Skip to main content

What is in the ‘Micaela Law’ Passed by Congress?

At least three lawmakers have been accused of gender violence.

By | [email protected] | December 27, 2018 10:00am

19-12-2018_buenos_aires_la_camara_dePhoto via Télam

As society continues to move forward against accusations of sexual abuse and gender-based violence – the last catalyst being the one leveled against actor Juan Darthés by Thelma Fardín – Congress is reacting in order to cement these changes.

On Wednesday night, the Upper House approved the so-called “Ley Micaela,” which would create a “National and permanent program aimed at institutional training in gender perspectives and violence against women.” In layman’s terms, an initiative that would have all public workers, in the three branches of the state, to take  courses on these matters.

The courses will be dictated by the National Women’s Institute which, in its website, will have to inform which state bodies are abiding by the law and to what extent. Those who don’t will be sanctioned.

The bill was named after Micaela García, a young woman who was abducted, raped, and murdered in the city of Gualeguay (Entre Ríos Province) in April 2017. Her murderer, Sebastián Wagner, was sentenced to life in prison – although in Argentina that does not actually mean life, but 20 years behind bars.

The crime was especially controversial because Wagner had been twice convicted for rape before abducting Micaela. He wasn’t in prison already because a judge had granted him parole, despite several reports emphatically advising him against it.

The bill was voted almost unanimously by lawmakers present in both houses of Congress. The only one to vote against it was Salta Deputy Alfredo Olmedo, who by now is completely immersed in his project of becoming the Argentine equivalent of the incumbent Brazilian president, right-wing firebrand Jair Bolsonaro.

When justifying his decision, Olmedo said he took pride in being the only deputy voting against what his fellow conspiracy theorists call “gender ideology” and indicated he will “continue maintaining that God created man and woman,” as if that had any kind of relation to the law.

The session in the Upper House saw a particular awkward moment as Senator Juan Carlos Marino (UCR) had to address allegations of abuse made against him by a former aide, Claudia Guebel. Marino denied “having had the relationship that was alleged,” and assured that, nonetheless, he had appeared before the court.

Marino went on to announce that he would renounce to his parliamentary immunity if his peers deemed it convenient. However, this is not possible because the immunity is assigned to the seat, and not to the lawmaker who is temporarily holding it. Federal Prosecutor Federico Delgado has formally charged Marino, and it will now be up to Judge Ariel Lijo to determine whether there is enough evidence to uphold the decision.

Speaking to press immediately after making the statement, Marino’s lawyer said he did not want to diminish any accusation made by women, but suggested that the one against his client had an ulterior political motive. “She always mentions [Carlos] Mac Allister, who will run for governor of La Pampa [province Marino represents] and is Marino’s political adversary. Marino will not run for that office next year, but we would have to ask Guebel why she talks about Mac Allister every time she is asked about the accusation,” Marino’s lawyer said.

Regardless of the outcome of the accusation, the fact that he was present in the room shows that not all accused in the political landscape during the past weeks have received identical treatment. For example, Buenos Aires Province Senator Jorge Romero (Frente para la Victoria), member of the Kirchnerite youth organization La Cámpora, remains on his post despite being accused of sexual abuse.

Even though Lá Cámpora indicated in a press release that it applied a “gender-based violence protocol” against Romero, and that will not have any “political responsibilities” for as long as the organization deems convenient, he still represents the party and its voters in the provincial legislature.

However, other members of La Cámpora who are lower down the organization’s chain of command and have also been accused, have already been expelled. ” They are Gustavo Matías, Julian Eyzaguirre and Nicolás Roo. It has not been informed whether other activists accused by a person called Benjamín Nicolás are still members.

La Cámpora.

“We will always believe our fellow female activists. It is not up to the political organization to issue a verdict about the alleged events, but to protect, repair and support anyone who has suffered any kind of gender-based violence,” reads a passage of the organization’s press release.

Furthermore, National Deputy José Orellana, who has accused of abuse by a Congressional employee, has not been compelled to speak for his – still alleged – actions. This case took place the recent wave of revelations, and even though a court determined there was not enough evidence to uphold the charges, prosecutor in the case Mariela Labozzeta requested she be allowed to continue investigating. This week, Infobae reported, she presented new evidence and formally requested Orellana be indicted.

Orellana was not present in the Lower House on Tuesday to vote for the bill.

The political future of the three accused will be a significant indicator to determine the way in which accusations of the kind are being dealt with. Because unlike their lower-tier counterparts, they have not been removed from their posts.