By Noor Jiménez Abraham* / Source Marcha.org / The Dawn / February 17, 2016. “There are issues on which we are twinned, like women are earning 35% less than men for the same work”, said Fernanda Gil Lozano, one of the organizers.
On February 11, the “First Meeting of the Parlasur for a Regional Gender Agenda” was held in the Annex to the Chamber of Deputies, organized by Parliamentarians Fernanda Gil Lozano and Ana Julia Perié Corradi.
Representatives from Uruguay and Paraguay were present in the meeting, that was attended by 300 people, including representatives of political and civil society. The emphasis was put on the need for legislative equality, since, despite the differences, “all member countries of the Parlasur are in a system of male domination in which patriarchy manifests itself with various degrees of aggressiveness”, said Gil Lozano.
The issues discussed included the lack of recognition of the care work that usually falls on women, the lack of representation of women in justice, the poor enforcement of the gender quota law in lists of political candidates, the need to increase awareness about disabilities, patriarchal domains in universities and disparity regarding domestic work. These issues evidenced the importance of the Mercosur rules, which should be ratified by legislatures of member countries.
The opening of the meeting was conducted by the parliamentary Julia Argentina Perie and then Fernanda Gil Lozano remembered Lohana Berkins, transexual activist, who died on February 5, and not only referred to her history and background but emphasized the need to move forward in transexual and transgender rights, because “they have always been marginalized”.
Marcela Durrieu, from the Renewal Front (Frente Renovador, Argentina), spoke in favor of parity in elective and justice offices and at municipal, provincial, national and regional levels. In fact, the legislative body of Mercosur is not the exception in lacking female representation, of 43 Argentina’s parliamentarians, only 9 are not men. “Women want to be involved in areas where public policies are decided upon and executed”, said the representative of Uruguay.
The need for legislative equality was also discussed, and it was deemed the only way of fighting common issues in the region, such as human trafficking, which moves through border crossings, and the possibility of requesting advice was discussed regarding regulations on specific issues in which some countries are more advanced than others, for example, Uruguay is a spearhead on legislation on abortion and addictions and Argentina in laws on Equal Marriage, Gender Identity and Human Trafficking.
“Argentina is the only country of all the member states of the Parlasur with an abolitionist view on prostitution. All other countries are in favour of reglamentation. In any case, we must give freedom to not criminalize prostitution and restore the violated rights”, said Fernanda Gil Lozano in an interview with Marcha.org.ar, to which she added that this could be an issue should the countries go to an international court against organized crime, and stressed that some countries do not have specific laws against human trafficking.
With a historical overview of the progress of women in social and political arenas in Argentina, the phrase “If there are no women in justice, there will be no justice for women” appeared frequently, and the need to leave aside “meritocracy” was emphasized, as there are greater demands on the academic performance of women and “parliaments should be a representation of societies”.
“Who are we?”
Parliamentary Maria Luisa Storani and Teresa Parodi were also present, and emphasized on cultural diversity and the need to ask “who we are”, referring to the cultural agenda of Parlasur.
At the end of all presentations, the floor was given the attendees. Among the subjects raised, the need to work against child sexual abuse in the region was mentioned, since this crime is often invisible. Other issue raised was the need to demand states to promote sexual and reproductive health, because in situations like the Zika virus alarm, the Brazilian state placed the responsibility on women by advising them to not get pregnant instead of promoting health policies.
Viviana Caminos, of the NGO RATT Argentina (Red Stop Human Trafficking), said: “We welcome that this meeting proposes a gender agenda within the Mercosur, regardless of political positions. In this agenda, the issue of trafficking is crucial, and the Mercosur must commit to investigate possible complicities in each country. We will not have a real policy to combat trafficking unless we attack the corruption that allows it”. (Read more: Mexico: According to a report, in 12 years, 228 women disappeared victims of sex traffick)
The representatives of Brazil and Venezuela were unable to attend the meeting due to schedule reasons, so they sent their endorsements to the meeting. By March 14, the date in which the first session of the legislative body of Mercosur will be held at the headquarters of Montevideo, Uruguay, women parliamentarians have planned a meeting on gender issues similar to the one performed in Buenos Aires. The meeting was closed by Jorge Taiana, president of the Parlasur, noting that this activity is a starting point for work in the region to advance in the rights of women and eradicate gender violence.
* Noor Jiménez Abraham: PhD in Social Communication Sciences