Eva Analía de Jesús, Higui, was leaving her home with some friends when she was attacked by three men in the hallway. “I’m going to make you feel like a woman you stupid lesbian,” one of them said to her the night of October 16, 2016, in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of San Miguel, according to her statement before a judge.
“Read about the story of this girl, who has been locked up in prison unfairly.”
Higui claims that they started to beat her, knocking her down onto the ground and ripping her pants. According to her version, when one of the assailants laid on top of her to penetrate her, Higui pulled out a knife that she had hidden in her bra and stabbed him in the chest with it. It was a lethal wound.
Cristian Rubén Espósito didn’t last the night. Higui, 43, has been held in custody ever since, accused of homicide by the public prosecutor. Her lawyers, meanwhile, argue that she is a victim of gender violence, and that she was acting in legitimate self-defense in the face of a punishment rape.
On Thursday a new hearing was held at the courts in San Martín to call for her release. The judges now have five days to respond to the request. While the defense lawyer was speaking, dozens of people gathered at the doors of the court to call for her to be freed until her trial. Five days before, the popular support for the accused had been overwhelming. “Freedom for Higui! Attacked for being a lesbian, imprisoned for defending herself,” read the banners on display during the last protest against gender violence under the slogan “Ni Una Menos” (not one less), which was held in the streets of Buenos Aires last Saturday.
Her release was also one of the demands that was agreed between the organizers, and included in the final document that was read in Plaza de Mayo. Even the Colombian ex-archer René Higuita, to whom Higui owes her nickname, came out in her defense on social networks.
“Why would they rape you if you’re so ugly?” one of the police officers is reported to have said to her
The public prosecutor is not ruling out the fact that De Jesús acted in legitimate self-defense, but for now “it has no proof” to back that up, and as such is calling for her to be held in custody, the secretary general of the San Martín public prosecutor, Ignacio Correa, told EL PAÍS. According to statements from two witnesses, Espósito and Higui “had an argument and she stabbed him in the chest.” Correa denies that there have been any irregularities in the case.
But for the defense lawyer, Raquel Hermida, the list of irregularities is very long. The two witnesses against Higui were friends of Espósito who wanted to gang-rape her. When the police arrested her they cast her version into doubt. “Why would they rape you if you’re so ugly?” one of the police officers is reported to have said to her. Her family was unable to see her until three days later. The photos that they took of her on the first day, in which her bruises were visible, have not been admitted in the case. A doctor confirmed that she had been beaten but didn’t ask for any more studies. The psychological examination, which concluded that Higui is not lying, took five months. Hermida believes that discrimination against women is normal in Argentinean institutions and multiplies in the case of lesbians and transvestites.
A banner in support of Higui at a demonstration earlier this year.
The possibility of claiming legitimate self-defense for a homicide has opened a number of debates in Argentina, and the controversy was reopened last year with several cases: when a surgeon shot and killed a thief, and when a butcher chased and ran over a criminal who had tried to rob him, killing him in the process. In both cases the justice system allowed them to await their trial outside of jail.
Higui, 43, has six sisters and a brother. She makes a living from cleaning and gardening and in her free time she plays soccer. According to Azucena, one of her sisters, she has been the target of attacks ever since she was an adolescent due to her sexual orientation. One day she had stones thrown at her, another time her bicycle was stolen and insults were a common occurrence in her home neighborhood, in San Miguel, Argentina. She claims she was carrying the knife for self-defense.
Her defense lawyer is arguing that there is a legal precedent in the case of Beatriz López, who was absolved of the murder of her husband due to the domestic violence that she had suffered for years. Together with her family, she is now fighting to get Higui out of jail.