'No means no!': Chilean students condemn sexual violence

Santiago (AFP) –


Thousands of women chanted "No means no!" during a march in Santiago Wednesday called by students to protest sexual abuse and harassment, part of a new feminist wave sweeping Chile.

Banners called for the introduction of "non-sexist education" and the end of "sexual violence" following a number of cases of abuse against women and deep-rooted practices in universities and schools.

To the rhythm of drums, dancing and the chants of "No means no", the students, mostly women, filled a large section of the Alameda Avenue, in a largely peaceful protest, with only isolated incidents reported towards the end of the march.

"Today we are condemning what my aunt ignored and my mother experienced and kept quiet about," said one of thousands of placards.

One group marched topless but with their faces covered by hoods.

"It´s the time to say ´enough´ - enough abuse, violence and discrimination," said Maria Astudillo, 26, a student at Catholic University, where students are occupying some faculties.

The first protests began a month ago in Austral University where a professor was accused of sexual harassment. Since then, nearly 20 faculties and schools, including the prestigious law department at Chile University, have joined the movement.

The protests have been boosted by outrage over the death of an infant of almost two years old, who was raped by one its caregivers; and a series of accusations of sexual harassment, one of which involved a person considered a star of the TV soaps.

On Friday, some 20,000 people joined a demonstration in Santiago called by the organisation "NiUnaMenos" ("Not one (woman) less") that campaigns against gender-based violence.

Last month, two Chilean municipalities announced will begin issuing fines of up to hundreds of dollars to anyone guilty of street harassment of women.