Latin American Feminists Are Fighting for Intersectional Gender Justice


Latin American feminists are connecting abortion rights, femicide and care work into a big political and financial framework that helps activists struggle for gender justice in many alternative international locations.

An illustration in entrance of the Senate of Argentina advocating for authorized, free and protected abortion entry. The signal reads, “For our proper to determine / authorized, protected and free abortion.” (Protoplasma K / Flickr)

In recent times, girls within the U.S., Argentina and Northern Ireland have stood, cloaked in long, crimson hooded capes to protest legal guidelines prohibiting abortion. The purple gown references Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Story, which itself was at the very least partly inspired by how Argentina’s dictatorship handled a whole bunch of pregnant girls. Between 1976 and 1983, the nation’s navy junta—with the assist of the USA and France—tortured and disappeared an estimated 30,000 folks. The state seized various pregnant girls on this course of, and 500 infants had been born in Argentine torture facilities. The navy then murdered these moms, typically dropping them from airplanes into the Atlantic Ocean earlier than delivering their youngsters to households loyal to the regime.

However the moms of the disappeared poked a thorn into the aspect of the junta as they marched, white kerchiefs protecting their heads, demanding solutions about their youngsters’s whereabouts from the dictator ensconced throughout the road from the Plaza de Mayo.  

The Moms and Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo in September 1988. (Wikimedia Commons)

In December 2020, Argentine feminists stuffed the sq. in entrance of the Congress constructing, cheering because the Senate voted to decriminalize abortion. The inexperienced kerchiefs that adorned everybody and nodded to their predecessors, the Moms of the Plaza de Mayo. The “green wave’s” victory on abortion rights, nevertheless, matches into a bigger imaginative and prescient.

In 2015, Argentina’s public squares overflowed in response to the decision for “ni una menos”—not one fewer, an finish to femicide, to the homicide of ladies and women due to their gender. Argentina’s feminists related the dots between the problems of abortion and femicide.

“Subordination requires violence. That’s, you possibly can’t preserve a whole group, a whole inhabitants, subordinated in case you don’t train violence on this group. It’s a primary type of domination,” mentioned Mariana Álvarez. “This violence interprets into many strategies and plenty of kinds, however mainly, what it’s a must to perceive is that it’s the violence of a system that wants you reproducing—a mom, docile, subordinated to a different gender, heterosexualized, exploited in each approach.”

Álvarez is an lawyer in Argentina’s northern province of Tucumán who works with Mujeres X Mujeres, a non-profit that advocates for the equal rights of ladies and gender non-conforming folks.

Álvarez says the case of a younger lady named Belen galvanized native opinion in opposition to Argentina’s restrictive abortion legislation. Belen was arrested in 2014 after going to the hospital with extreme hemorrhaging. She mentioned she wasn’t conscious she was pregnant, and whereas the legislation didn’t criminalize miscarriage, Belen was arrested and in the end charged with murder. She was absolved in 2017.

Álvarez mentioned that the forces that allow injustices just like the arrest of Belen and impunity for crimes equivalent to femicide and rape additionally flip a blind eye to land grabbing and environmental destruction.

“We perceive that the one approach that this technique sustains itself is by exploiting us and having the ability to rape us. So, it desires us as moms; it desires us docile; it desires us good; it desires us overwhelmed; and it wants us this fashion with the intention to produce the way in which it does.”

Subordination requires violence. It’s the violence of a system that wants you reproducing—a mom, docile, subordinated to a different gender, heterosexualized, exploited in each approach.

Mariana Álvarez

Finding problems with feminine bodily autonomy right into a a lot bigger political and financial framework is a part of what distinguishes the feminist motion that has swept Latin America, resulting in the decriminalization in three of the region’s largest countries in just below 18 months.

In a way, Argentine feminists have adopted an strategy just like conservatives within the U.S. who’ve mobilized for many years to take management of the nation’s judiciary and legislative methods with the intention to understand their beliefs. Latin America’s feminists, nevertheless, are ranging from the concrete challenges of their every day lives to formulate their priorities. For them, the correct to have the ability to terminate a being pregnant has been central to the decision for the correct to stay. And underpinning each calls for is the truth of ladies’s lived expertise shouldering all of a household’s care work for no pay or recognition. A 2020 authorities report on Argentina’s unpaid care financial system found that women perform 75 percent of the nation’s care work—and that it accounts for practically 16 p.c of the gross home product.  

Cynthia Britez says Argentina’s new legislation “restores sovereignty over our our bodies and over our sexual need.” Britez coordinates instructional initiatives on sexual and reproductive rights on the College of Buenos Aires’s legislation faculty. This angle of bodily sovereignty displays the feminist imaginative and prescient that individuals with feminine or feminized our bodies have the correct to stay and to take action in circumstances that respect her/their autonomy. Therefore the slogan: “intercourse schooling to determine; contraceptives to not abort; authorized abortion to not die.”

This embrace has meant grappling with questions on womanhood. Final yr, trans girls sat subsequent to cis girls on the linoleum ground through the common Friday-evening assemblies the place the motion organized its huge Worldwide Ladies’s Day “Ni Una Menos” march, hashing out variations of opinion and priorities. A part of this course of, Britez says, meant interrogating, “What defines maternity? Is it simply the bodily physique? Are there no different points round what maternity means?”

Though there are some dissenting voices, the majority of Argentina’s feminists have opted to view maternity and femaleness as political identities greater than organic ones.

“[There is] a complete variety in different political areas the place dialogue wouldn’t be attainable,” Britez mentioned. “However on this one, we had been capable of say, okay, what’s our objective as girls, as individuals who can turn out to be pregnant? It’s decriminalizing.”

This isn’t the primary time Argentina and Latin America have been forward of the U.S. when it comes to gender justice. Argentina legalized same-sex marriage in 2010. Final yr, it handed a legislation recognizing non-binary identities on formal identification playing cards and one other to make sure transgender folks have access to formal employment.

In the meantime, the U.S. the panorama is pockmarked with judges and legislators for whom the problem is a litmus check for conservative credibility. Organizations just like the Federalist Society, Donors Belief and the American Legislative Trade Council have labored tirelessly to limit entry to reproductive choices whereas additionally undermining potential allies like unions.

We had been capable of say, okay, what’s our objective as girls, as individuals who can turn out to be pregnant? It’s decriminalizing.

Cynthia Britez

Britez acknowledges that related forces are at work in Argentina and stresses that the hassle to safe folks’s sexual and reproductive autonomy is ongoing. For Álvarez, the motion’s spirit of generosity and inclusivity are pivotal. She famous that at 42, abortion isn’t an ideal concern for her any longer. Nonetheless, what motivates her is guaranteeing [an unplanned pregnancy] “doesn’t occur to my daughter, or my granddaughter, or my neighbor.”

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