Hundreds of Venezuelans protested Saturday following the murders of three young women last week, in a rally against femicide in the South American nation.
Human rights activists have warned that the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened gender-related violence globally, with independent online initiative Monitor de Femicidios estimating there were 256 femicides in Venezuela last year, compared to 167 in 2019.
Roughly 300 people gathered in the northern city of Acarigua, many holding balloons with the phrase "Not one more", while others rallied in the capital Caracas.
"We are afraid," 22-year-old psychology student Ariadna Gonzalez told AFP, holding up a banner with the message: "Being alive should not be an achievement."
Last week two women were murdered in Turen, a town near Acarigua.
Eliannys Martinez, 17, was killed February 21 after leaving her church and 20-year-old Eduarlis Falcon was murdered en route to her gym a day after.
Both women's bodies bore signs of sexual violence, local media reported.
On Saturday, Attorney General Tarek William Saab said authorities had arrested Nelson Saavedra, with officials believing him to be "responsible for the heinous outrage and serial homicide" of the two women.
Saavedra had reportedly confessed after being turned in by his wife and will be charged with femicide aggravated by sexual violence, which carries a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison in Venezuela, Saab said.
The deaths follow that of 33-year-old Carmine Sosa, who was killed last week in northern Portuguesa state in a suspected domestic violence incident.
The attorney general's office has recorded more than 610 cases of femicide since 2017, half of which have been resolved.
Many of the women who rallied in Acarigua on Saturday said they only wished to feel safe in their everyday lives.
"We want to have the same right that men have to go quietly to the gym at 6:00 in the morning, to walk home alone after a Sunday mass, to return home quietly when it gets dark," said Daniela Duran, a performing arts student who spoke at the protest.
The 23-year-old, who has experienced street harassment, said such occurrences are "part of everyday life."
"There is no need to wear low-cut clothes, you can go out covered and with your hair up and the men in the cars slow down and pull over."
Venezuela suffers from a high rate of violent crime compared to other countries in the region.
Almost 12,000 violent killings occurred last year, according to the NGO Observatorio Venezolano de Violencia, approximately seven times higher than the world average.
Acarigua, Venezuela | AFP