San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Dancers on a mission

Global anti-violence campaign dances through San José

This past Saturday, passersby in the Plaza de la Cultura in the heart of San José got a Valentine’s Day surprise: a flash mob, whose choreographed dance was part of an international call to end violence against women. Participants in 200 countries around the world performed similar dances as part of the “One Billion Rising” movement, whose name refers to the one billion women in the world.

To the music and words of “Breaking the Chains,” a song composed for One Billion Rising, women of all ages and backgrounds performed a simple dance in the open air of the plaza, having learned the steps from the website or in groups around Costa Rica. The public was invited to join in.

Drummers drummed, singers sang, break dancers twirled, and under the leadership of drummer Mitch Robertson, a Native American from the United States, hundreds of women dressed in red paraded around the Plaza to a spot in front of the stage where performers led the dance.

One Billion Rising was created 17 years ago by Eve Ensler, author of the Vagina Monologues. Three years ago, the movement reached Costa Rica when Blooms, a group in Grecia, performed the dance in their town. Last year several women’s groups joined in and it was moved to the Plaza de la Cultura in San José. This year the National Women’s Institute (INAMU) was the main sponsor, along with co-sponsors including Blooms, the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom, the Humanitarian Foundation, students from the University for Peace, and various Costa Rican museums. In the weeks before the event, groups of women formed impromptu dance troupes and met to practice the dance.

Although in Costa Rica the number of femicides has gone down in recent years, there were 20 in 2014. In the month between Dec. 21, 2014 and Jan. 31, 2015, two women were murdered by their ex-partners; a 14-year-old girl was killed, allegedly by someone she met through the internet; and a sex worker was gang-raped and thrown from a car.

In the first six months of last year the National Women’s Institute (INAMU) attended 3,700 complaints of aggression. The 911 emergency system receives an average of 100 calls a day for domestic problems. During the World Cup games in which Costa Rica played in mid-2014, there were over 600 calls in one day.

Of course, violence again women is a worldwide phenomenon. Speakers from the various groups present at Saturday’s event referred the fact that in addition to acts of physical violence, verbal abuse, insults, jokes about women, and publicity using women’s images in a derogatory manner are common in most any country and are another form of violence.

“This event was very effective in expressing in a different and proactive way our concern about violence toward women,” said Kattia Solís, from INAMU’s Gender Violence division, in an email.

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