Blog, Social Justice

Life in Buenos Aires Part 2: Women


CW: domestic abuse, violence, murder

Argentinian women are some of the fiercest, most outspoken, and passionate across the world — but they haven’t had an easy journey when it comes to their rights to equality. According to the Buenos Aires Times, a study by Ipsos showed that 62% of Argentinians surveyed think there is an advantage to being a man versus a woman in their country. When it comes to women’s safety, abortion access, and equal rights for trans women, Argentina has made strides. But it still has a long way to go.

Violence Against Women

In Argentina, there is a high rate of violence against women as they continue to fight for their physical and emotional safety. The Buenos Aires Times highlights that the “three most prevalent issues currently faced by women and girls are sexual harassment, sexual violence and physical violence.” One of their priorities is preventing femicide and protecting women through policy. 

Harassment and violence have traumatized the women of Argentina for far too long. Things came to a head in 2015, when 14-year-old Chiara Páez was senselessly murdered by her boyfriend after he found out that she was pregnant and wanted to keep their baby. From this was born the #NiUnaMenos movement. According to the Open Society Foundation, “under the banner call of #NiUnaMenos (Not One Less), thousands of Argentinians, mostly women, marched towards the Plaza de Mayo in Buenos Aires to seek justice for all the women who died under brutal circumstances.”

The protest turned into a social media phenomenon that highlighted violence against women while also demanding protection from policymakers. 

A protestor in Buenos Aires with “Ni Una Menos” (Not One Less) painted on her cheek. Source: NPR

NPR found that in all the world, Latin America is home to 14 of the 25 countries with the highest rates of femicide, with an average of one Argentinian woman being killed every 32 hours. In the past few years, the #NiUnaMenos movement has grown, expanding into other parts of Latin America. Unfortunately, violence against women has only worsened during the pandemic, making the movement even more necessary. As with many places across the world, instances of domestic violence have increased during COVID, with Argentina seeing a 120% spike in domestic violence-related calls.

Mercedes D’Alessandro, Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, and Vilma Ibarra in Buenos Aires. Source: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/05/11/world/feminists-argentina-government.html

Argentina’s President Alberto Fernández said, “We must end these events definitively in Argentina. We must be inflexible with the perpetrators of these cases.”

The New York Times reports that in his annual speech to Congress in 2021, Fernández said that the fight against gender violence should be a top priority for everyone in Argentina. But has he actually followed through on this promise?

In the same article, it is suggested that those actually turning the gears within the Argentinean government are Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta, Vilma Ibarra, and Mercedes D’Alessandro. Gómez Alcorta is the country’s first minister of Women, Gender, and Diversity. Ibarra is the president’s top legal advisor and helped write the historic abortion bill that legalized the procedure in Argentina. D’Alessandro is Argentina’s first national director of economy, equality, and gender. These feminists in charge are the ones pushing policy change in support of Argentinian women.

In response to violence against women in Argentina, Gómez Alcorta said:

“Until 2015, Argentina didn’t officially track femicides. They used to be called “crimes of passion.” And there was no institutional structure that looked into violence against women, so we created a nationwide, federal agency. The changes needed are huge and structural in nature so they can’t be resolved in a couple of years or with one administration.” 

Although violence against women isn’t something that will be solved overnight, the #NiUnaMenos movement helped bring the issue to the public. It ultimately pushed political change by helping implement systemic changes to support women. It’s a step in the right direction, although we will see how it plays out over the next few years.

Abortion Access

Argentinians have also been fighting for the right to legal abortions. With the recent Roe v. Wade decision in the United States, I felt that discussing abortion was crucial and timely for this post. In 2018, the #NiUnaMenos movement sparked Green Wave demonstrations across Latin America, with demonstrators demanding legal and safe access to abortion.  

As protests continued, a positive change was finally granted to the people. In December 2020, abortion was finally legalized in Argentina. The law permitted that abortions could take place within the first 14 weeks of pregnancy. It was a huge win for Argentinians. One of the founders of the #NiUnaMenos movement, María Florencia Alcaraz said, “the abortion law is a starting point, not an ending point…this is a right that we have and that we are citizens who can make our own decisions about our bodies.” With abortion legalized in Argentina, the people behind these protests rejoiced in their victories. 

Pro-choice protestors demonstrate in Buenos Aires. Source: NPR

Trans Rights

Trans women (and all trans folks) are still heavily discriminated against… but they continue to make slow progress to achieve equality in Argentina.

Before diving in, I want to acknowledge my privilege as a cisgender woman writing about these topics. I’ll be analyzing this topic from a research-based lens.

I recently read We Are Everywhere: Protest, Power, and Pride in the History of Queer Liberation by Matthew Riemer and Leighton Brown, where I learned about trans icons Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson. As leaders of the queer liberation movement, Rivera and Johnson were still heavily discriminated against within the LGBTQ+ community. How could that be the case for two women who literally gave their lives to move forward queer rights? Trans folks have always and continue to be discriminated against, even within the queer community. 

In Argentina, as in the rest of the world, discrimination against the trans community is abundant. According to the Government of the Netherlands, which reported on equal rights for trans folks in Argentina, 60% of transgender women haven’t finished secondary school because of discrimination and 70% have never had a job interview for the same reason. Argentinian people have taken this issue into their own hands, creating organizations such as Contratá Trans, which helps trans folks get hired.

Although trans women are still heavily discriminated against throughout Argentina, they have recently made history. The Buenos Aires Times reports that Mara Gómez could be the first transgender woman to play professional football in Argentina. Back in 2020, the Argentine Football Association (AFA) was grappling with whether or not to let Gómez play on the women’s team. Thankfully, they made the right decision! She made history as the first transgender woman to play professional football in Argentina. However, it didn’t come easily. In a recent interview with Gómez, she said, “being Mara had many costs, one of them was discrimination.” 

Mara Gómez, the first transgender woman to play professional football in Argentina. Source: FIFPRO

Decisions like these have paved the way for inclusion among LGBTQ+ folks, especially in Latin America, particularly in the area of trans rights. However, discrimination continues to create devastating barriers for trans women. As Gómez stated, “Discrimination is murder without weapons.” Although these landmark decisions and laws help trans communities, it’s the everyday discrimination that often causes the most harm.

We’ll dive more into the local LGBTQ+ community later in the series but I wanted to highlight the discrimination that trans women, in particular, have felt in Argentina. As a group that has been historically marginalized, especially in their own community, I want to make sure they have visibility throughout this series. 

In the next post, I’ll be discussing ex-pats and immigrants. What’s the difference between the two? Where did they come from around the world? How have they influenced Buenos Aires and Argentina? Find out next!

You can read Part 1 of this series here.

Yasi Agah is a San Francisco native who loves to read, write, roller-skate and listen to Blink 182. Her favorite genre is definitely memoirs. Becoming by Michelle Obama makes her tear up every time she reads it.

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