Around 130 girls between 2 and 12 years old have been killed in the Latin-American country. The majority are victims of sexual abuse committed by adults in close proximity to the family unit. Impunity and coercion are manifest in this crime of infanticide, in a country with a high rate of violence against women.
At present, Argentina, like other parts of Latin America, cannot escape an underlying phenomenon of the twenty-first century: the murder of girls, most often by a member of their family. The severe and painful impact of this crime is now being felt by the nation.
Whilst a great movement has been started in this country by and on behalf of women who have been mistreated, raped and murdered, the campaign slogan “Not one woman less” (“Ni una menos”), which has spread to other parts of the region could in 2018, just as well be “Not one girl less” (“Ni una niña menos”).
The figures are horrifying, and despite the noteworthy campaigns, the list of underage girls killed in recent years continues to grow.
A recent report by the organisation Casa del Encuentro discloses that around 130 girls between 2 and 12 years old have been killed in the south american country in the last decade. The majority of victims died from injuries sustained from sexual violence, committed by adults in the family circle.
Of all the young girls killed, 13 cases were recorded in 2018 alone and among these are two that have made the most impact in the media: the case of Sheila, 10 , and Estefanía, 9, whose abusers were well known to them.
The shock waves from Sheila’s case continue to be felt, as, after going missing for several days, her body was found thrown into a shallow hole near her aunt and uncle’s house, who finally confessed to the crime, just a few weeks ago.
Estefanía’s case was similar; she was found a few metres from a train station and her killer was her cousin.
According to statistics, the period with the highest number of these crimes spans 2011 to 2017, and in each of these years there were 25 and 15 murders of girls between 2 to 12 years old recorded respectively.
The report from La Casa del Encuentro states that in the 11 months of 2018 so far, 13 young girls have been killed, one every 20 days. Since 2008, there have been 165 victims of femicide under 12 years old.
What can be done to stop this scourge?
This is the question now being asked by many parents. Some are suggesting that heightened levels of vigilance and care are needed and that extreme measures be taken. However, for many specialists, what is now more important than ever is to implement a programme of sex education and try to reduce the extreme violence that can flare up in areas that are more susceptible in general to the issue.
Opening the newspaper every day, whether in print or online, we are not just seeing cases where women are the victims of femicide; the incidence of young girls being murdered has increased significantly too.
The case of Estefanía Bonome still resonates. The girl was 9 years old when she disappeared from her home in the town of La Perla, Buenos Aires province, whilst playing hide-and-seek. A few hours later her body was found half naked with a bag over her head.
The girl did not show signs of having been sexually abused, although police concluded that rape had been attempted from the marks on her arms and wounds on her stomach and neck. The possible murderer? Her 15 year-old cousin who cannot stand trial because of his age.
Cold and remorseless, Estefanía’s cousin, who has been identified as Cristian Yobanovich, stated, “I wanted to do something evil. I wanted to kill.”
According to statistics shared by various Argentine media outlets, 75% of murders of women of all ages are committed by the victim’s father, step-father, brother, uncle or partner and in more than 51% of cases, the murder takes place in their own home.
The truth is that this type of infanticide is damaging a country where the murder of a woman in a case of domestic violence is already recorded every 36 hours.
The provinces where the highest levels of femicide have been recorded over the last decade are Santiago del Estero, followed by Salta, Jujuy and Misiones. Among those with the lowest rates are the city of Buenos Aires, La Rioja and San Juan.
Whilst some specialists believe that a culture of impunity, the example of other perpetrators and the constant coverage of the subject on television are leading to an increase in the number of violent murders of children, others are remaining steadfast in their demands for child protection programmes to be extended.
Progress has been made in the courts.
In February this year, for example, the man guilty of killing 12 year-old Micaela Ortega was sentenced to life in prison.
She had been groomed by the 26 year-old man through a false Facebook profile: making her believe he was another 12 year-old girl, he invited her to his house. She was found strangled.
The crime took place in April 2016 in Bahía Blanca, Buenos Aires province, and is the first case where the perpetrator has been brought to justice on charges of grooming (deceitfully gaining the trust of a young person over the Internet with the intention of abusing them) and femicide in Argentina. (PL)
(Translated by Elizabeth Dann – Email: firstname.lastname@example.org) – Photos: Pixabay