Sunday, 10 July 2011

Argentina: Sexual violence during the dictatorship

*Trigger warning, this post contains details of sexual violence*

I recently came cross an article which contained a nugget of information which was new to me:
So far, there have been scant results with respect to prosecuting sex crimes committed during the dictatorship. Only one sentence has been handed down so far, against non-commissioned officer and torturer Gregorio Molina, in June 2010. (IPS)
I knew that this had not been an area of particular focus for the justice system in Argentina, but one? ONE?! That is truly shocking. Numerous testimonies from victims mention sexual violence.
Added to the already intolerable conditions facing all prisoners, women prisoners suffered an extra dimension of sexual violence and rape. Their sexual integrity and physical and mental dignity were directly attacked. The repressors aimed the torture toward the most vulnerable and intimate parts of the female body, the sources of life itself: "With women, they would insert the wire in the vagina and then apply it to the breasts, which caused great pain. Many of them would menstruate in mid-torture." (Arditti 1999, Searching for Life, p. 20)
Yet, as Arditti points out (p.47), certain crimes were even excluded from the Punto Final (full stop) amnesty law: theft, kidnap of children, and rape. So in theory it has always been possible to prosecute these. But it seems there was a combination of unwillingness on the part of the justice system to regard sexual violence as a (separate) category of abuse, difficulty on the part of victims and society to discuss the issue at all, and perhaps an element of sexual violence being pushed aside in comparison to other atrocities.
"In the first case involving the First Army Corps (one of the clandestine prisons), the number of victims who reported sex crimes was appalling, but these crimes become invisible in sentences that broadly refer to cases of torture," [sociologist Lorena] Balardini said.

[...]"Within the context of the horror you experienced in the concentration camps, a rape seemed like something secondary," said another of the women who spoke anonymously.
It's interesting that researchers seem to be identifying an increase in willingness to discuss sexual violence, specifically, within the context of dictatorship-era crimes. It is, of course, just another aspect to add to the long list of atrocities still waiting for the judicial system to deal with.

Shedding light on dictatorship's sex crimes

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