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Let's talk about political violence against women

Political violence against women politicians in Latin America

According to the latest report by UN Women and the OEA, although the increase in women's participation in politics has helped highlight the violence they face, few countries have taken specific action to prevent these attacks and penalize them. In Latin America and the world, almost no countries have developed tools for monitoring and addressing these cases; only Bolivia has enacted a law specifically against harassment and political violence against women.

Regardless of this, women keep demanding equal opportunities to be part of electoral processes, to serve our full terms without fear and to seek justice for girls and women, their families and ourselves, too. In light of this reality, it is imperative that every State, organization and political party tackle political violence against women with a comprehensive approach, developing specific measures to prevent it, penalize it and eradicate it. At the same time, we need to shift from this traditionally patriarchal and exclusionary political culture to an inclusive, truly democratic one.

The research “Violencia política contra las mujeres en política en América Latina” (“Political violence against women in politics in Latin America”) details the different current legislations and regulatory frameworks in our continent to fight against this particular type of gender-based violence. The study was directed by María Noel Vaeza, Regional Director of UN Women for the Americas and the Caribbean, and Alejandra Mora Mora, Executive Secretary of the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM) of the OAS.

Read the full report (in Spanish) on the UN Women's website.

Don't insult me at Congress nor at home

Ever since she took a seat as Congresswoman for the 14th District of New York, back in January 2019, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has made perfectly clear what her government's objectives are: she defends the interests of the working class, she is concerned about racial, economic and social inequality and she advocates for environmental justice. Her position on these issues has greatly upset her Republican opponents, who have attacked her many times with sexist retorts.

In July last year, several Congresspeople and a journalist from The Hill witnessed how Representative from Florida Ted Yoho literally called her a "fucking bitch" on the entrance steps to the Capitol.

Even though Yoho did publicly apologise later on (although he denied having insulted her), Ocasio-Cortez seized the opportunity to make a stand against the negative impact of the affront. What kind of message does a Representative who perpetuates gender stereotypes and normalizes abuse against women in power give to society?

This is what AOC responded in Congress:

“When you do that to any woman—what Mr. Yoho did was give permission to other men to do that to his daughters. In using the language in front of the press, he gave permission to use that language against his wife, his daughters, women in his community, and I am here to say that is not acceptable.”

Women in politics: making folks uncomfortable since the dawn of time

Cristina Fernández de Kirchner was twice elected President of Argentina. She was also elected Senator, national and provincial Representative and she now acts as Vice President of the country. Her political career goes further back than the enactment of the Gender Quota Act (1991) which establishes the minimum number of seats to be taken by women.

Therefore, Fernández de Kirchner has been in the public eye for long enough to be talked about all across the media. Her opponents have attacked her and her private life mercilessly: they have questioned her mental health, her romantic life and even her personality, making a mockery out of her. Are there any limits for offensive and humiliating speech against the public image and identity of women in positions of power?

Although public officials are less protected, legally speaking, from the exposure they face in the media, thanks to recent legislation on gender issues in our country, political violence is now considered a specific type of gender-based violence under the Comprehensive Protection of Women Act.

After the generalized disapproval on social media of the covers of the Noticias magazine tarnishing her image, did anything change? What happens with Ofelia Fernández on Twitter?

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