BOGOTA (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Four years after Brisa Barrionuevo’s father beat her mother to death and dumped her body in a river, Argentina has set an example for Latin America to follow with a law named after her giving financial support to such orphans, experts said.
Barrionuevo, now aged five, has become a symbol of some 2,100 children in Argentina who have lost their mother to femicide - the killing of a woman by a man because of her gender - in the past decade, said rights group La Casa del Encuentro.
“We can’t have children in a state of helplessness,” said Ada Beatriz Rico, head of the local women’s advocacy group which campaigned for the “Brisa Law”, which was passed this month and is expected to come into force later this year.
“The law is not only going to protect a child’s material wellbeing but also their physical and mental health,” she told the Thomson Reuters Foundation.
One woman is killed every 30 hours in Argentina, according to La Casa del Encuentro, with violence driven by Latin America’s “macho” culture, which tends to blame women for the violence inflicted on them and to condone it.
The guardians of children orphaned by femicide in Argentina will receive $300 a month from the government until the child reaches the age of 21. The orphans will also receive free healthcare, including psychological support.
Experts hope that other Latin American countries will follow Argentina, as Uruguay is the only other country in the region offering similar allowances to children orphaned by domestic violence.
“All the countries of the region should pass a similar law to ensure reparation of the femicide victims’ relatives or reparation as part of a comprehensive law to address violence against women,” said Kathleen Taylor of UN Women.
Femicide rates in the region are “alarming” and rising, said Taylor, a gender violence expert with the United Nations agency.
More than a dozen countries in Latin America have passed laws in recent years that define and punish femicide as a specific crime, including El Salvador, Mexico and Colombia.
Most femicides take place in the home, often at the hands of current and former partners, and some children witness their fathers killing their mothers, said Rico, the activist.
“It’s a cultural problem where a man considers that a woman belongs to him .. and that he can do what he wants to her - beat her, insult her, and in extreme cases, kill her,” she said.
Reporting by Anastasia Moloney @anastasiabogota, Editing by Katy Migiro. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, property rights, climate change and resilience. Visit news.trust.org