Gender Violence in Argentina and the Education of Mauricio Macri

By Brenda Werth*

Macri Ni Una Menos

Photo Credit: Mauricio Macri Facebook page. Public Domain.

Argentina’s new President, Mauricio Macri, has an historic opportunity to address the country’s longstanding crisis of gender violence.  In a radio interview in 2014, he notoriously stated that “All women like to be catcalled,” and asserted, “I don’t believe the ones who say they don’t.”  Little did he know at the time that the most intense period of his presidential campaign in 2015 would coincide with a revolution in public awareness of gender violence in Argentina.  #NiUnaMenos – a movement launched in response to a rash of femicides and their graphic coverage by the news media – organized  marches in cities across Argentina, Uruguay, and Chile, drawing an estimated 300,000 protesters in Buenos Aires alone last June.  Journalists, artists, and activists, in collective denunciation of machismo and violence against women, demanded that the government develop a plan of action to implement the Comprehensive Law on the Prevention, Punishment and Elimination of Violence against Women (Law 26.485), approved in 2009.  The law was a significant milestone in addressing violence against women at the national level, yet without government support, its effectiveness has been limited.  Current data indicate that a femicide takes place every 30 hours in Argentina, and statistics suggest that the total number of femicides occurring in 2015 will meet or surpass numbers in 2014.  The NiUnaMenos movement has captured the public’s attention.

The presidential candidates (Macri included) took note of the impact of NiUnaMenos and pledged support to prevent violence against women as outlined in the five major points it published.  Macri posted a picture of himself holding a handmade #NiUnaMenos sign on Facebook and Twitter.  Yet activists remain concerned about Macri’s sincerity, not just because of his 2014 remarks.  As mayor of Buenos Aires (2007-15), he undermined initiatives to prevent violence against women and provide assistance to victims.  Specifically, in 2014 he closed an outreach center for victims of sexual violence that had operated under the Subsecretary of Human Rights in Buenos Aires, and he reduced the budget of the National Agency for Women from 0.1 percent in 2007 to 0.06 percent in 2015.

Macri has his work cut out for him if he wants to be perceived as a leader confronting Argentina’s gender violence.  Although his promises to slash government spending suggest social programs will suffer, there are some promising signs.  Macri’s Minister of Social Development, Carolina Stanley, has offered the post of President of the National Council for Women to Fabiana Tuñez, the founder of the Casa del Encuentro, a leading NGO on gender rights and eliminating sexual violence – and key in the #NiUnaMenos movement.  In a broader human rights framework, Macri’s agenda still remains relatively undefined.  Although his vision will depart significantly from former President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s, he has reiterated his commitment to continuing trials against former military accused of human rights abuses during dictatorship, rejecting claims that such efforts reflect “politics of revenge.”  In interviews, moreover, he has emphasized a forward-looking conception of human rights, rooted in the 21st century, focusing on issues related to pubic health, education, and freedom of expression.  While some observers view this as a regression to a “culture of amnesia” associated with the Menemist era, Macri has an opportunity to move the country forward by heeding activists’ demands for leadership addressing gender violence in Argentina. 

January 7, 2016

* Brenda Werth is Associate Professor of World Languages and Cultures at American Unviersity.

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2 Comments

  1. M. Neil

     /  January 8, 2016

    Well done, Brenda, and thanks CLALS for giving space to this viewpoint while so many continue to merely champion Macri’s centrist political and economic positions. Hopefully Macri is realizing that while proving his leadership can address Argentina’s populist and repressive political past is essential, demonstrating the political will to move gender equality forward in the public sphere might also speak volumes about his sincere commitment to human rights concerns. Responding to the voices that are creatively mobilizing against gender violence is certainly a good start. After all, as former President Jimmy Carter said, gender differentiation still represents the world’s most pervasively unequal structure of power. So if Macri doesn’t take this disparity seriously within his own country his international policy—such as sanctions for human rights violations that he might dole out to Venezuela, for example—might be viewed by his constituents as more of the same US-friendly political maneuvering than as any real evidence of his professed commitment to humane and inclusive leadership.

    Reply
  2. Brenda Werth

     /  January 11, 2016

    Thank you, Marcie, for your thoughtful comment. I agree that prioritizing important issues at the domestic level, such as gender equality and gender violence, would demonstrate a more serious commitment to human rights and would show that Macri is capable of envisioning a human rights agenda that consists of more than politically opportunistic gestures directed toward international audiences. It will be interesting to watch how this all plays out, particularly given recent questions surrounding the constitutionality of Macri’s frequent and polemical invocation of emergency decrees (DNUs).

    Reply

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