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Cablegate: Argentina: Nomination for International Women of Courage

VZCZCXYZ0003
RR RUEHWEB

DE RUEHBU #1476/01 3012001
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
R 272001Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES
TO SECSTATE WASHDC 2342

UNCLAS BUENOS AIRES 001476

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR G/IWI
DEPT ALSO FOR WHA/BSC

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: KWMN KPAO PHUM PREL AR

SUBJECT: ARGENTINA: NOMINATION FOR INTERNATIONAL WOMEN OF COURAGE

REF: STATE 126072

1. (U) Summary. Argentina has a long history of courageous women
leaders who have worked tirelessly to protect fundamental human
rights, educate a new generation of citizens growing up in an era of
democracy, and combat drug and human trafficking. This year's
nominee, Nelida Borquez, is cast from the same mold. A survivor of
domestic and family violence herself, she has championed for over 20
years women's rights to live free of domestic and sexual violence.
Nelida's efforts to increase public and official awareness of
violence against women in the impoverished Buenos Aires suburb of La
Matanza have empowered battered women to come forward to denounce
the crime. Acknowledging Nelida's efforts will help to raise public
awareness of domestic violence, and may enhance prospects for
strengthened cooperation from the Argentine government to protect
victims, and punish the perpetrators, of this demeaning crime.
2. (U) Full legal name of nominee: Felipa "Nelida" Borquez

Job title/association: Program Director for the Prevention of
Violence Against Women, Domestic and Sexual Violence
The Rosa Cazarreta House for Women

Date of birth: May 25, 1946

Country of birth: Argentina

Citizenship: Argentine

Address: El Lazo 1059, 1765 Isidro Casanova, La Matanza, Provincia
de Buenos Aires, Argentina

Telephone: (54-911) 56-158-5778
(5411) 4467-7045

E-mail: casarosachaz@yahoo.com.ar

Passport number: 05326753F

3. (U) As a child, Nelida Borquez witnessed and was subject to
violent abuse from her father. As a young woman, her husband
inflicted physical, emotional, and psychological abuse. The cycle
of violence continued after her husband died, when her subsequent
domestic partner began abusing her. Like many victims of domestic
violence, she suffered the abuse in silence, never daring to seek
help.

4. (U) At the time, Argentina had just returned to democracy after
seven years of brutal rule under a military dictatorship. Economic
mismanagement, however, led to a hyperinflationary environment with
ever-increasing levels of poverty, prompting Nelida Borquez to begin
working with a group of community leaders in the impoverished Buenos
Aires suburb of La Matanza to run soup kitchens to help meet their
community's basic needs. While serving meals with other women in
her community, they began to discuss their personal troubles only to
discover that they had one tragic experience in common: they were
all victims of domestic violence. To their surprise, many of the
perpetrators were the very same community leaders with whom they
worked. These conversations helped Nelida realize she was not
alone, and the women frequently turned to one another for support.

5. (U) Meanwhile, some elements of the federal government took
notice of the good work they were doing in their communities and
offered these women scholarships to pursue university studies. Many
of them used the opportunity to study feminism and the law, and
through their studies learned that the violence they suffered at
home was not normal. It was a crime. Nelida and her colleagues
resolved to do something about it by founding and establishing a
women's-only community center in their hometown of La Matanza. The
center provides psychological assistance to victims through group
therapy, helps victims file complaints with the police, and conducts
weekly violence prevention and anger management workshops with male
aggressors.

6. (U) While the law prohibits domestic violence, including spousal
abuse, violence against women is defined as a misdemeanor, and
complaints are addressed in civil rather than criminal courts. The
law only prescribes penalties for domestic violence when it involves
crimes against sexual integrity, in which case the penalty can be as
much as 20 years' imprisonment. However, lack of vigilance on the
part of the police and the judicial system often led to a lack of
protection for victims. Machismo, or the belief in male domination
over women, seems to be the cultural norm in many parts of
Argentina. Such attitudes not only enable domestic violence, but
also sustain it since many police and other authorities have
demonstrated a reluctance to intervene in what they consider a
private matter beyond the reach of the law. According to local
press reports, family violence in Buenos Aires city has increased
369% from 1995 to 2008. In August, Amnesty International reported
that a woman dies every two days in Argentina as a result of
domestic violence. The organization estimated that at least 81
women had been killed in Argentina by their spouse, former partner,
or other family member from January-August 2008. In La Matanza
alone, approximately 10,700 complaints of domestic violence were
filed from 2005-2007 according to the local NGO Women's Agenda.
Even these statistics may not accurately capture the magnitude of
the problem, as domestic violence is a hidden crime with many cases
unreported.

7. (U) Nelida's efforts to increase public and official awareness
of the problem in La Matanza have empowered battered women to come
forward to denounce the crime. Under Nelida's direction, the
community center has since grown to become a network of 14 centers
throughout the city of La Matanza. They assist thousands of victims
a month. With the modest financial assistance from the city of La
Matanza, UNIFEM, and the Spanish Agency for International
Cooperation, the center now offers programs to help victims become
survivors. To break the victim's financial dependence on their
abusers, the center also teaches victims and other members of the
community sewing skills, which they can then use to make garments
for the center's cooperative, work for themselves, or work for a
local sewing factory. They will soon offer classes in graphic
design and printmaking as well.

8. (U) Nelida Borquez's tireless advocacy for women's rights has
succeeded in bringing public and official attention to domestic
violence. When she learned that police stations in La Matanza were
not filing domestic violence complaints and were instead referring
victims to the only Women's Police Station in town, she launched a
public campaign to educate women of their rights, and the police of
their obligation, to file such complaints at the nearest police
station. Although she, her staff, and the victims who seek
assistance from the centers have received numerous threats from the
perpetrators of domestic violence, they labor on, thus far, without
incident.

9. (U) Acknowledging Nelida's efforts will help to raise public
awareness of domestic violence, and may enhance prospects for
strengthened cooperation from the Argentine government to protect
the victims, and punish the perpetrators, of this demeaning crime.
Such recognition could help bolster the Argentine Supreme Court's
recent precedent-setting efforts to improve women's access to
justice through its new Office of Domestic Violence inaugurated in
September. This is a pilot project to improve access to justice for
domestic violence victims in Buenos Aires City.

10. (U) Buenos Aires emboffs for women's issues are Heidi Gomez,
gomezhn@state.gov and Mara Tekach, tekachmm@state.gov.

WAYNE

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