The "Ni Una Menos" campaign. Reframing femicide in the quest for the socialisation of norms

Term Paper 2016 16 Pages

Politics - International Politics - Topic: Public International Law and Human Rights




Definition of femicide, legal framework and context

Framing the Movement

Campaign tactics




The Ni Una Menos campaign was sparked by the murder of 14-year-old Chiara Paez in 2015. Chiara’s death was at the time the latest in a series of widely publicised murders in Argentina that had young women as victims and their partners or close male relatives as the perpetrators. Her murder dominated media coverage for weeks and it generated a widespread reaction on social media (Pomeraniec, 2015).

The seed was a tweet in which Marcela Ojeda, a radio journalist, challenged women across the country with a phrase that is already historic: “They are killing us: Aren’t we going to do anything?”

Some of us decided to do something. We protested, rallying around the slogan and hashtag #NiUnaMenos (“NotOneLess”, meaning we must not lose one more woman to violence).

(…) A group of female journalists, intellectuals and activists [came] (...) together, explaining to others why we needed to march. We underlined that Argentina has comprehensive anti-gender violence legislation, but the law has not been fully implemented (Pomeraniec 2015).

This is the uniqueness of Ni Una Menos as a human rights campaign: it came into being organically on social media, it grew out of the coordinated efforts of journalists, intellectuals and activists, it defined a narrow focus and specific calls to action but it has not developed an institutional structure in spite of having spilled over to other countries in the region and continuing to have a high media and political profile.

This essay considers Ni Una Menos within the framework developed by Keck and Sikkink in their 1999 UNESCO article Transnational Advocacy Networks in international and regional politics. The authors posit that an advocacy network is a group of civil society, state and international actors working together on an issue, bound by shared values, a common discourse and exchanges of resources, particularly information. Advocacy networks are ‘most prevalent in issue areas characterized by high value content and informational uncertainty’ (Keck and Sikkink, 1999: 89).

Ni Una Menos defines itself as a movement of journalists, artists, experts, schools, political parties, trade unions and domestic NGOs working to end machista violence and femicide (Ni Una Menos Online, N.D). The movement is unified by the hashtag #niunamenos and the framing of gender violence within human rights. Gender-based violence and femicide constitute high value issues; they encompass equality, agency, bodily harm and are characterised by widespread informational uncertainty. Members of the movement make use of information generated and published by other members— the same statistics and testimonies are widely quoted by different actors, but there is no evidence of intentional exchange of information. Ni Una Menos has sparked sister movements in several countries in the region but there is no evidence that a 'transnational advocacy network' as defined by Keck and Sikkink (1999: 89) is forming as of the time of writing. Consequently, this campaign does not seem to comfortably fit the authors’ definition of an advocacy network. However, this framework is useful for bringing intellectual order to what may look like a series spontaneous interventions around an issue by providing analytical tools to understand Ni Una Menos' break from traditional framing strategies of human rights issues in Argentina and allowing the systematic exploration of the campaign's tactics.

Definition of femicide, legal framework and context

In her 2012 report to the UN Human Rights Council on Violence against women, its causes and consequences, the Special Rapporteur Rashida Manjoo defines femicide: the term was first defined as the murders of women perpetrated by men motivated by hatred, contempt or pleasure; it was later expanded to include killings that are motivated by socially constructed ideas of men’s superiority over women as manifested in a sense of ownership and sadistic desires towards women (Human Rights Council, 2012: 6).

Small Arms Survey found that between 2004 and 2009 'more than half of the 25 countries with high and very high femicide rates (at least 3 femicides per 100,000 female population) are in [Latin America]’ (Small Arms Survey, 2012: 1). There are no official statistics in Argentina but there are clear indicators that gender-based violence is a serious issue. The Observatorio de Femicidios “Adriana Marisel Zambrano”, a femicide monitoring body established by the NGO La Casa del Encuentro - one of the foremost NGOs working on Women’s rights in Argentina, carried out a review of media coverage of femicide cases and calculated that between 2008 and 2014 there was a 33% increase in gender-related killings in the country (Centro de Estudios Legales y Sociales (CELS), 2016: 240). Although it is impossible to know whether this is the product of increased reporting or if it is indeed an increase in crimes committed; it is estimated that there is 1 femicide every 30 hours in Argentina (Pomeraniec, 2015).

Historically, femicides have been considered ‘crimes of passion’ in Argentina. In her essay Passion, Perversity, and the Pace of Justice in Argentina at the Turn of the Last Century, K. Ruggiero describes crimes of passion in the Argentinian Penal Code of 1886. The Code excluded or diminished responsibility for crimes committed in a state of passion. The underlying principle was that a person under the influence of strong passion (rage, jealousy or other states of extreme emotion) had a reduced cognitive capacity and therefore less control over their behaviour (Ruggiero, 2001: 213).

Adultery was the classic crime of passion; 'victimized spouses (…) [were considered] justified in an act of violence against the offending spouse and/or consort because of the ‘‘just pain’’ they had suffered' (Ruggiero, 2001: 216). The concept of 'just pain’ was frequently associated in court with the wounding of a husband's honour by an adulterous wife. Women had less access to the legal concept of passion even if it was accepted that they could be equally affected by it:

it was commonly accepted that a husband’s adultery was less serious than a wife’s, and thus her passion was less justified. (...) Whereas a husband’s passionate response to a situation of anger, jealousy, and just pain was readily understood and taken pretty much at face value, a wife’s passionate response was judged as a medical condition [usually hysteria] (Ruggiero, 2001: 216-217).

The Penal Code has been modified since then and it now contains specific articles criminalising the homicide of women based on gender discrimination. However, the fact that Article 81 still assigns reduced criminal responsibility due to the influence of 'violent emotions' (Infoleg Online, N.D) constitutes evidence of a pervasive cultural characteristic. This is evinced in media coverage of gender-based violence: The media often refers to jealousy (…) uncritically justifying the actions of the perpetrator of the crime, or including expressions like (…) “crime of passion” (Toledo and Lagos, 2014: 4).

A review of the laws in force in Argentina reveals a comprehensive legal framework relating to gender-based violence and femicide.[1] Argentina has ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) (1985), its Optional Protocol (2006) and the Inter-American Convention on the Prevention, Punishment and Eradication of Violence Against Women ‘Convention of Belem do Para’ (2006). CEDAW was incorporated into the Argentinian Constitution as an international treaty with constitutional status during the reform of 1994 (Infoleg Online, N.D). The domestic legal framework is a mosaic of federal laws that cover areas such as sexual harassment and human trafficking. The most important domestic law is Law 26.485 (sanctioned in 2009) which provides comprehensive protection to women from violence and incorporates the provisions of the relevant international human rights treaties.

In addition, there exist several government organisms with a gender-related mandate such as the Congressional Commission on Women (‘Banca de la Mujer’), the Domestic Violence Office (‘Oficina de Violencia Domestica - OVD) of the Supreme Court of Justice and the National Council of Women (‘Consejo Nacional de las Mujeres’) created in its most recent form by Law 26.485 as the primary gender-oriented government agency. It sits under the Executive branch. However, pervasive machista views on women and the influence of the Catholic church on social perceptions of the role of women in society create an environment where women are still objectified and seen as subordinate to men (CELS), 2016: 239-242).

The disconnect between the comprehensive legal framework and social perceptions of women indicates that Argentina has not yet fully integrated gender-related human rights norms domestically. Following the 'Spiral Model' developed by Risse-Kappen, Ropp and Sikkink in their book The Power of Human Rights: International Norms and Domestic Change (1999), I argue that Argentina is on phase 4 out of 5 in the ‘socialization of norms’ defined as 'the process by which principled ideas held by individuals become norms [understood as] collective understandings about appropriate behaviour' (Risse-Kappen, Ropp and Sikkink, 1999: 8). In this phase, the validity of the norms is no longer contested and both state and civil society actors often refer to them when describing and commenting on their own and others' behaviour; even when their behaviour may still be inconsistent with the norms (Risse-Kappen, Ropp and Sikkink, 1999: 29). The table below lists the key indicators of this phase (Risse-Kappen, Ropp and Sikkink, 1999: 29) and links them to Argentina:

Abbildung in dieser Leseprobe nicht enthalten

Discourse, argumentation and persuasion are key tools for advancing the socialisation of norms during this phase because they raise awareness and increase the pressure for the State to move into the 'consistent behaviour' phase (Risse-Kappen, Ropp and Sikkink, 1999: 31). Even when 'in real-life situations, relationships of power and interest-based arguments are rarely completely out of the picture' (Risse-Kappen, Ropp and Sikkink, 1999: 14); actors will incrementally translate the discourse into the standard practice of domestic institutions until the norms are implemented independently from the moral positions of relevant actors (Risse-Kappen, Ropp and Sikkink, 1999: 17). The analysis of Ni Una Menos' strategic framing and campaign tactics will illustrate their use of persuasive argumentation to pressure the Argentinian government into more consistent rule-abiding behaviour.

Framing the Movement

Advocacy networks use cognitive frames to bring issues to the public agenda. Frames provide a shared understanding of the world, the issue and the actors involved that legitimates and motivates collective action. Effective framing strategies combine internal coherence and fit within a broader political culture (Keck and Sikkink, 1999: 90).

In her 2007 book Sustaining Human Rights: Women and Argentina Human Rights Organisations, M.D Bonner traces the history of framing strategies for human rights campaigns in Argentina anchored in the symbolic importance of women within traditional roles in the family and society (2007: 17). Bonner identifies its immediate origins in the Peronist era:

The leadership of Eva Peron […] in the Peronist political movement brought with it an abundant and explicit articulation of how women should participate in politics. Peronist propaganda clearly stated that women’s inclusion in politics was based on their role as representatives of the family, defenders of public morality, and defenders of the nation (2007: 52).

After the civil war of the 1970s (the ‘Dirty War’), the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo framed the search for their disappeared children and grandchildren within the role of women as the heart of the family. By doing this, they linked their traditional gender roles to the importance of human rights protection and the need to protect the nation-as-family (Bonner 2007: 3). This frame was picked up by President Nestor Kirchner in 2003 when he declared at the UN General Assembly that the return of human rights to the centre of the political agenda of Argentina was ‘because we are the children of the Mothers and Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo’ (Bonner 2007: 1). Most recently, this framing was used by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner’s administrations (2007 -2015) to give resonance to the cash transfer programmes aimed at reducing poverty (Lopreite, 2013: 69).

In spite of the continued cultural resonance of this framing, Ni Una Menos has broken away from it. The campaign frames femicide within machista violence which is in turn framed as a violation of human rights. The concept of machista violence is an adaptation of the accepted definition of gender-based violence, modified in its name to highlight that this violence is intrinsically linked to the pervasive machista culture in Argentina. The campaign’s statement of values and aims reads:

El femicidio es la forma más extrema de esa violencia [de género] y atraviesa todas las clases sociales, credos e ideologías: Pero [sic] la palabra “femicidio” es, además, una categoría política, es la palabra que denuncia el modo en que la sociedad vuelve natural algo que no lo es: la violencia machista. Y la violencia machista es un tema de Derechos Humanos. [Femicide is the most extreme form of that [gender-based] violence, and it traverses all social classes, beliefs and ideologies: But [sic] the word ‘femicide’ is, as well, a political category, it is the word that denounces the way in which society turns natural something that is not: machista violence. And machista violence is an issue of Human Rights][2] (Ni Una Menos Online, 2015)

The internal coherence of the framing is provided by a generation of women that were born in democracy and take their right of freedom of speech and identity as a given. They have seen there are other ways of being a woman in society and at home, in great part surely due to the easy access to information provided by the internet. At the same time, there has rarely been a more fertile political environment for the push for further socialisation of gender-related norms: in the years since the return to democracy in 1983 the status of women as equal to men has been enshrined in law and the country has had its first elected female president[3].


[1] All laws currently in force in Argentina are available on the Sistema Argentino de Informacion Juridica (SAIJ): http://www.saij.gob.ar/buscador/leyes-nacionales-vigentes

[2] The translation is the author's

[3] Isabel Martínez de Perón, Perón’s second wife, took office in 1974 upon his death; she’d been his Vice President.


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University of London – School of Advanced Study - Institute of Commonwealth Studies
Ni Una Menos Feminism Women's rights Women Argentina Human Rights Macri Activism Keck and Sikkink Transnational Advocacy Networks Advocacy



Title: The "Ni Una Menos" campaign. Reframing femicide in the quest for the socialisation of norms