At the end of January, while checking my Twitter feed, I watched a shocking video: a woman was leaving a commercial establishment in a wheelchair guided by paramedics while crying and saying, “Forgive me, mom.”
What I am describing is the rape of a Venezuelan migrant woman in a poor neighborhood of Buenos Aires. She was going to her first day of work, and her employer ended up raping her just before the police arrived. Her mother had warned them after she sent her a message asking for help.
After going viral on networks, the case fueled a wave of anger and resentment from Venezuelan migrants and Argentinian society.
Under the hashtag #GarzonViolador, social media became once again the way to find justice. The Venezuelan woman received the support of the Argentinian government and compensation.
However, her case is not an isolated one; it is a frequent situation many Latin American women go through on a daily basis due to the lack of safe migration policies.
Migrant women are not vulnerable just for being women; they are exposed to an unfair and violent system. They’re subjected to a legal, political — sometimes even militarized — migratory apparatus that creates a vigilant structure, where borders are externalized, and migratory routes are heavily controlled, criminalizing women who dare cross them.
Migration, Border, and Stigma
Today’s migration systems constantly remind migrants they are not citizens, differentiating them through racial control, depriving them of liberties in migrant detention centers (ICE, for example), deporting them, or violating their human and social rights through institutional racism.
Historically, migration has been a source of development — cultures, economies, and societies worldwide have benefited from the exchange of people across territories for centuries.
According to the UN Migration report, in large cities such as London, Sydney, or New York, migrants represent more than a third of the population, while in cities such as Brussels and Dubai, they represent more than half.
Seeking refuge is not a crime; no one leaves their country if they had another choice. However, migrants are often used in electoral campaigns as political gain to win votes. Once the winner is declared, they’re forgotten.
Migrant citizens are subordinated to the crumbs of a system that lacks real integration policies.
In the case of women, as was the case for the Venezuelan migrant in Argentina, their vulnerability to the aggressor and the host country’s justice system reveals ethnic, class, and, of course, gender prejudices against the feared autonomy of women. Underneath it, the economic, legal, social, and political roots of legitimate immigration are silenced.
The real losers in this power game are women, left at the mercy of popular beliefs and the lack of recognition of their capacity for agency. Once again, the quest for emancipation is a dangerous one.
How Long Will We Fight?
Human rights violations are not tolerable. They are universal rights. Yet, we’re still fighting to preserve them.
While some migrants organize in caravans and manage to support each other on the way, others are not so lucky.
If it weren’t for that mother-daughter link, the Venezuelan migrant would’ve been left to the mercy of a rapist who wasn’t imprisoned for lack of a criminal record.
And her story is that of many.
Half of the Venezuelan migrant women population is undocumented, and approximately 4,000 have been trafficked through Trinidad and Tobago in the last four years. According to data from the Venezuelan Justice and Peace Center, 337 Venezuelan migrant women under the age of 27 have been trafficked to Guyana since 2018. According to the Organization of American States (OAS) and feminist movements like Women’s Link, the lack of visas or official paperwork makes women migrants more vulnerable.
As in any other act of abuse, the victims often choose not to report the incident for fear of repercussions, either with their partner, the boss who extorts them, or simply because of the repercussions on their immigration status.
Once again, women are the receptacle of all that is wrong with the system and, while resilient and strong, they continue to fight against a system determined to oppress them.