Argentina’s women fight for safe, free, and legal abortion

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Argentina’s women fight for safe, free, and legal abortion

The Ni Una Menos movement is making history. Will they succeed in this Wednesday’s vote on 13 June 2018? Orlando James Jenkinson reports.

One rainy afternoon in the winter of 2015, hundreds of thousands of people with umbrellas moved down Avenida de Mayo, in Buenos Aires. The pictures were on national news throughout the day, and on the next day, they were on almost every newspaper front page.

Soon almost every country in Latin America had similar demonstrations. Mostly women held the umbrellas and the placards and it started a new face of the women’s movement in Latin America with the name Ni Una Menos—Not One Less.


Photo: Agustín Sorgin, 2015 (CC 2.0)

This was soon a cry against the gender violence problem everywhere in Latin America, which has the highest femicide rates in the world. The movement has increased the fight for women’s rights in Latin America and Argentine activists are leading the way. The vote on 13 June 2018 on the legalization of abortion shows the strength and influence the women have now since the first demonstration.

The name Ni Una Menos comes from a cartoon showing a young girl, her eyes looking down, holding her fist into the air. It was after the death of 14-year-old Chiara Paez at the hands of her boyfriend in 2015. The story was in the national headlines in the middle of an increase in the high femicide rate in Argentina that year. A number of smaller protests resulted in the big demonstration.

Three years later the Ni Una Menos demonstration is a big day in the Argentine women’s movement.

In the first Ni Una Menos demonstration they wore purple and pink, but in 2018 they wore green to show their support for their sister cause, the National Campaign for Abortion Rights. It has campaigned under the symbol of the green bandana since it started. ‘Without Legal Abortions There Is No Ni Una Menos,’ they said.

Before the vote on legalization, there is a feeling of togetherness in supporters of both campaigns. The idea of legal, free, and safe abortions only a few years ago seemed so distant.

In today’s Argentina, millionaire businessman and now neoliberal President Mauricio Macri is the leader in a changing culture. People are now talking about subjects like gender violence and reproductive rights in public in the cafés and streets of the capital, on television, and in the national congress. This is because of the Ni Una Menos movement.

Starting a conversation

Feminist activist and writer Ximena Schinca described the approach by Ni Una Menos before the very successful international women’s strike earlier in 2018.

‘We have democratic meetings every week to organize the international women’s strike... These meetings are very, very big. We have women from all sorts of organizations, plus LGBT women and other groups.

This is a strike for all of these groups. And at the meetings, each representative from each group speaks for one or two minutes, talking about what is important in this strike and for the movement in general.’

And it’s not only Argentina. Activists in Latin American countries that have a common language and culture all follow the methods of Ni Una Menos. These words now are on banners and t-shirts and placards in Santiago, in Lima, in Bogotá, in Oaxaca.

The campaign has made Latin America’s big distances smaller through a 21st century social movement using social media.

Activists, supporters and those affected by gender violence living outside of Buenos Aires all needed a way to communicate like the weekly meetings but without going to them. Social media made it possible to speak out generally freely and easily. Sharing experiences of gender violence and abuse now trends in and outside Argentna alongside ‘#NiUnaMenos’ and under the hashtag ‘#Cuéntarlo’ (‘Tell it’).


Demonstrators hold up green handkerchiefs for the abortion rights movement. This is during a demonstration for legalising abortion outside the Congress in Buenos Aires, Argentina, 31 May 2018. REUTERS/Marcos Brindicci

Knock-on effect

Ni Una Menos gave new energy to the wider women’s movement in Argentina after the work of small groups during and after the fall of the last military dictatorship (1976-1983). Today the movement brings a renewed fight against a culture dominated by men throughout Argentina’s 200 years. The debate on the legalization of abortion is the best example of this.

For over ten years his has been the main purpose of the women’s movement through the National Campaign for Abortion Rights. Usually there were hundreds of protesters wearing green bandanas at the late summer demonstrations outside the Argentine Congress in Buenos Aires. In 2018, on February 19, there were thousands.

Soon after, for the first time in Argentine history, the legalization of abortion received enough support from lawmakers for a debate in the national legislature. Now the debate is almost done, and the vote in the Lower House will take place on Wednesday, 13 June.

This is such an important moment in a place where most abortions (95 per cent for Latin America) are performed illegally and at the risk of physical harm.

In Argentine politics there is support for legalizing abortion in all parties, and there is the hope of success.

Orlando James Jenkinson is a journalist who was in Buenos Aires. He now lives in London and writes about human rights, the environment,t and other issues. He also does Tweets @lando_j.


(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)