November 17, 2011
A campaign by men in Argentina urging an end to the abuse of women grew, in part, from efforts to prevent HIV/AIDS.
In 2010, a demonstration targeting "femicides," or gender-related murders, attracted just 150 men to Buenos Aires' famed Obelisk -- falling short of the goal of 231, the number of femicides committed the previous year. That spurred two men who work with HIV-positive women to create the National Institute of Men Against Machismo and propose a campaign to recruit public-opinion leaders to the cause.
Both creators of the initiative, LGBT rights activist José María Di Bello of Efecto Positivo and the Buenos Aires AIDS Foundation's Alex Freyre, have spent years assisting HIV-positive women, who say it is difficult to negotiate condom use with men. "We have constantly heard these stories of violence suffered by women," said Di Bello.
Called "260 men against machismo," an allusion to the number of women killed in Argentina in 2010, the campaign has involved 29 events led by cabinet ministers, union leaders, and military, army, and corrections officials. More than 6,000 men have signed a pledge to question machismo's effects on the women in their daily lives.
"It was very interesting to see the defense minister [Arturo Puricelli] call together the joint-chiefs-of-staff, and in a room packed with military personnel, talk to them about machismo, and get them to commit themselves to fighting it," Di Bello said.
The campaign's endorsement by senior officials in President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner's administration has helped get it replicated in the provinces. Posters against machismo were displayed at voting stations during the general Oct. 23 elections.