Addressing Citizen Security Issues in Chile

The patriarchy hurts us all.

By Andres Kogan Valderrama

HAVANA TIMES – The tragic murders of several police officers in Chile in recent weeks have generated a wave of reactions from the political and social world, which has shown the worst face of criminal punitiveism and an impoverishment of public debate, which this time manifests itself through the so-called security agenda.

This is in connection with the approval of the Nain-Retamal Law (approved by Congress and signed by President Boric) that opens up a margin for the violation of human rights by the police and armed forces. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and Amnesty International notes it is a law that threatens the integrity of people, since the so-called privileged legitimate defense that appears in the articles, can generate greater impunity and an authoritarian regression, by reducing accountability and transferring the burden of proof on the victim of state violence.

This is accompanied by a fervent outcry from the corporate media and a society with increasing terror due to the increase in homicides in Chile, asking for firmer hand, linking in a racist way migration with crime and demanding more facilities to carabineros to curb crime, without caring in the slightest about the violation of basic rights.

Given this, the scenario in Chile becomes very dangerous and not very hopeful, especially after the plebiscite on September 4 of last year, since the most conservative, neoliberal and reactionary sectors see it as a propitious moment to pressure Boric’s government and install its own security agenda, which cares in the least about inequality, segregation and the lack of a government programs in the territories.

Hence, it is very difficult to establish a policy that sees security in a more comprehensive way, where crime prevention and the different ways of approaching it, are at the center of strong work at the territorial, municipal and community level. Likewise, a reform to a shameful and overwhelmed prison system and a modernization of police officers, in their training, equipment and intelligence.

However, what is most worrying is not only the inability to install a progressive agenda in terms of security, which respects human rights and sees it systemically, but also the failure to see the issue as the result of a patriarchal system, which has a lot to do with everything that is happening.

I point this out since all the discussion about security has completely ignored considering the issue from gender studies, feminist criminology and studies of masculinities. Factors which help us understand the patriarchal logic behind the ways of acting of the drug trafficking, organized crime, prisons, police officers, armed forces and the entire prevailing penal system.

It is a matter of reviewing the statistics on homicides in the world and in Chile in particular, where they are mostly carried out by men, showing that crime has a very strong gender component, and that from public policy and prevention has not been taken into sufficient account.

It is no coincidence, therefore, that men, mainly young men, kill unknown men in the public sphere much more and women in the private sphere, responding to a binary and patriarchal gender system that has predominated for centuries. Masculinity that has been built since the naturalization of aggression, violence and control of women’s bodies and rivalry between men.

This because of the fact that from a very young age men have been instilled with being strong, powerful, winners and successful, developing a virility that completely despises the care of life, and instead promotes fights, battles and war as the ways to face and resolve the conflicts that appear along the way.

Added to this is the current context, whereby the role of provider of men is completely in crisis, within a neoliberal framework, of deep social asymmetries, and a concentration of wealth and job insecurity. Many men are no longer integrated into work, which generates greater uncertainty and is responded to with great anger, impotence and violence.

It is not surprising, then, that those who manage drug trafficking and organized crime are essentially men, since it responds to a socially unsustainable mandate of masculinity, which keeps us prisoners and subordinates to self-harmful ways of relating.

Faced with this, the State’s response falls into the same patriarchal logic, through endless criminalization and violence on the part of the police and prisons, which only aggravate the problem, failing to see citizen safety as part of a process and part of a damaged society in many ways.

On the other hand, we have the persistence of multiple forms of violence against women, such as economic, psychological, sexual, and life threatening, which responds to a type of man unable to manage his emotions and get out of a role and historical mold, which brings much more harm than good for loved ones as well as for themselves.

The example of prohibition and the failed war on drugs shows us how the penal system in this area harms women much more than men. Most of those imprisoned are for drugs, as they are the weakest link of an illegal business dominated by males who control money and territories.

Finally, as if that were not enough, we have the rates of suicide or self-inflicted violence, which are also led mostly by men, which shows that something is happening and it seems that we do not see it or do not want to see it, especially all the authorities, that in the case of Chile, have a very limited and reductionist idea of security.

That said, if they want to generate deep, long-term changes in the way we relate to each other, security policies must incorporate the gender factor and promote self-care at a preventive level, in the ways of addressing crime and social reintegration. Doing so can help us build less violent and kinder societies.

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