Feminist Challenges for a Transformative Gov. in Chile

March 8, 2022 in Chile. Photo: Marcelo Hernandez / https://chile.as.com

By Catalina Perez Salinas, Emilia Schneider Videla y Gael Yeomans Araya (El Mostrador)

HAVANA TIMES – We find ourselves in Chile at the end of the worst Government in our democratic history, after years of escalating neoliberal policies, human rights violations, and widespread institutional crisis.

We are living in a time of hope and doubt: while the Government we have set our hopes on for change is just beginning to get to work, we are seeing results from the Constitutional Convention, thereby getting closer to the key milestone of this political cycle. A popular referendum, and given the political and symbolic importance of a new March 8th in this new year, it’s a good time to ask our ourselves about the role feminisms play in the struggles going forward.

Feminists and gender non-conformity groups of all stripes and political leanings have conquered institutional spaces and this is great progress as it also opens up new fronts to continue the struggle. However, these victories shouldn’t imply cooptation or the dismantling of a movement, or that their autonomy, diversity and critical capacity should dwindle when working with institutions that, as we’ve already seen, haven’t delivered on demands for expanding democracy and sovereignty in our lives.

If we have put these issues on the agenda, it’s thanks to the fact that we have shed a light, in public spaces, on the structural violence that affects our lives, as well as long-standing movements and great popular support. As feminists from the Left and Frente Amplio that will be present in Congress and the Government, our challenge is to continue forming part of these struggles alongside social organizations, facilitating an institutional foothold. We can only fulfil our longing of being the first feminist Government in history by combining both roles.

We believe that the transformative power of different social movements, including feminists, lies in their ability to communicate how their cross-sectional approach has a positive impact on all citizens’ quality of life, a lesson that we need to take with us in our work as part of the Government.

With this approach, we will overcome homogenous positions that might try to exclude certain key social actors from this process, and we reach a holistic critique of patriarchy’s domination, that also questions cis-heteronormativity that produce and reproduce discrimination, poverty and violence; this is why we are convinced the feminist movement is cross-sectional and will allow the participation of gender and sexual non-conformity groups.

The Government has an agenda full of challenges in this respect, which it must respond to with public policies that have a transversal and feminist approach, with new institutions, but above all else, with a legislation that cements these new relationships. A comprehensive law is needed to prevent violence and the Anti-Discrimination Act needs to be reformed so it can provide real protection and reparations to those who suffer limited rights.

At the same time, we need to settle our historic debt and have an abortion law that gives every woman and pregnant woman the right to a free, legal and safe abortion, that needs to go hand-in-hand with a comprehensive State sex education policy that establishes a civilizing path for new generations, and that could even place Chile as a pioneer in the matter, if it is consecrated in the Constitution. Lastly, strengthening our democracy means we can’t forget the huge gap in women’s and LGBTIQ+ groups’ participation in spaces of representation and power. 

The health crisis has affected all aspects of our lives: steep economic decline widened the rift between women’s and men’s labor integration and, from a trans-feminist point of view, it also impacted trans people’s and the LGBTIQ+ community’s access to formal work too. In education, a safe and equal return to the classroom, working with communities, is urgent, as many women are still finding themselves burdened with care responsibilities, that they have been historically assigned.

It’s within this context that we can revive and generate work, with a multi-dimensional understanding of poverty, that allows us to focus on specific groups that have been disadvantaged from a structural standpoint, while we also move forwards with giving care work real recognition.

In order to do this, institutions need to stop “categorizing” feminist demands as “gender-based issues”, and start to cross-section them with all aspects of our lives. This is our challenge as part of the new Government, so we can continue to push transformative feminisms forwards in the new Chile, together.

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