From the January-February 2021 issue of News & Letters
“Patriarchy will fall! Feminism will rise!”
—Argentine feminist movement slogan
At four in the morning on Dec. 30, the Argentine Senate finally passed an abortion rights bill, making it legal to terminate a pregnancy in the first 14 weeks. The procedure will be free in government hospitals, crucially important for poor women. Criminal actions against many hundreds of women who resorted to back-alley, clandestine abortions are now supposed to be halted.
This victory was won, not in the Senate that two years earlier had defeated a similar bill, but in the streets, in the organizing, over ten years of Encuentros [mass meetings], the continual demonstrations of a powerful feminist movement in Argentina.
While the Senate debated and voted, thousands of women of all ages, wearing green clothes, scarves, and paint (the Green Wave), filled the Plaza with drumming, dancing, speeches, discussions and sloganeering: “Legal abortion is social justice.”
WOMEN SPEARHEAD SOCIAL REVOLUTION
We witnessed not only the tension and joy of a single night that became victorious in the early morning, but a social revolution which had brought thousands of women and girls into the streets with their own voices.
Adriana: “I have participated in all the Encuentros, but many, and among them young women, did not have the vocabulary. But suddenly they seized the concept with impressive force. Before we had hardly had it in the language, but today there is not only awareness regarding the right to abortion but also of patriarchy. The debate translated into conscience….There is no turning back.”
Hopefully, legalization in Argentina will have its impact on movements in other Latin American countries such as El Salvador, which has horrendous criminal penalties for women having abortions.
Abortion rights is only one flashpoint in this growing social movement of feminism that is demanding that women have the right to control their own bodies in every realm. The movement is not only in Argentina, but in Latin America as a whole. In 2015 the call for Ni Una Menos (Not One Less) erupted against femicides. In Mexico, hundreds of thousands of women have been involved in Ni Una Menos demonstrations throughout the entire country. March 8, 2020, International Women’s Day, was extended with a nationwide strike on March 9 for women’s rights.
The demands of feminism in Latin America do not stop with abortion rights and the halting of femicides. They extend to all areas of society, including particularly labor rights. In the San Quintin Valley of Baja California, supplying fruits and vegetable to the U.S., la organización de Mujeres Unidas en Defensa de Jornaleras e Indígenas (Women United in the Defense of Agricultural Day Laborers and Indigenous Women) are working on the challenges to women workers whose pay is often less than the men’s, and who face a double and triple work day in the fields, the home, and raising their children.
To return to Argentina: Beyond the positive vote on abortion, what remains is a future of rights, conquests and more demonstrations in the streets.