Three women were cowardly stabbed in a march last week, and very few seemed to care. Three women were stabbed, but not for the reasons we always suffer attacks: for jealousy, sexual abuse, assault, or just being a woman. The most serious thing is that this time, three women were stabbed for going out into the street to express their opinion, for defending what they consider fair and for demanding what they find indispensable.

This is not about defending the positions of those who were marching. It makes no difference whether we are for or against abortion, or whether we like or dislike the mechanisms by which all those women – and the men who accompanied them – decided to protest. None of that matters, because a group of intolerant people, unable to understand the value of the discrepancy in democracy, considered that the “brazenness” of these women deserved a violent attack.

Unfortunately, these kinds of situations are not new. From the suffragettes in the United Kingdom, through each of the women’s groups that have fought for advancement of rights, there have been aggressive responses from those who oppose these changes. On the issue of abortion, where there are legitimate positions on both sides, there are those who believe that the way to resolve the controversy is through violence against women who propose it. I don’t believe it. On this issue, as on many others, differences are resolved in the democratic arena, arguing in peace.

Among the “counter-protests” to the march, there were groups calling themselves “patriotic nationalists,” which is simply a crude way of eluding their neo-Nazi character. The existence and operation of these groups should be cause for alarm. It is neither healthy nor safe that this type of action is allowed by groups that do not believe in democratic spaces, that under the slogan of “anti-politics” hide their troglodyte and anti-democratic instincts. Chile has a long tradition of these groups, but for years they have remained on the sidelines without greatly affecting democratic values. However, on this occasion (and at least up to the time of writing this column), our police have not identified anyone as responsible for these terrible events. This certainly fills me with concern.

The democratic system cannot be taken for granted. As well as long-term relationships, it is built day by day, with patience and dedication. Within that framework we will always have fights, disagreements and essential differences. However, we must always bear in mind that democratic coexistence comes first and there is no point in breaking it. Those who propose speeches advocating violence, denigrating the rights of others, or proposing the breakdown of our democratic understanding, are also responsible for these events. I am not interested in prohibiting anyone’s free expression, but I am interested in holding accountable those who feed these groups with hate speech and populism. For those three stabbed women, I think it’s time to stop.