Things That Matter

Argentinian Teen Electrocuted To Death While Walking Barefoot in the Dominican Republic

Melina Caputo, 17, was on vacation in the Dominican Republic with her family when one misstep ended her life. Caputo was walking back from the beaches of Punta Cana to her hotel room when she came in contact with a live wire and was electrocuted. By the time paramedics arrived, they were unable to revive her, and she was pronounced dead on the scene. Her brothers and cousins reportedly witnessed her death.

Caputo’s grandparents hosted Melina and her brothers on the Dominican Republic trip.

Credit: leandrocaputo_ / Instagram

It was the last day of their trip, and the group was heading back to the hotel, Be Live, presumably to pack up and head back home to Argentina. Melina was walking back from the beach barefoot, and once she stepped up onto some metal stairs, she reportedly “came into contact” with a live wire. Preliminary investigations assert that the teenager died from cardio-respiratory failure, but the family is waiting for results from the autopsy.

The Director of Communications for the hotel chain insists there were no live wires on the hotel’s property.

Credit: melllchu / Instagram

The family was staying at Punta Cana resort Be Live of Bayahibe. Its parent company, Globalia, has issued a statement asserting that there is no live wiring on their property. There are no reports as of yet as to who is responsible for the live wiring found on the metal bridge linking the beach to the hotel property.

Melina’s father has since traveled to the resort to make arrangements for her body.

Credit: MeLina Caputo / Facebook

He’s also there to offer support to his family. Since her, her friends have posted emotional tributes honoring the young girl’s life. Nicolas Baistrocchi, who was Facebook married to Melina, shared, “We both thought that if we were going to separate, it would be when we are old, but I never imagined that I was going to lose you so soon.”

Her brother, Leandro, has taken to social media to honor her memory.

Credit: leandrocaputo_ / Instagram

“I saw you being born, I saw you growing up, I saw you fighting, I saw you crying, I saw you smiling, I saw you dreaming,” he wrote in an emotional post. “I know you were a good-intentioned person, as you were always fighting for the defenseless, I apologize my love for not being able to do more to have you by my side.” Leandro witnessed his sister’s death.

Just last week, Leandro shared a new tattoo: her name inscribed on his chest, por siempre.

Credit: leandrocaputo_ / Instagram

In pure poetry, Leandro captions the post, “We had those same pleasures, those of scratching ourselves like a school bench, those “gustos” of piercing our ears, nose, weird clothes, extravagant hairstyles. The sad tunes that only our souls could feel hugged by, and now it’s my turn to follow without you, how? I still don’t know, but with the hope that you give me, las fuerza hermanita, I love you madly, my guardian angel and wait for me, please. We still have a thousand songs to dance to.”

The last thing Melina posted on her social media before she died was, “me voy despidiendo,” which means “I’m saying goodbye.”

Credit: leandrocaputo_ / Instagram

Melina also had a separate Instagram account for her band. The photos she posted of herself wearing goofy, white plastic glasses with her friends and side-view car mirrored selfies are all framed with beautiful images of roses and palm fronds. 

After 13 Americans have died in the Dominican Republic so far this year, Melina’s death is only the latest.

Credit: MeLina Caputo / Facebook

It’s hard for any family to make sense of the reported deaths in the Dominican Republic thus far. While the DR’s minister of tourism, Francisco Javier Garcia, balked at the notion that the DR is any less safe than its ever been, the United States’ own FBI launched its own investigation. Since then, tourism has dropped by 74 percent on the island, and Javier Garcia is finally acting.

New measures have been put in place that could help save lives, and assure tourists that they are safe.

Credit: MeLina Caputo / Facebook

The Dominican Republic has newly officiated a Department of Tourism Services and Companies. The department will oversee the enforcement of new policies that include ensuring medical professionals on staff at hotels are sufficiently qualified, that lifeguards are fully certified, along with reinforcing an existing law that requires hotel staff to notify guests of what to do in the case of an emergency. After a string of deaths related to consuming mini bar liquors, resorts are now required to release their standard operating procedures for handling food items and a list of all their beverage suppliers.

READ: Dominicans Are Taking To Social Media To Make Sure That People Stop Trying To Cancel The Dominican Republic

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The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

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The Dominican Republic Finally Outlaws Child Marriage After Years of Campaigning by Girls’ Rights Activists

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Outside of the U.S., some good news has occurred amidst a week that has otherwise been full of mayhem and chaos.

On Wednesday, the Dominican Republic’s Executive Branch approved a law that unilaterally bans child marriage in its country.

In the past, children younger than 18 were allowed to marry with a special exemption from a judge. These exemptions happened often. Now, no woman or man under the age of 18 are allowed to marry under any circumstances in the Dominican Republic.

This move is significant because the Dominican Republic has the highest rates of child marriage in Latin America and the Caribbean. Official government figures show that 36% of Dominican girls and adolescents marry or enter into “unions” before the age of 18. In 12% of these relationships, the female partner was less than 15 years old.

More informal “unions” where a girl simply moves into an older man’s household are also common in the DR. These are very common in higher poverty communities where many girls are considered a financial burden on their families. Unions like these will be harder to penalize because there is no formal documentation of their partnership.

There are multiple factors that play into the Dominican Republic’s high child marriage rate.

One of the main factors is the culture of machismo that informs the way that young men and women approach relationships.

According to research conducted by Plan International, 81% of Dominican girls said they preferred men that were five years older than them. This statistic is in stark contrest to 39% of Dominican men who prefer their partners 18 or younger because they found them more “obedient” and “adaptable”.

Not only that, but there is also a strong cultural expectation for girls and women to become mothers and wives. These cultural beliefs have simply stoked the practice of child marriage.

“Child marriage and early unions are seen as normal in society. It is driven by machismo that sees the role of a woman to be just a mother and wife,” said Rosa Elcarte, UNICEF’s representative in the Dominican Republic, to the Thomson Reuters Foundation. “Ending early unions will require years of work to change cultural norms.”

Feminists and human rights activists consider this law a win after many years campaigning to put an end to this practice.

But on a bittersweet note, many advocates realize that one law doesn’t dismantle the patriarchal structure of their culture that enabled this practice for so long. There is still a lot of work to be done.

“Our girls and adolescents will be protected … and cannot be forced into marriage in their childhood or adolescence, which in the past was often carried out by parents and legally allowed,” said Sonia Hernandez, an associate director of the International Justice Mission, in a statement to NBC News.

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Recognizing Its Diversity Issue, Argentina Is Working To Add More Transgender Workers To Its Labor Force

Things That Matter

Recognizing Its Diversity Issue, Argentina Is Working To Add More Transgender Workers To Its Labor Force

Leonardo Munoz/VIEWpress via Getty Images

Argentina has long been a progressive bastion in Latin America. It was one of the first countries in the region to allow same-sex marriage and also has anti-discrimination laws in many cities. It’s also been a beacon of hope for the transgender community, with the government long allowing individuals to choose their self-perceived identity regardless of their biological sex.

However, transgender workers still face immense discrimination and that has left a reported 95% of the community without formal employment. To help try and address this issue, the nation’s leaders have instituted a program to ensure that at least 1% of the workforce is made up of trans workers. It’s an ambitious task but the government is already making progress.

Argentina launched a program to ensure better transgender representation in the workforce.

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández signed a decree in September establishing a 1 percent employment quota for transgender people in the public sector. The law went into effect on January 1 and its aim is to bring more trans workers into the formal economy.

According to Argentina’s LGBTQ community, 95 percent of transgender people do not have formal employment, with many forced to work in the sex industry where they face violence.

“If all the institutions implemented the trans quota, it would change a lot for many of my colleagues. It would change the quality of their lives and they would not die at 34, or 40, which is their life expectancy today,” Angeles Rojas, who recently landed a job at a national bank, told NBC News.

There are no official figures on the size of the transgender community in Argentina, since it was not included in the last 2010 census. But LGBTQ organizations estimate there are 12,000 to 13,000 transgender adults in Argentina, which has a population topping 44 million.

Few countries in the world are stepping up to help trans workers quite like Argentina.

Argentina has long prided itself on its progressive policies. The nation was one of the first in the Americas to recognize same-sex unions and several cities have anti-discrimination laws aimed at protecting the LGBTQ community.

In 2012, Argentina adopted an unprecedented gender identity law allowing transgender people to choose their self-perceived identity regardless of their biological sex. The law also guarantees free access to sex-reassignment surgeries and hormonal treatments without prior legal or medical consent.

Worldwide, only neighboring Uruguay has a comparable quota law promoting the labor inclusion of transgender people. And a law such as this one has the potential to greatly impact the lives of transgendered Argentinians.

Despite the program, transgender people still face enormous challenges in Argentina.

A recent report by the Latin American and Caribbean Network of Trans People published in December said “the vast majority of trans women in the region have sex work as their sole economic and subsistence livelihood.”

It goes on to say: In Latin America and the Caribbean transgender people have their right to work violated along with all their human rights, and this takes place “in a context of extreme violence.”

Despite legal protections, Argentina’s trans community remains at risk. Many of the country’s trans citizens live in the Gondolín, a building in the Buenos Aires’ Palermo neighborhood, for protection and strength in numbers.

There have been advances in Argentina. This year, Diana Zurco became the first transgender presenter of Argentine television news, Mara Gómez was authorized by the Argentine Football Association to play in the professional women’s league and soprano María Castillo de Lima was the first transgender artist to go on stage at Teatro Colón.

However, the gap between the equality established by law and the real one remains large, warned Ese Montenegro, a male transgender activist hired as an adviser to the Chamber of Deputies’ women’s and diversity commission.

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