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Javier Milei and the risk of subverting the demands of Argentine women

In a country where a femicide takes place every 39 hours, women are also most particularly affected by poverty. The far-right candidate is promising to roll back the equality agenda

Javier Milei durante un acto proselitista en Buenos Aires
Javier Milei during a campaign event in Buenos Aires, on September 12.AGUSTIN MARCARIAN (REUTERS)

The result of the primary elections last August was undoubtedly a wake-up call. A warning for traditional political forces precisely in the year that marks the 40th anniversary of the restoration of democratic institutions in Argentina. It was a warning for the forms of communication that party politics generally uses and, above all, a warning about the disaffection felt by a large segment of the population. In that sense, it was a collective wake-up call about those founding principles of the democratic consensus that we believed to be so solid.

The three political forces with the highest number of votes had less than three percentage points difference between each one, in a vote marked by the lowest participation rate in primary elections in recent history. Almost 11 million people chose for various reasons not to vote. We are facing an electoral scenario that shows an unprecedented degree of uncertainty, with an open end.

Different analysts attribute the low voter turnout to citizens’ democratic disillusionment with a political class that has not yet resolved their main problems, and which successive governments of different political stripes have not managed to overcome: poverty, inflation, the economic crisis, insecurity. A country where more than 40% of the population has lived in poverty for years, where six out of every 10 children and teens are poor and where having employment, even formal employment, is not enough to guarantee a basic income.

Women are affected by this situation more deeply, as is often the case. They are over-represented among the most disadvantaged sectors of society; they are more likely to have informal or part-time employment; they are generally in charge of single-parent households and in 50% of cases, even if they are entitled to money for their sons and daughters, they are unable to collect their payment. One in two women experience violence at the hands of their partners, in a country where there is a victim of femicide every 39 hours. For these women, seeking help from the justice system usually means submitting to a labyrinth of bureaucracy that does not necessarily manage to protect them from the more extreme forms of violence.

For women of different generations, the overload of caregiving duties finds them in situations of profound inequality in access to services and infrastructure to help lighten the load, yet this is still seen as a not very urgent agenda in the face of the economic crisis and the demands for reversing the fiscal deficit, despite evidence that shows that better care policies could contribute to reversing the current situation.

Even so, in these elections we are not talking to women or about their most specific and urgent problems, those that affect their daily lives. During our electoral campaign monitoring work at the ELA Team, we found very few proposals directed at them, very few statements that recognize the role they play in many families.

Javier Milei is the candidate who has least included women in his proposals, and who directly confronts the demands of the equality agenda and promises to reverse them. Anchored in his disqualification of anything remotely linked to feminism, without making any distinction (abortion, violence, employment), his libertarian diatribe is limited to shouting half-hearted slogans that show little interest in improving living conditions based on concrete proposals. Although opinion studies carried out both before and after the primary elections indicate that women are the ones who choose this political force the least, it should not be only them (us) who push back against a proposal that frontally attacks the most basic tenets of equality. Those of us who claim the achievements of democracy in terms of advances in rights, especially for gender equality, but also for social justice and access to economic and social rights, would like to see these struggles and achievements led by women become linked to something more than the gender agenda.

The primary elections leave a worrying message: rights seem like an empty concept for many people who watch in fear as their daily lives crumble in a seemingly unending economic crisis. However, at a time when reality hits harshly in the face of so many unresolved injustices, it is necessary to remember that rights are not just a rhetorical question but a tool of struggle, of enforceability, that can contribute to collective organization in the face of a reality that confronts us with threats and setbacks.

As part of a group that has been the protagonist of the milestones that we define as cornerstones of democracy, it is necessary to question these empty slogans to look ahead to the future. For this reason, we propose to continue challenging the women and men of the political class, and society as a whole, to resist the threats of regression, to continue searching for feasible solutions and concrete proposals to the complex problems that directly impact the lives of women in all their diversity and extend to society as a whole.

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