Photo via the Department for the Protection of Citizens' Rights.

The Buenos Aires Department for the Protection of Citizens’ Rights announced the creation of a new organization to fight gender-based violence, improve access to healthcare, and improve political representation. Officials described the Observatory for the Equality of Gender as a new centralized organization that will “design a new strategy to prevent violence that particularly affects women, girls, children, and adolescents.”

“We have the obligation to work conscientiously to eradicate gender-based violence, and for this reason we need to deploy all of the tools and mechanisms at our disposal within our institutions” said Alejandro Amor, a spokesman for the department. The new organization aims to coordinate initiatives to strengthen public policy related to gender-based violence, and conduct studies on gender equality.

 

Página 12 reported that the organization will monitor gender violence and access to reproductive rights, create spaces for debate, build the capacity of organizations that champion women’s rights, and enforce laws to prevent gender violence. The group will also gather statistics on gender-based violence in order to clarify statistical discrepancies created by definition disputes and bureaucratic mishaps.

Specialists in the subject have recently criticized the Buenos Aires city government for failing to implement the 2006 comprehensive sexual education law, the 2009 women’s comprehensive protection law, and other protocols to prevent violence against women and girls. Officials hope that the new organization can fully implement the promise of such laws.

Gender-based violence continues to plague Argentine society. The results of a survey last year of Argentine women conducted by Ni Una Menos discovered that 95 percent of respondents stated that they had been in a violent situation related to gender-based violance that should have been reported to authorities.

Although statistics vary, all sources agree that femicides – intentional murder of women because they are women, as defined by the World Health Organization – have continuously increased since 2012. However, fewer women per 100,000 are killed in Argentina than in all other countries in South America, except for Peru and Chile.

According to Small Arms Survey data representing the average number of female deaths per year from 2010 to 2015, the rate is 1.4 per 100,000 in Argentina. The rate is highest in El Salvador – 13.5 deaths per 100,000 – while the middle lies near Colombia at a rate of 5.7 deaths per 100,000.

Gender-based violence in Latin America
Graphic via The Economist.

The Observatory for the Equality of Gender is tasked not only with contributing to reducing gender-based violence; rather, it hopes to provide a space for gender equality in all areas. Numerous civil society groups have been demanding new policy action after high profile femicides. Last year, the government responded with plans to create “a network of women’s refuges, and money for the electronic tagging of violent men.” In addition, President Mauricio Macri stated that only education could resolve the machista violence that’s deeply embedded within Argentina’s culture.

Indeed, a study conducted by the Department of Protection of Citizens’ Rights during 2016 confirmed the persistence of masculine culture in schools. The study, which surveyed nearly 500 students in Buenos Aires, concluded that “equality of men and women is an understood right”, but “this evaluation coexists with the pervasiveness of old paradigms that question or are obstacles to access to equality.” For example, 60.6 percent agreed with the statement “women are more hysterical than men.”

The Observatory for the Equality of Gender will aim to fully implement legal reforms in order to gradually change the culture. Although momentum is on the new organization’s side, bureaucracy and the deep roots this culture has in both the city and the country may inhibit its progress. It definitely has in the past.