MOBILISING FOR SEXUAL AND REPRODUCTIVE RIGHTS IN ARGENTINA
The fragility of our rights over our own bodies.
Following the rejection of Javier Mieli's government plan, Argentina called for a general strike to prevent the new president from dismantling the state with a wave of privatisations, spending cuts and restrictions on workers' rights and the right to protest. Although the president played down the strike, trade union centres, social and human rights organisations, artists, filmmakers, feminist organisations, teachers and students managed to rally half a million people to warn that his reforms remind us of the fragility of our rights over our own bodies.
It is well known that within a week of taking office, the self-proclaimed libertarian, openly anti-abortion and sexist, had halved the number of government ministries and fulfilled his promise to abolish the Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity in the name of austerity. Although Milei's final plans for the newly formed and arbitrarily named 'Ministry of Human Capital' are not yet known, his famous phrase 'there is no money' is a clear sign that sexual and reproductive health, rights and justice will not be on the agenda.
Milei has promised to hold a plebiscite on repealing the country's landmark abortion law in 2020, attacked the 2006 law recognising students' right to comprehensive sex education, routinely portrays LGBTIQ+ people as a threat to Argentine society and denies the existence of the gender gap.
However, the need for a strong and well-funded public health service in Argentina that provides integrated sexual and reproductive health services is of vital public interest and an issue that Argentine and international organisations continue to monitor closely.
In 2022, the Argentine judicial system registered one femicide every 35 hours, for a total of 252 victims. Teenage mothers account for 11.5% of all births. One in three women in Argentina has been subjected to violence on social media related to the abortion debate. Many of Argentina's 23 provinces do not have legislation to eliminate gender inequality and gender-based violence. Even where protective policies and services exist, they remain inaccessible to marginalised people.
As we have recently seen in Brazil, the economic policies of Milei, a self-proclaimed 'anarcho-capitalist', will disproportionately affect women, youth and marginalised groups who are already suffering from the country's ongoing economic crisis. Cuts in public spending on health and education, two highly feminised sectors, will directly and disproportionately affect indigenous, migrant and low-income women and girls. According to the Ministry of Women's Affairs, 64% of low-income households are headed by women, who on average earn 28.1% less than men. The unemployment rate for women is 7.8% compared to 6.1% for men. A robust public education and health sector can provide equal employment opportunities for women, enabling them to better care for themselves and their families.
More than forty years have passed since the restoration of democracy in Argentina, and 75 years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. But today, the Milei government's hostility to sexual and reproductive health and rights and its aims to implement regressive policies threaten to undo years of hard work and progress in realising our most intimate rights. Therefore, from a feminist perspective, we must ensure that we work even harder and in even stronger alliances to protect these hard-won victories.
Sexual and reproductive health commodities - For example, the national provision of sexual and reproductive health commodities, including contraceptives, hormone replacement therapy and the abortion pill, must be guaranteed. Earlier this year, Argentina approved the use of mifepristone, part of a two-pill abortion regimen that includes misoprostol, in a move to expand reproductive rights since the legalisation of abortion. These pills must be available and accessible to all.
Comprehensive sexuality education - Although comprehensive sexuality education has been mandatory in all schools in Argentina since 2006, many young people across the country still do not have access to basic knowledge about their sexual rights. And most of the teachers who provide this education are unpaid. To prevent violence and protect human rights, teachers, students and feminist organisations such as IPPF's affiliate in Argentina, Fundación Derechos Humanos Equidad de Género (FundDheg), need funding and support to continue and expand this vital curriculum.
LGBTIQ+ rights - Argentina already has some of the most progressive trans rights laws in the world, and in 2012 became the first country to allow trans people to change their legal gender without judicial approval or medical intervention. The 'trans work quota' is another law that reserves 1% of public sector jobs for trans people, giving them access to comprehensive healthcare and other benefits. However, one of Milei's newly elected deputies, Ricardo Bussi, has criticised this law, pointing out that the threat to repeal it will only deepen the existing inequalities faced by many trans people in Argentina. We must continue to raise the voices and experiences of trans people in Argentina to build evidence and support for these laws.
However, the hateful, racist, misogynistic and xenophobic statements made by Milei and his allies, both online and in the streets, pose a threat to peaceful coexistence and hinder the work of human rights defenders and organisations like ours who work on sexual and reproductive health and rights on a daily basis. We will therefore redouble our efforts to mobilise locally, regionally and globally to defend these hard-won rights.