Two friends raped and murdered and still the public criticises the parents instead of the perpetrators
Montañita is a very well known beach in Ecuador among tourists; many people go there with friends to have a good time and party. Last month, two Argentinians, Marina Menegazzo and Maria Jose Coni, were backpacking around South America and stopped in Montañita for a few days. On the 22nd of February, the parents of Marina and Maria Jose reported their daughters missing. The Ecuadorian Ministry of Internal Affairs took care of the situation and six days later, on the 28th of February, the bodies of Marina and Maria Jose were found wrapped in plastic bags.
Marina and Maria Jose had been victims of rape and murder; they were sexually and physically abused. The world was shocked and many people were blaming the parents of the victims as well as Ecuador. But this crime could have happened to anyone, anywhere.
From a legal point of view, one of the main reasons this particular case became controversial is because it was solved in less than 48 hours, during which the Minister of Internal Affairs, Jose Serrano, announced finding the supposed criminals and emphasized that the bodies corresponded to the missing Argentinians. The parents of the victims were not even allowed to see the bodies in order to check if they belonged to their daughters or not. Just over a week ago — almost three weeks after finding the bodies — the body of Maria Jose was finally confirmed with a DNA test.
The Constitution of Ecuador clearly recognizes the constitutional right of a due legal process; which this case never had. How can a crime, involving the governments of Ecuador and Argentina, be solved in almost 48 hours? The supposed murderers, regardless of whether they are guilty or not, must have a presumption of innocence and the right to be defended. Yet one of the two supposed murderers stated that he was forced to declare his guilt despite himself.
Because this case involves legal assistance from Ecuador and Argentina, it has to follow the correct process any other crime would have followed. The case has to follow the due legal process, and no matter how long the investigations may take, it must have certain proof. Minister Serrano did not show any evidences or proof when he first claimed to have solved the case, during those speedy 48 hours.
But what really made this crime so controversial is the fact that these tourists were raped and killed because they were alone and, most importantly, because they were women.
How long will it be before women can have the same safety men have when walking late at night? Why are men not questioned when they decide to go backpacking? It is sad to see people questioning and judging the victims’ parents. Why did they let them travel alone? They gave their daughters too much freedom, and so on.
I disagree with these points of view but I understand them somehow as well. I realise that women are more vulnerable than men, so we have to be more careful and more aware of our surroundings. But we are living in the twenty-first century, a period characterised by the search for equality and improved human rights. This is a time when society shouldn’t be questioning parents because they let their daughters be independent and follow their dreams. Society should do better and question why there are still such monsters out there who do these things, and ask what makes them act that way; why they can’t respect women and understand that we are the owners of our bodies and that we decide, no one else.
The murders of Marina and Maria Jose have undoubtedly reopened the debate around women’s rights. Belen Menegazzo, sister of the deceased, tweeted calling on the people of Ecuador and Argentina to march against violence towards women.
The positive side of this tragic story is that people are realizing how deficient the legal and judicial system is in Ecuador and, most importantly, that women’s rights must play a bigger role if they are to prevent such horrors from happening again.