Three years after Argentina made headlines by becoming the first major Latin American country to legalize abortion, activists for women’s rights are preparing to once again fight against the election of Javier Milei as president.
Soledad Deza, from the Fundación Mujeres x Mujeres, expressed concern over the current situation, stating that the government’s actions are leading to increased inequality and a lack of support for women’s autonomy, sovereignty, and bodily independence.
Milei, a fervent libertarian with extremist views, consistently advocates for harsh policies on women’s rights. He has declared his intent to hold a public vote on overturning the 2020 law legalizing abortion in the country, and has referred to social justice as abnormal. He also promises to dissolve the ministry of women, gender, and diversity in the country.
He has rejected the idea of a gender wage gap, despite data indicating that women in the nation earn 27% less than men. He has also been accused of disregarding the prevalence of gender-based violence and bias in a country where an average of one woman was killed every 35 hours last year.
Deza stated, “The outcomes are certainly disheartening.” They added, “Those of us dedicated to addressing these matters have a challenging road ahead in terms of advocacy and organization.”
According to Giselle Carino of Fòs Feminista, an international organization advocating for women’s rights and reproductive justice, the rhetoric used by Milei parallels that of US President Donald Trump and Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro. This may foreshadow potential challenges for Argentina in the future. Carino expressed disappointment over the election results, which were not surprising but still devastating for those fighting for these important issues.
Although experts have proposed that the country’s congress, which is divided into many factions, may cause Milei to moderate his extreme ideas, Carino stated that it is still too soon to determine. “What we have unfortunately discovered is that when individuals make statements about our issues, like he did, we must take them seriously.”
According to Claudia Laudano, a feminist studies researcher and professor at the University of La Plata, the recent election brought about a change in attitude that could have significant consequences. She expressed concern over the potential questioning of the legitimacy of their long-standing work.
She cited Milei’s attempts to downplay violence against women as an illustration. “Addressing the impact of violence on women specifically is something we have been striving for, and Milei is claiming that all violence is equal. This perpetuates a harmful narrative.”
Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ expressed concern about potential loss of their rights following the election. Mariana Gisela Tissone, a 50-year-old trans woman and activist, shared that her initial reaction was fear and memories of past discrimination. She credits a law passed during Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s administration for allowing her to transition.
“I did not anticipate that the far right would be victorious here, especially with their messages in support of the dictatorship,” she expressed. “I am uncertain of Milei’s plans for tomorrow, as no one knows, but I am concerned about a regression in terms of human rights, which we have fought for. I have the same apprehension that I had 20 years ago.”
According to journalist Adriana Carrasco, the campaign led by Milei and his party, La Libertad Avanza, aimed to continuously discriminate against LGBTQ+ individuals. As an example, a Milei representative made comments comparing same-sex marriage to choosing not to bathe, getting lice, and then complaining that others do not like those with lice.
According to her, a lot of people in the community have experienced discrimination from politicians, resulting in a constant stream of personal attacks and verbal abuse. She also mentioned that their followers, especially on social media, have been the source of many of these attacks.
According to her, certain election outcomes could be seen as a negative response to the advancements made in the past few years. She stated, “There is a core group of La Libertad Avanza supporters who are primarily young males, some of whom are struggling financially and others who are not. This group is opposed to the progress of women and the LGBT community.”
Argentina has been at the forefront of promoting progressive measures for gender equality and LGBTQ+ rights in the region. This includes implementing Latin America’s initial gender quota law in 1991 and legalizing same-sex marriage in 2010. Most recently, a law was passed in 2021 that permits non-binary individuals to indicate their gender as X.
Carrasco held the belief that the majority of those who supported Milei were motivated by economic concerns, hoping for a change in the struggling economy that has resulted in 40% of the country’s 45 million people living in poverty, while inflation rates have surpassed 140%.
Nevertheless, she was confident that Milei would use his victory to push for both economic policies and social reforms. “They will use this opportunity to fulfill all of their desires,” stated Carrasco.
Carino, a member of Fòs Feminista, believes that any attempt to move in this direction would result in a strong confrontation with Argentina’s active social movements. She stated, “We will persist in our fight. These laws were not simply passed in congress; they came to be because people took to the streets to fight for them. And we will not stop doing so.”