Three years following the legalization of abortion in Argentina, women’s rights activists are preparing to resume their fight after the election of Javier Milei as president, making him the first large Latin American country to hold this position.
Soledad Deza, from Fundación Mujeres x Mujeres, expressed concern about the current state of affairs, stating that the government is promoting increased inequality and has made it clear from the beginning that they do not support the autonomy, sovereignty, and independence of our bodies.
Milei, a controversial, extreme libertarian with far-right views, consistently advocates for strict policies on women’s rights. He has pledged to initiate a vote on overturning the country’s historic legalization of abortion in 2020, referred to social justice as an “aberration,” and committed to abolishing the ministry of women, gender, and diversity.
Despite evidence showing that women in the country earn 27% less than men, he refuses to acknowledge the gender pay gap and has faced criticism for neglecting the prevalence of gender-based violence and discrimination. In this country, an average of one woman is murdered every 35 hours.
Deza expressed that the outcomes were undoubtedly disheartening. Those of us involved in these matters will likely face a great deal of challenge and coordination moving forward.
The discussion sparked by Milei resembles that of Donald Trump in the United States or Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, foreshadowing potential outcomes for Argentina, according to Giselle Carino from Fòs Feminista, a global coalition of women’s rights groups advocating for reproductive justice. “The election results, although anticipated, are heartbreaking for those of us dedicated to these causes.”
While analysts have suggested that the country’s highly fragmented congress may force Milei to temper some of his more radical proposals, Carino said it was too early to tell. “What we have learned, most unfortunately, is that when people put forward declarations on our issues like he did, we have to take that seriously.”
Claudia Laudano, a feminist studies researcher and professor at the University of La Plata, stated that the recent election resulted in a change in attitude that could have significant consequences. She expressed concern over the potential questioning of the legitimacy of the work that has been devoted to for an extended period of time.
She cited Milei’s attempt to downplay violence against women as an instance. “Addressing the impact of violence on women specifically has been a long-standing focus for us, and Milei is claiming that all violence is equal. This perpetuates a harmful conversation.”
Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ expressed concern about potential loss of their rights following the election. Mariana Gisela Tissone, a 50-year-old transgender woman and activist, shared her initial response of fear and memories of past struggles. Tissone credited her ability to transition to a law put in place during Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s presidency.
“I never expected the far right to emerge victorious here, particularly with their messages in support of the dictatorship,” she expressed. “I am uncertain of Milei’s plans for tomorrow, as nobody knows, but I am concerned about potential regression in terms of human rights that we have fought for. It brings back the same feelings I had 20 years ago.”
According to journalist Adriana Carrasco, Milei and his party, La Libertad Avanza, aimed to continuously exclude LGBTQ+ individuals during their campaign. An example of this was when a spokesperson for Milei compared same-sex marriage to refusing to shower, getting lice, and then being upset when others dislike those with lice.
According to her, a large number of people in the community have experienced discrimination from politicians, which has resulted in them being subjected to numerous personal insults and abuses. She also mentioned that their followers, particularly on social media, have launched various attacks on them.
She stated that certain election outcomes could be seen as a negative response to the advancements achieved in recent times. According to her, there exists a dedicated group of La Libertad Avanza supporters, consisting mainly of young men who may struggle financially, but also including some who do not, who are opposed to the progress of women and the LGBT community.
Argentina has consistently been at the forefront in promoting progressive initiatives towards gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights in the region. This includes introducing the first gender quota law in Latin America in 1991 and legalizing same-sex marriage in 2010. More recently, in 2021, a new law was passed allowing non-binary individuals to select an X as their gender marker.
However, Carrasco held the belief that the majority of voters who chose Milei were motivated by financial concerns, seeking to disrupt an economy that has resulted in 40% of the country’s 45 million inhabitants facing poverty, while also dealing with inflation rates exceeding 140%.
Despite this, she was confident that Milei would use his victory to implement social changes in addition to his economic plans. “They will use this opportunity to do whatever they desire,” Carrasco stated.
Any push in this direction would likely yield a fierce standoff with Argentina’s vibrant social movements, said Carino of Fòs Feminista. “We are going to keep fighting,” she said. “These laws didn’t just happen in congress. These laws happened because people fought on the streets. And we will continue doing that.”