Government shutters what remained of Women, Genders, Diversity Ministry

It had already gone from independent ministry to pared-down undersecretariat. Argentina no longer has a national state department dedicated to gender policy

The government has shut down what remained of the former Ministry of Women, Genders, and Diversity. The office had been demoted to an undersecretariat for protection against gender-based violence when President Javier Milei took office. Its head, Claudia Barcia, confirmed to the Herald she filed her resignation on Thursday after learning about this decision.

While the short-lived undersecretariat initially was under the Human Capital Ministry, two weeks ago it was transferred to the Justice Ministry led by Mariano Cúneo Libarona. The ministry has decided that all of the ex-undersecretariat’s tasks will now be handled by the human rights secretariat under Alberto Baños, sources confirmed to the Herald.

“The missions and programs that were under the Undersecretariat for Protection against Gender-based Violence will continue according to legal dispositions and conventional mandates,” a human rights secretariat source said. They declined to give any details on how this will be carried out.

Workers at the undersecretariat told the Herald that they did not receive any formal notification of the situation. “We don’t know anything, we just are very distressed,” one said.

The Human Rights Secretariat published a communiqué on Thursday afternoon saying the closure was due to a “clear overlap of functions between different government agencies,” explaining that due to “upkeep costs” the government had decided to “make service more efficient.”

At one of the buildings where the now-extinct undersecretariat worked, around 150 employees gathered in an assembly to discuss the situation. There, they decided to hold a public assembly next Tuesday at 3:30 p.m. at the square in front of Congress and invited social organizations, unions, and the general public to join.

Union representatives from the State Workers Association (ATE, by its Spanish initials) at the former ministry described this decision as “a huge step back” for feminism and gender institutions.

You may also be interested in: Gender policy in the Milei era: five months of dismantlement and misogynistic attacks

“This will be the first time since 1992, when the National Women’s Council was created, that [Argentina] won’t have an organism responsible for carrying out public policies that promote a life without violence and discrimination, and in favor of equality,” said an ATE press release published Thursday afternoon.

Earlier this week, workers had learned that 80% of the undersecretariat’s staff would be reduced, leaving around 500 people without their jobs. Only 100 would remain in their position. The announcement came the day after the Ni Una Menos march, in which thousands of people went out to the streets to protest gender-based violence and femicides.

Previously, hundreds of workers from the undersecretariat has been fired as part of the around 14,000 layoffs in the public administration carried out in March.

“After five months under this administration, we find there is a total dismantlement of the policies to prevent gender-based violence, as a result of the brutal cuts in Milei’s government,” said a communiqué released by ATE this week. The president’s measures, they said, not only aim at “making the state disappear” but are also part of “his policy of confrontation against women, LGBTI+ people and feminisms in general.”

Milei had first vowed to eliminate the ministry in 2022, saying he would do it as soon as possible if he ever became president. His administration has closed, dismantled or defunded several state programs to end gender-based and sexual violence, economic inequality and discrimination, as well as plans that protected children and teens’ sexual rights.

According to the Civil Association for Equality and Justice (ACIJ), government data show that public spending on policies that aim to reduce gender-based violence is 26.8% lower than it was in 2023. At the now-former undersecretariat, these spending reductions are even more dramatic. During the first quarter of 2024, expenditures were down 78% compared to the same time period the year before.


All Right Reserved.  Buenos Aires Herald