Despite the fact that 70 years have passed since the right to equality was enshrined in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, almost 40 years since the Convention on the Elimination of all the Forms of Discrimination against Women, and more than 20 since the adoption of Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action, no country in the world has achieved total gender equality. “The prevalence of extreme violence against women, together with the multiple forms of structural discrimination and gender stereotypes that have historically affected women, are evidenced in many inequalities that exist in employment, education, health and political participation, among other aspects of our life,” said Patricia Tappatá Valdez, director of the International Center for the Promotion of Human Rights (CIPDH-UNESCO).

In order to reflect and exchange perspectives on the transformations necessary to guarantee the full exercise of women’s rights and to eliminate the gender gap, on 19 June, the CIPDH-UNESCO organized a working breakfast with public officials, representatives of civil society organizations and leading academics on gender issues. “Based on their contributions, we seek to identify priority issues, challenges and opportunities for the CIPDH to carry out specific initiatives on gender issues to complement and strengthen existing actions at the national and international level,” emphasized the Center’s representative.

In a month characterized by massive women demonstrations, experts highlighted the reframing of the feminist agenda and the emergence of new meanings and perspectives on issues related to the human rights of women and gender equality, which managed to go beyond public opinion and became part of the political agenda. “Today, more than ever, we have an escalation and expansion of gender issues,” explained Paola Bergallo, professor at Universidad Torcuato Di Tella and assistant researcher at CONICET. Additionally, she highlighted the importance of the mainstreaming process, for example, in terms of “sexual and reproductive rights that are no longer limited to the scope of health, they are part of a broader social battle.” In turn, Mabel Bianco, president of Fundación para Estudio e Investigación de la Mujer (FEIM) and co-president of the NGOs Committee for the Commission on the Status of Women (CSW) of Latin America and the Caribbean, stated that “The issue should be addressed from a broad perspective, not only women and diversity, but also comprehensiveness (…) We must think of an equality agenda.”

Participants also agreed to recognize the expansion of gender activism beyond feminism as we know it, based on the implications of movements such as “Ni una menos” or “Me too” and campaigns focused on specific issues such as legalizing abortion, among others. The demands of identity, recognition and equality are articulated with the creation of broader, plural and transnational social movements capable of promoting processes of change in the public agenda. An example of this is the emergence of the LGBTIQ community (lesbians, gays, transgender, bisexuals, intersex and queer) as a relevant political and social actor with the possibility of including historical demands in the agenda. Over the past decades, “the specific agenda on diversity appeared in many countries (…) The topic was no longer under the scope of the agenda on gender,” said Esteban Paulón, Undersecretary of Sexual Diversity Policies of the Government of Santa Fe.

“The role of civil society was essential for the implementation of (gender) demands” said María del Carmen Feijóo, professor at Universidad Pedagógica Nacional. Indeed, organizations and social movements have promoted the adoption of legislation and public policies related to, for example, the recognition of sexual and reproductive rights, the promotion of gender equality and the prevention of violence against women.
The debate reached consensus on the legal infrastructure achieved in Argentina regarding gender and diversity issues, in particular, those laws related to the comprehensive protection of women, human trafficking, sexual abuse, humanized childbirth, equal marriage, gender identity, among others. This statutory structure could help to gradually move towards a more complex agenda that recognizes women’s rights at the national, regional and international level.

However, experts pointed out the implementation problems that underlie the vast existing legislation. In this sense, María Fernanda Rodríguez, Undersecretary of Access to Justice of the National Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, pointed out the relevance of creating “(…) a body of specialized lawyers to counsel victims of gender violence and the strict selection and training of professionals offering legal representation.” Mariela Labozzetta, Prosecutor of the Specialized Prosecution Unit in Violence against Women of the Public Prosecutor’s Office said that, in cases of femicide, “one of the challenges is to establish a unified regional system of action, training of prosecutors and law enforcement officials involved.”

Roberto Saba, Dean of the School of Law of Universidad de Palermo, in turn, warned about the insufficient training and specialization of judges in gender matters and about the importance of a higher incidence in the judicial power both in Argentina and in the region. The judicial structure must be deeply changed to become less exclusionary, less sexist, less violent and to start showing with a greater balance the typical diversity of the societies they belong to, he said.

In terms of public policies, Fabiana Túñez, President of Instituto Nacional de las Mujeres, highlighted the important progress made since the implementation of the National Plan against Human Trafficking and its aggravating circumstance for cases of gender violence. She also pointed out that the increase in reports of cases of sexual abuse in children and adolescents has led to proposals for the development of public policies in this area, and emphasized the Gender Equality Plan where “work is performed with the help of civil society and different ministries within the framework of the Open Government Plan, and it has to do with many issues that stem from the problem such as the care system.”

María Gabriela Quinteros, National Director of Human Rights and Gender Issues of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship, celebrated the huge development of public policies in sexual diversity issues, and pointed out that Argentina has become a reference in the region. In this sense, Iñaki Regueiro de Giacomi, coordinator of the Gender Area of the General Advisory Office for Minors and Incompetent Persons of the Judicial Power (Autonomous City of Buenos Aires) stressed that the LGBTIQ agenda resulted in the development of public policies focused on diversity and agreed with Paulón in that “the only way to sustain policies is by activating the participation of citizens.”

Maria Luisa Martino, in charge of the Union of Women of the Directorate of Human Rights and Gender Issues of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Worship emphasized the economic empowerment plan for women that was submitted in the context of the G20 in Buenos Aires, since “it represents the mainstreaming of the gender perspective in the different programs (…) not only from the perspective of violence but also from the perspective of the access to justice, political participation and the fight for equal rights.”

The development of policies not only requires the strengthening of the institutions of justice administration, Ombudsman’s Offices, specialized agencies of women’s human rights and gender, but also the work among all different governmental powers and agencies that act at the national, subnational and regional level. In addition, it implies the active participation of citizens and social organizations, based on participation mechanisms that make it possible to give legitimacy and support to the medium- and long-term policies. “We have a State that has been hesitantly creating a gender institutionality that started with the democratic transition and was different in each historical moment,” said Feijóo. At the same time, other experts highlighted the joint work performed by public agencies, social organizations and movements and academic institutions, as a key element to achieve said institutionality and broaden and recognize women’s rights.