“With this judiciary, there can be no rights or democracy! The debt is with the workers!”
Those were two main demands made by a group of organizations in the City of Buenos Aires as thousands of people marched on International Women’s Day across the country. A document signed by hundreds of groups was read aloud on a stage in front of the Congress building.
“40 years on from the re-establishment of democracy, we affirm that there can be no democracy with a judicial system that serves economic power; there is no democracy with foreign debt nor under the control of the International Monetary Fund,” read the document.
There were chants against the patriarchy and the IMF as people streamed past holding their signs aloft, many with the faces of femicide victims.
“Our creditors can impose conditions on us that hurt us just because Argentina took on a debt with our backs to the people,” said Marina Glezer, actor and activist in the Kirchnerite La Cámpora group. She told the Herald she was speaking for herself and not on the organization’s behalf.
“The debt places a weight of responsibility on society which has to work harder to earn less. And we as women pay that cost more than anyone because of the gender pay gap. On a grander scale, that’s what’s happening at the global level.”
Between legislation and reality
Many of the demands in the document and on the street were to close the gap between gender policy and enforcement. The document called for the real implementation of the “Diana Sacayán-Lohana Berkins” Transgender Job Quota Law. Passed in 2021, it mandates that one percent of public sector jobs should be held by travestis and transgender people but its implementation has been far from uniform.
Unlike its direct English translation, travesti in Argentina is a gender identity with deep political roots that is worn with pride.
“We now have a job quota law which was both product of and response to a state which has historically closed the door on the travesti-trans collective,” said Cris Godoy García, a travesti teacher from San Martín. She marched alongside the Las Históricas column, which called for reparations for travesti and trans elders who were kidnapped and tortured during the last military dictatorship.
“Those are reparations policies, what we need now are preventive policies so that travesti-trans children and teens aren’t condemned to what our elders were subjected to and those of us in the middle are trying to fight against to make sure history doesn’t repeat itself.”
According to the femicide observatory La Casa del Encuentro, there have been 51 femicides this year and one trans/transvesticide — homicides motivated by the person’s gender as a women and trans person or travesti, respectively. In addition, 84% of hate crimes against the LGBTQIA+ community in 2022 were committed against trans women and travestis specifically.
Laura Sansone, who teaches children with special needs in Recoleta, was carrying a sign that said “Your teacher always believes you”
“When I think of this sign in particular, I think of how I was abused by a family member and nobody believed me,” she said. “I’m in that place of responsibility, where I don’t want anyone else to go through what I went through.”
Sansone said that the country’s Integral Sexual Education Law (Ley de Educación Sexual Integral or ESI) needs to be respected, an issue that was also addressed in the document.The ESI mandates sexual education at every level of schooling (public or private) and is considered key to identifying abuse in children by teaching them about their bodies and consent from an early age.
“There’s an established narrative that children say things just for attention but that’s just not true. The ESI should be applied that way that it’s written as law, but that doesn’t happen anywhere.”
Makeup artist María Sánchez echoed Sansone, saying that it was necessary to raise awareness of how prevalent abuse is.
“When it happened to me, nobody was there. The world needs to know that there are many of us and that yes, it is all men,” she said. “Because if it’s all women, then it’s all men. Even girls. I was nine and it was a family member.”
Sánchez held a sign telling anyone who had suffered violence to paint her body. Her face, arms, and legs were streaked with red, white, and black.
“The amount of things that happen to us is incredible and mostly invisible. And today is our day to yell and make it visible,” said Sánchez.
“Politicians don’t know what’s happening. They don’t know how women are screaming. They say they support us but they don’t know what they’re saying. Let them come here, show their faces, and listen — getting home alive shouldn’t be a privilege.”
The organizations that congregated around the Congress, in particular, were supportive of the government and specifically Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.
“We denounce, we denounce the attempted magnifeminicide against the popularly-elected Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, the lack of investigation by this corrupt judicial power into the fact and her subsequent political ban,” said Glezer onstage, reading the document aloud with some personal additions.
In December 2022, Kirchner received a six-year jail term and a lifetime ban from public office for the “Vialidad” case, accused of fraudulently awarding public works contracts during her terms as president. However, her legal team is set to appeal the ruling and she is still legally allowed to run for office until those appeals have been exhausted.
There were calls for the prospective political ban against her to be lifted and for the courts to be investigated — in fact, the first demand on the document read “we demand a political trial of the Supreme Court and the removal of its current members.”
A number of supporters left the square directly after the document was read out to start a vigil at Tribunales for Kirchner before a federal court announced their reasoning behind the conviction.
“The political ban on Cristina isn’t just against her, it’s symbolic against all women,” said Viviana Fernández, a representative of the Transport and Shippers Syndicate. “If a woman in such a position of power is targeted, what’s left for the rest of us if we want to participate?”