately, Ni Una Menos has linked struggles across the subaltern, forging solidarity through similar lived experiences and pushing open the door for feminist change.
1. H. Pomeraniec, (2015, June 8), How Argentina rose up against the murder of women, The Guardian, https://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2015/jun/08/argentina-murder-women-gender-violence-protest
2. T. Porter, (2015, June 4), Argentina: 200,000 rally against femicide and domestic violence in Buenos Aires, International Business Times, https://www.ibtimes.co.uk/argentina-200000-rally-against-femicide-domestic-violence-buenos-aires-1504391
3. J. Demsas, (2020, December 30), Argentina becomes the first large Latin American country to legalize abortion, Vox, https://www.vox.com/2020/12/30/22206189/argentina-abortion-legalization-womens-rights-ni-una-menos-pope-francis-latin-america
4. C. Nowell, (2019, June 3), Argentina’s Ni Una Menos turns focus to economic crisis, abortion, Al Jazeera, https://www.aljazeera.com/economy/2019/6/3/argentinas-ni-una-menos-turns-focus-to-economic-crisis-abortion
5. E.J. Friedman and C. Tabbush, (2016, November 1), #NiUnaMenos: Not One Woman Less, Not One More Death!, Nacla, https://nacla.org/news/2016/11/01/niunamenos-not-one-woman-less-not-one-more-death
6. A. Langlois, #NiUnaMenos: countering hegemonies in Argentina, LSE Engenderings Blog, https://blogs.lse.ac.uk/gender/2020/02/10/niunamenos-countering-hegemonies-in-argentina/
7. B. Chambers, (2021, February 2), Argentina’s implementation of abortion law still murky, Anodolu Agency, https://www.aa.com.tr/en/americas/argentina-s-implementation-of-abortion-law-still-murky/2131149
8. C. Palmeiro and V. Gago, (2021, February 23), For Argentina’s Green Tide, Legal Abortion is Just the Beginning, World Politics Review, https://www.worldpoliticsreview.com/articles/29445/a-new-type-of-politics-argentina-s-pro-choice-movement