This article contains mentions of graphic sexual assault, abuse, and murder.

Five years ago, a pregnant 14-year-old girl named Chiara Perez was killed in Argentina. Her death sparked a movement that has been referred to as the Latin American #MeToo.


#NiUnaMenos (Not One More) is a sweeping protest movement against murder and violence against women that brought thousands of women to the streets all across South America. Often, protestors employ theatrical techniques to make sure their messages are being heard.

One of the more famous performances to stem from the protests is a song created by Las Tesis, a quartet of women who used feminist theory to craft the perfect outcry against the epidemic that is violence against women. Their song, “Un Violador en Tu Camino (A Rapist in Your Path),” has since been performed in demonstrations everywhere from India to the United States.


CHILE: Rapist In Your Way [Un violador en tu camino] Las Tesis strong chant on police rape, HR abuse www.youtube.com

The song’s lyrics are powerful, a direct protest against the idea that individual women are at fault for systemic violence. They have since become a rallying cry across the globe.

“The rapist is you / It’s the cops / The judges / The state / The president,” its lyrics read. “And it’s not my fault / nor where I was / nor what I wore.”

Action Rooted in Theory

The song, which directly targets political systems like the police and the state and links them to wider issues of violence against women, is inspired by the work of Argentinian feminist theorist Rita Segato. In her research, Segato sees violence against women as a political issue built into the frameworks that dictate vast power structures.

“Masculinity rules by means of a primal and permanent pedagogy,” Segato writes in “A Manifesto in Four Themes,” an abridged version of the introduction of her book La guerra contra las mujeres. “It teaches the expropriation of value and consequent domination…This violence perfectly expresses the ascendancy of a world of ownership or indeed lordship, a new form of domination resulting from the acceleration of the concentration and expansion of a para-state sphere of control over life. In these crimes, capital in its contemporary form expresses the existence of an order ruled by arbitrary patriarchal impulse and exhibits the spectacle.”

In short, violence against women (as well as, one might say, marginalized groups, the poor, and the Earth) is a direct consequence of a patriarchal system that uses ownership as its means of maintaining power and capital as its means of self-expression. Therefore, addressing the problem also means addressing the entire system that maintains it.

It’s classic feminist theory, but for women who have to deal with violence day in and day out, it’s more than analysis — it’s a pathway to liberation.

For Las Tesis, it was also the inspiration for a song. Based in Valparaíso, the Las Tesis Collective describes themselves as a “feminist artistic group performing in Chile.” Since the release of “A Rapist in Your Path,” they have collaborated with Russian feminist group Pussy Riot on a protest song that condemns police violence against women in Latin America and addresses the stunning global spike in domestic violence that has occurred since the onset of the pandemic.

They were also investigated by the Chilean government on the basis of “intimidation against the police,” though the charges were dropped in January.

A Song Goes Viral and Speaks to a Global Problem

Their song’s global impact can’t be understated. “Las Tesis has been key in denouncing police violence and violence against women in Chile… their song has become a symbol of the universal demand of women to be able to live a life free of violence,” UN Human Rights Council Special Rapporteurs said.

The song’s performances are often theatrical, involving movements that specifically target the song’s subjects. For example, the song is about how state institutions turn a blind eye to violence against women, so dancers often wear blindfolds. The blindfolds also reference eye injuries suffered by many protestors during the 2019 Chilean protests, as well as the blindfolds that victims of torture have been forced to wear in Pinochet-era Chile and horrific modern abuse committed by the Chilean police.

In addition, performers often use a series of three squats, referencing the positions women are forced to take by police when arrested in Chile, and wear red handprints over their mouths. Every move, every line, is laden with symbolism, and none of it is f**king around.

The song has been performed across the world, to varying responses. In India, performers faced water cannons as they chanted the song. In New York, protestors sang the song outside the trial of Harvey Weinstein. In Bogotá, Colombia, feminist journalists changed the lyrics of the song to reference femicide.

‘The Rapist Is You!’: Women Flash Mob Protests Outside Harvey Weinstein Courthouse | NBC News www.youtube.com

The song’s amorphousness, its ability to mold to fit different types of violence against women, speaks both to the genius of the lyrics and also to the fact that all across the world, violence against women is state-sanctioned and legitimized by power structures at hand.

The song comes to mind yet again in light of Sarah Everard‘s murder. Everard was killed by a police officer while walking home in London, and her death sparked a global outcry. Though the circumstances of her death were different from those that originally inspired the song, its lyrics still contain a biting truth. Again, a person in power — in this case, a policeman — was the source of violence. Again, an entire system conspired to let this happen.

A Shadow Pandemic

While Everard’s murder was widely publicized and politicized, many of the places where “Un Violador en Tu Camino” has been performed have long been plagued by extreme, unnoticed violence against women and frequent “disappearances” of women who are never found. For example, almost 1,200 women disappeared in Peru between March and June 2020; and in Brazil, 143 women were murdered over the same period.

It’s impossible to find accurate statistics on the rates of femicide in some countries, where these crimes against women are often denied or never reported, but some studies estimate that in El Salvador 6 out of every 100,000 women are murdered. These murders are usually preceded by domestic abuse.

These statistics are, in turn, part of a much larger global issue — a pattern, if you will, or perhaps a system. According to UN data, “1 in 3 women experiences violence in her lifetime. A study conducted between 2010 and 2018 painted a horrifying picture,” WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told reporters. “An estimated 736 million women — almost one in three women globally — have suffered intimate partner violence, sexual violence from a non-partner — or both — at least once in their lives.”

बलात्कारी हो तुम [The Rapist Is You] Chilean protest song in Hindi for #Hathras www.youtube.com

Domestic violence has always been common, but it has spiked during the pandemic— and we may never know how much, but a study from the British Medical Journal theorized that it has doubled in some countries.

Few women receive adequate responses to the violence even when they come forward, which many do or cannot for various reasons. For example, in Chile, 42 cases of sexual abuse are reported to the police each day; but in 2018, only 25.7% of sexual abuse cases led to judicial rulings. Women are frequently blamed for their assaults based on their actions, as opposed to any form of accountability.

“In the Chilean judicial system, stereotypes and biases harm women victims of sexual violence,” said Bárbara Sepúlveda Hales, speaking for the feminist lawyer group Abofem. “In many trials, the life and sexual behavior of the victim is exposed as if it were a justification for the aggression they suffered.”

It is difficult to locate the exact causes of this violence, which is epidemic across the world. With regards to violence against women in Latin America, researcher Lynn Marie Stephen blames it on the “region’s colonial history and to a complex web of social, racial, gender and economic inequalities.”

Addressing violence against women around the world is going to also take a complex, multifaceted series of responses. “Un Violador en Tu Camino (A Rapist in Your Path)” and songs like it are just the beginning of making a crack in the plague that is domestic, sexual, and state-sanctioned (or state-ignored) violence against women.


But one thing is clear: The violence is systemic. The lyrics hold back nothing. The rapist is you.

Read the lyrics to “Un Violador en Tu Camino” below:

Patriarchy is a judge

that judges us for being born,

our punishment

is the violence you don’t see.

Patriarchy is a judge

that judges us for being born,

our punishment

is the violence you now see.

It’s femicide,

Impunity for my killer.

It’s disappearance.

It’s rape.

And it’s not my fault, nor where I was, nor what I wore.

And it’s not my fault, nor where I was, nor what I wore.

And it’s not my fault, nor where I was, nor what I wore.

And it’s not my fault, nor where I was, nor what I wore.

The rapist was you

The rapist is you.

It’s policemen,

Judges,

The state,

The president.

The oppressive state is a rapist man.

The oppressive state is a rapist man.

The oppressive state is a rapist man.

The oppressive state is a rapist man.

The rapist was you

The rapist is you.

Sleep tight, innocent girl

don’t worry about the criminal,


your policeman lover is taking care

of your sweet dreams.

The rapist is you.

The rapist is you.

The rapist is you.

The rapist is you.

/

El patriarcado es un juez

que nos juzga por nacer,

y nuestro castigo

es la violencia que no ves.

El patriarcado es un juez

que nos juzga por nacer,

y nuestro castigo

es la violencia que ya ves.

Es feminicidio.

Impunidad para mi asesino.

Es la desaparición.

Es la violación.

Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía.

Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía.

Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía.

Y la culpa no era mía, ni dónde estaba ni cómo vestía.

El violador eras tú,

El violador eres tú.

Son los pacos,

los jueces,

el Estado,

el presidente.

El Estado opresor es un macho violador

El Estado opresor es un macho violador

El violador eras tú.

El violador eres tú.

Duerme tranquila, niña inocente

sin preocuparte del bandolero,

que por tu sueño dulce y sonriente

vela tu amante carabinero.

Posted in: Pop
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