Conflict Alerts # 209, 7 January 2021
In the news
On 30 December 2020, as the year came to its end so did the battle for legalization of abortions in Argentina. Both houses of the Argentine Senate finally passed the bill, legalizing pregnancy termination up to the first fourteen weeks. The lower house had passed the bill earlier this month and finally got an approval from the upper house, thereby formalizing it into a law that could be implemented all over Argentina.
President Alberto Fernandez, tweeted soon after the bill was passed that he was delighted that Argentina was now a country where women had access to safe and medical termination of pregnancies, and they no longer had to resort to clandestine, unsafe and potentially life-threatening abortion procedures.
Issues at large
First, historic win for the regime. The Fernandez regime had begun the political processes for legalization of abortions earlier in March 2020. Though this was one of the agendas that the Fernandez regime firmly supported, they faced immense opposition from pro-life social groups, the church, conservative sections of society, and the opposition parties of the country. It proved to be a long and arduous journey, but finally, Argentina became one of the only three Latin America countries to legalize abortions.
Second, a step ahead for gender equality. The demands by pro-choice groups and more so by women groups for legalizing abortions have been made for decades. In the past decade, these demands grew stronger, and with the advent of social media, their voice reached a larger audience. The high rates of crimes against women and the alarming rates of sexual crimes against women (minors included) are symptomatic of not just a society that does not consider women as equals but also a society that is resistant to change in the context of a growing demand for gender equality. The demand for legalization of abortions was made not only for the obvious reason of medical termination of pregnancies but also for acquiring greater agency over reproductive rights, thereby attaining more social capital in an inherently unequal and biased society towards men.
Third, a history of protests led by women and the passing of the bill. The war cries of #NiUnaMeno or 'Not one less' referring to the women who lose their lives to gender violence have been heard since 2015. The demands for stricter laws for sexual crimes against women and the legalization of abortions, have been made repeatedly and grew in momentum since 2018 when the Senate rejected this bill.
The significance of repealing of the antiquated law should be understood in its entirety. The Latin American region is largely catholic, and Argentina is the home to the Pope, the leader of the Catholic world. It is a society that is deeply conservative regarding conventional social norms. While the discrimination and suppression of women in the society might not be superficial enough to be noticed with ease, it is abundantly clear with the barest of the scratching of the surface. While this might not begin a chain reaction that eventually leads to the domino effects in the context of patriarchy and conservatism, it is a definitive victory for women of the country and a beacon of hope to women fighting for the same cause everywhere else.