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Consent Matters with “Marcha de las Putas 2.0”: Costa Rica’s Slut Walk

By: Andrew Woodbury - @A_W10 - Nov 27, 2013, 10:26 pm
http://www.ticotimes.net/More-news/News-Briefs/PHOTO-STORY-Costa-Rica-s-Slut-Walk-2.0_Sunday-November-24-2013
Source: Tico Times

Ni santas, ni putas. Sólo mujeres.

This phrase was seen written on countless posters in Costa Rica’s capital city of San Jose last Friday evening, as protesters took to the streets in a march that in English means “Slut Walk 2.0.” The march — the second of its kind in the nation’s history — was in protest of recent comments by Costa Rican presidential candidate Óscar Lopez that were deemed to minimize the severity of violence against women.

Lopez, the candidate for Costa Rica’s Accessibility Without Exclusion party, recently stated in a radio interview, while referencing abortion, that there was a “thin line between consent and rape.”

The remark made national news and sparked outcry from women’s groups, among others. Organizers of the protest stated that Lopez’s comments “minimize the serious problem of sexual violence toward women, justify the actions of rapists, [and] reinforce chauvinistic discourses that view the female body as an object at the service of masculine pleasure.”

http://www.ticotimes.net/More-news/News-Briefs/PHOTO-STORY-Costa-Rica-s-Slut-Walk-2.0_Sunday-November-24-2013
Source: Tico Times

Issues such as rape and abortion have long been intricately connected and are the exact issues which prompted Costa Rica’s original “Slut Walk” in 2011.

The first march, which took place on August 15, 2011, had religious origins. Men and women alike took to the streets in response to statements by Costa Rican Bishop Jose Francisco Ulloa. At that time the bishop stated that a woman’s ultimate purpose in life was fertilization. He had also asked women to dress modestly in order to avoid being dehumanized — implying victim culpability for violent acts.

That theme struck again with Lopez’s recent comments.

The presidential candidate was quick in rebuttal but not necessarily in retraction. After the outcry, he claimed that his words were taken out of context. “These women are upset just because I’m opposed to abortion and have manipulated my words,” Lopez said. He elaborated further to say that what he meant to say was that if abortion were legal then unwanted pregnancies that were not the result of rape could be blamed on rape in order to get an abortion. “In this hypothetical situation the line gets thin.”

http://www.ticotimes.net/More-news/News-Briefs/PHOTO-STORY-Costa-Rica-s-Slut-Walk-2.0_Sunday-November-24-2013
Source: Tico Times

The two marches were neither pro nor anti abortion. Rather, they were for the seemingly basic thought that violence against women, of any kind, is unacceptable. One notable sign stated “Oscar Lopez: usted no decide por mi,” pointing to the candidate’s lack of grounding to judge consent versus violence from a woman’s perspective.

Another contributing factor in the march’s importance is that violence against women in Costa Rica has been in consistent decline. Murders against women in Costa Rica for 2013 totaled 14 through the month of October — down 53 percent from a year ago. And 2012 showed 26 murders, which was a decrease from the 64 in 2011.

With many positive steps being taken in the ongoing battle for gender equality, Costa Ricans — both men and women — went out in droves last Friday to let it be known that backward steps would not be tolerated.

As for Lopez, with his statement and half-hearted response, it would appear that he’s now in an uphill battle to gain back a lot of votes before national elections in February.

Andrew Woodbury Andrew Woodbury

From Toronto, Canada, Woodbury is a Young Voices advocate, editor, and educator at the International Language Academy of Canada. Follow him @A_W10, and read more of his featured PanAm Post column, “Connecting the Dots.”