As part of She’s Right’s participation in 16 days of activism to end violence against women, each piece will be dedicated to a woman who has lost her life due to gender-based violence. This article is dedicated to Alexa Luciano Ruiz, killed by a group of men on 24th February 2020, at the age of 29.
By Jessica Sutton.
Content warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of violence that may distress readers.
This article is in honour of International Human Rights Day, which is our 16th and final day of publishing consecutive material to raise awareness of gender-based violence. Today we reflect on the 2020 series of the 16 days of activism, and discuss what work still needs to be done for women and girls to live without violence in 2021. We also remember the 16 victims of femicide to whom we have dedicated our 2020 16 days series.
Women’s Rights are Human Rights
International Human Rights Day is celebrated each year on the 10th of December to commemorate the United Nations’ adoption of the Universal Declaration on Human Rights in 1948. This foundational document, although not legally binding, has had an enormous influence on International Human Rights Law. Article 2 states that the rights and freedoms in the declaration are afforded to all human beings, no matter their race, language, religion, beliefs, or sex. International Human Rights Day marks the last day of UN Women’s 16 days of activism against gender-based violence. This final day of activism reinforces that women’s rights are human rights, and cannot be marginalised or pushed aside.
The 2020 series of our 16 days of activism have brought writers and creators together to bring awareness to violence against women. We have canvassed a variety of pressing topics, discussing the challenges that face women from all walks of life: women of colour, the LGBTQIA+ community, sex workers, and activists to name a few. We have published educational pieces about the impact of misogyny in 2020, spoken to politicians about the road to gender equality, and shared moving personal accounts of the human cost of gender-based violence. Publishing 16 consecutive pieces of material has allowed us to demonstrate a tiny portion of the challenges faced by women daily in New Zealand and overseas. In 2020, these challenges have only grown. As countries globally experience a backlash to women’s rights, it is more important than ever to draw attention to the deadly “shadow pandemic” of gender-based violence that costs so many their lives.
As we did in last year’s 16 days series, we would like to end our 16 days of activism by thinking about the 16 women and girls we have dedicated our work to each day. Each of our articles has begun with a dedication to a victim of femicide, whose story has touched our contributors or the She’s Right team. Many of these women and girls gained insufficient or biased media attention at the time of their deaths.
These 16 names remind us of the human cost of the gender-based violence crisis. The inaction of governments on this issue is a disservice to these women and girls. We memorialise them here as a recognition that each life lost to gender-based violence is an avoidable tragedy. Each of them was a special and unique person, killed due to a patriarchal and misogynistic society that legitimises violence against women. Their names should never be forgotten.
Remembering 16 Women and Girls
Patrycja Wyrebek, 20, was strangled to death this year by her partner in Northern Ireland. Her partner claims that she died accidentally in consensual rough sex. Her family and friends participated in a memorial walk in her honour. She was described as a “sweet girl”, and a much-loved daughter and sister.
Dr Preethi Reddy, 32, was killed by her former partner in a frenzied physical assault and knife attack. Her body was concealed in a suitcase. Preethi was a loving daughter and sister and talented dentist. She was looking forward to moving from Sydney to Melbourne with her new partner.
“Maggie”, 25, was taken in broad daylight on a street not far from her home. She was never seen again. A decade after her disappearance she was declared dead, but her body has never been found. While police suspect they know what happened to her, no one has paid the price for taking her life. She had three children and many friends and loved ones who miss her and think about her to this day.
Diana Raygoza Montes, 21, was stabbed 39 times by a man in her home in Mexico. Diana’s death followed a period of sexual harassment, possibly by the perpetrator. Diana was a law student, who hoped to make real change in her country one day. She was described as a “joyful young woman, with strong convictions and with a long future in front of her”.
Renee Duckmanton, 22, was strangled by a man, and her body set alight after her death. Renee was an adored daughter, sister, cousin, granddaughter, and aunt. Her death has re-ignited public discussion in New Zealand about violence against female sex workers.
Milly Dowler, 13, was abducted, raped, and strangled to death by a man in the UK. Her murderer was also given life sentences for the murders of two other women and the attempted murder of another. Milly’s parents have created a charity called Milly’s Fund to help keep children and young people safe.
Tamara Hatamjonov, 23, was found decapitated and dismembered on the outskirts of St Petersburg. Little is known about Tamara. Her death was largely ignored by the Russian authorities and media on the basis of her gender identity and involvement in sex work. She was misgendered and dead-named in the only news article covering her death.
Kerrice Lewis, 23, was kidnapped and shot at least 13 times by a group of men, before her car was set on fire with her body inside. She was looking forward to further study in her home city of Washington D.C. She is described as a “free spirit”, who would “light up a room, just talking and laughing”. Her death received little media attention, possibly due to bias against butch lesbians of colour.
Banaz Mahmod, 20, was raped, tortured, and strangled to death by her male family-members in a so-called honour killing. Shortly before she died, she reported to the South London police that her father had made an attempt on her life. She was not believed. Banaz had recently left an abusive arranged marriage, and was looking forward to life with her new partner.
Jessielee Booth, 30, was found dead in her home in New Zealand this year. Police suspect she was killed by her partner in a domestic violence incident. She was described as an “extraordinary woman” and a loving mother. She leaves behind two children.
Yvonne Pearson, 21, was beaten and suffocated to death by the UK serial killer known as the “Yorkshire Ripper”. Her body was found weeks later in a waste ground. Although little is known about Yvonne, she reportedly was a devoted mother, engaging in survival sex work to provide for her children.
Yelena Grigoryeva, 41, was stabbed at least 8 times and strangled to death in an alleged homophobic attack in Russia. Her name had been featured on “Saw”, a homophobic website which publishes the names of LGBTQIA+ people to incite violence against them. Yelena is remembered as a dedicated advocate for the LGBTQIA+ community in Russia and globally.
Xi Wang, 34, was stabbed 18 times by her former partner at her home in New Zealand. She was holding her 2-year-old child in her arms at the time of the attack. A few hours later, she died in hospital. She adored her young son and hoped to give him a happy life away from her abusive former partner.
Nada Hassan Abdel-Maqsoud, 12, bled to death after undergoing female genital mutilation without anaesthesia. Egypt implemented legislation to outlaw FGM in 2008, but the practice has continued in the country. Her parents, aunt, and the un-qualified doctor who performed the procedure have all been arrested. Her death has sparked renewed protests against FGM.
Fresha Wharepapa, 19, was raped, strangled, and struck in the head with an axe by a man at her home in New Zealand. After killing Fresha, the perpetrator set her house on fire, killing her young son. Fresha was a beloved daughter and mother.
Alexa Luciano Ruiz, also known as Alexa Negrón Luciano, 29, was shot at least 10 times by a group of men after she used the women’s bathroom at a fast-food restaurant in Puerto Rico. She is remembered as “soft-spoken and polite”. Her death ignited a wave of activism in Puerto Rico aimed at combating violence against trans women of colour.
Day 16: Hopes for the Future
We continue to hope for a future in which no more women are lost to the world through gender-based violence. We want a world where any woman who experiences harm is given the support that she needs, where all women are afforded the same respect and care, where homophobia, transmisogyny, racism, ableism, and misogyny are history. UN Women’s 16 days of activism reminds us that this world is possible, and the more we discuss gender-based violence and act against it, the closer this world becomes.
Once again, the 16 days of activism has been the highlight of the She’s Right year. We are endlessly grateful to our contributors who have shared their knowledge, experience, and dreams of a more gender-equal world. Your dedication is inspiring. We are particularly proud to publish material on violence against women that emphasises intersectionality, and centralises the specific harms that impact women of colour and lesbian, bisexual, and transgender women.
To everyone who read our articles, learnt something from our podcast, and gave some thought to the women and girls in our dedications over these 16 days, we thank you most of all. Engaging with this material, thinking deeply about gendered issues, and educating those around you, is a simple step towards a world that will keep our mothers, daughters, partners, sisters, and friends, safe from harm.
And to Patrycja, Preethi, Maggie, Diana, Renee, Milly, Tamara, Kerrice, Banaz, Jessielee, Yvonne, Yelena, Xi, Nada, Fresha, Alexa, and the many women like you: you are in our thoughts and our hearts.