"Higui will be liberated by all of us together"
Gabby De Cicco
The strong organization of lesbian activists across Argentina achieved Higui’s release pending trial. Higui, an Argentine lesbian, was imprisoned for fatally wounding one of her attackers while trying to avoid being gang raped by a group of ten men.
Three key laws were passed in Argentina in the last few years, after much work from LGBTI activists:
- the same-sex marriage law (Ley de matrimonio igualitario, 2010)
- the gender identity law (Ley de Identidad de género, 2012)
- the law of medically assisted reproduction (Ley de Reproducción médicamente asistida, 2013)
Nevertheless, attacks against persons belonging to this collective persist, such as the murders of "Pepa" Gaitán and Diana Sacayán (in Spanish), and different kinds of discriminatory incidents in public places, among others.
On 16 October 2016 she was attacked by a gang of ten men as she was leaving her family’s home in San Miguel, in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina. Yelling "You’re a dyke. You’re a whore. I will make you feel like a woman. We will impale you, dyke", they beat her into unconsciousness. Before fainting, she managed to defend herself from the attempted rape, fatally wounding one of her attackers.
Higui suffered an attempted corrective rape for being a lesbian, and an attempted lesbicide, and she exercised her right to self-defense, as claimed by her defense attorney Raquel Hermida.
Her attackers are free, while she spent almost 240 days in jail. On June 12 she was released pending trial, meanwhile she will live at home. In Argentina a femicide occurs every 18 hours, but culprits go free, and inquiries are often carried out inaccurately; and when police action is unfettered thanks to the political powers that be. The national government both desires to remove and attempts to trample on everything that is related to human rights.
Nobody listens to poor lesbians
The Argentine criminal justice system is one of the patriarchal and male-supremacist spaces where lesbians, trans and women must struggle to have their rights acknowledged and respected. In such a system, the statement of a poor lesbian, has no value at all.
That voice and the experience it carries are silenced, and sometimes erased so that it will not be heard. The story of Higui was disseminated because, while in jail, she met somebody else’s visitor, who in turn told the story outside: that Higui was semi-unconscious when the police took her to the police station, that she was jailed with no medical care whatsoever, and that she had been charged with murder.
The pictures taken the day after the attack, for instance, were not accepted as evidence. All her attackers went free, and she stayed in jail for almost 240 days.
As soon as the pictures and the story started circulating, the call for Higui’s freedom rapidly took up social networks. Her name and the pictures of her beaten body were a live coal shared in anger, and lesbian activists started to act immediately. Higui had legal defense counselling only four months after she was detained, and a Justice for Higui Committee was created, wherein her mother and sisters advocate her case together with lesbian and social movements activists.
When her first request for release was denied in May, the Justice for Higui Committee and the Front for the Freedom and Absolution for Higui (created at that time and formed by a majority of lesbian and feminist organizations and collectives) convened a massive national protest to demand her liberty. Feminist allies joined the call to action, replicating the request and the complaint.
We are sick and tired of the cisheteropatriarchy that fosters disrespect, gender violence, harassment, abuse. We do not want these cases to become yellow-press headlines in the newspapers, nor the faces to be stamped on banners or T-shirts.
We want to celebrate ourselves alive
The claims have not been silenced: they are shouted at the top of our voices. In the words of Audre Lorde, "your silence will not protect you". What we have here is a lesbian feminist tide acting to bring down patriarchy, and to improve our lives so that they are better lives, in better times when we can fully and freely live our gender identity and our sexual orientation.
So loud has the scream been, so powerful was the organization of lesbian and allied feminist activists, that on 12 June 2017 Higui was released (link in Spanish). The work towards her absolution has already begun, as she was charged with manslaughter, which carries the penalty of 8 to 25 years in prison.
This has been a triumph of organization, of going against heteropatriarchy head-on, because as we say whenever we meet and rally, "Higui will be liberated by all of us together".
Further reading on Higui’s case:
- Calls in Argentina for release of ‘Higui’, a lesbian who killed would-be rapist, El País, 9 June 2017
- Todxs contra una, Página/12, 13 January 2017
- Libertad para Higui, La Izquierda Diario
- Negaron excarcelación a Higui de Jesús: convocan a una jornada nacional, Agencia Presentes, 8 May 2017
- Quién es Higui y por qué tanta gente la quiere libre, Cosecha Roja, 6 June 2017
- #HiguiLibre: un logro de los feminismos donde entramos todxs, Agencia Presentes, 13 June 2017