ASUNCIÓN, Paraguay – Gregorio Zárate was ready to jump to his death.
Three months ago, he was ready to jump off a 10-story building because he felt he had been betrayed. Months earlier he learned that his wife had been cheating on him with his best friend and that they both had fled the country, taking his daughter with them.
But Christian Paniagua crossed Zárate’s path and saved his life.
“I went up to the terrace [of the building] and told him that I knew what he was feeling, because the same thing had happened to me, my wife had also been unfaithful,” said Paniagua, founder and president of the nonprofit organization Kuimba’e Aty (group of men in Guaraní), dedicated to defending men’s rights. “They took his daughter and the other [man] claimed her as his own. He was ready to jump off the building and it took more than six hours to convince him not to do it.”
Paniagua founded the organization in Luque in 2007 after finding out about his wife’s adultery. From then on, he decided he needed to create an institution, a “union of men that fights for the equality of men’s rights before women.”
Kuimba’e Aty is not an organization based on sexist principles. It’s a group of “men united against abuse by women,” Paniagua said.
“My former wife travelled to Argentina and I kept my three children,” said Paniagua. “In the beginning she went there to work and help the family, but she entered into a relationship with another man and left us.”
“At that moment I felt hopeless, I found myself in a country that had no public or private institutions that could help me, since I had been left alone with three children,” Paniagua said. “There was no place to assist men in these cases, but there was for women. I was looking for at least psychological help, but I didn’t find it anywhere.”
Kuimba’e Aty has been helping approximately 3,000 men who have reported being victims of adultery, physical abuse, psychological torture and abandonment.
“Those who seek help at Kuimba’e Aty find spiritual and psychological help and legal aid, in the case of wives intending to illegitimately remove or hide the children from the male,” Paniagua said.
In the beginning, the group was the target of jokes by other men, Paniagua said.
“What started out as a target of jokes by some men soon turned into a serious, nationwide matter, [involving] cases from every region of the country,” he said.
Delio Peralta, an entrepreneur in the restaurant industry, is one of the thousands of men who sought help at Kuimba’e Aty after feeling hopeless because of his wife’s infidelity.
“If I hadn’t sought help at Kuimba’e Aty, I would have done something crazy,” said Peralta. “I found out my wife had been unfaithful to me, I found her [with her lover]. After that, they kept our two children.”
Peralta said that after that moment he and his wife waged a legal battle.
“A restraining order determined that I could not go near the house or see my children,” Peralta said. “She reported that I supposedly mistreated her, which is not true.”
Thanks to Kuimba’e Aty, Peralta found emotional support and legal help to face the situation.
“I needed psychological help, all of this affected me quite a lot, I went through some terrible times,” Peralta said. “I had, and I still have, to put up with her living with him and with my children. Now, with the help of Kuimba’e Aty, we are in litigation so that I can get my children back.”
Peralta said that after adultery is committed and the separation begins, there is no reason to grieve alone now that Paraguayan men have an organization where they can find the support they need to move on.
“I would suggest to those who are going through a situation such as mine to go to Kuimba’e Aty,” Peralta said. “I am not embarrassed for having gone to them. On the contrary, I am proud of it.”
Marino López, one of the six attorneys who offer legal advice at Kuimba’e Aty, said they are now drafting a bill to establish a legal basis for men’s rights with respect to women.
“There are many men who are mistreated both physically and emotionally in our society, there is no reason to hide it or to be ashamed,” López said. “My job is to act as a mediator between the two parties, to try to find a solution.”
López maintains that what they hope to do is to defend men’s rights, and with the bill they are drafting they want to “level the field” in the current Law 1600, which stipulates penal sanctions in cases of domestic violence in which the male is seen as the perpetrator.
“The Law 1600 that exists in Paraguay referring to cases of domestic violence and the rights of the family is meant to help … women,” López said. “But there is no specific law that defends the rights of men. That is what we hope to achieve if the bill we want to introduce in Congress is approved.”