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The right to an identity: an Argentine achievement

Our work in the field of human rights

While marking the International Day of the Disappeared, openDemocracy held a live discussion —facilitated by For Free Media— with brave, committed women on the topics of the safety of individual defenders across the globe and rampant impunity for crimes against them.

The words of Paula Saucedo from Article 19, Colette Heefner from For Free Media, Sara Mendiola from Propuesta Cívica and researcher and visual storyteller Preethi Nallu were interpreted into Spanish by Tradoctas professionals Romina Berardi and Celeste Sudera.

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The right to an identity: an Argentine achievement

Ever since birth, every person has the right to preserve their identity. This includes their full name, date of birth, sex and nationality. This information is proof of the existence of a person as a member of society, as an individual that belongs to something bigger than themself. It is what makes them unique among all people. This right is described as such in the Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989).

It was proposed by the Argentine organization Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo ("Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo") as part of their fight for finding the children kidnapped and robbed of their identities during the last dictatorship in Argentina. That is why articles 7 and 8, which explain this right, are also known as "the Argentine articles."

It is worth mentioning that Argentina is also a leading country in terms of the right to gender identity, which has been protected by Law No. 26,743 since 2012. This legislation guarantees that self-determined gender identity be acknowledged and respected and allows for the possibility of amendment of official personal documentation.

Advocacy for the right to identity and freedom to live

Human rights activist Estela de Carlotto is currently president of the organization Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo ("Grandmothers of Plaza de Mayo"). In her youth, she was a teacher and housewife and did not participate in any political activities.

However, after the kidnapping and forced disappearance in 1977 of one of her daughters, Laura, Estela de Carlotto became an active member of the organization she now presides. She managed to get in contact with her daughter while she was kept in captivity thanks to other kidnapped young women and she held a conversation with one of the highest-ranking officers responsible for the last civic-military dictatorship in Argentina, Reynaldo Bignone. In 1978, Laura's lifeless body was returned to her. According to witnesses, she had given birth to a son in captivity.

Estela looked for her grandson for 36 years. The young man, turned musician, had been named Ignacio Hurban by the people who stole him from his mother. In 2014, he learnt the truth about his identity and, on August 8th that year, he stood next to his grandmother during a press conference to announce that he was the 114th missing grandchild to be located. During that same week, then-president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner presented him with a copy of the files that told his parents' story: their kidnappings, the search for them and their work histories.

To this day, Grandmothers are still looking for their grandchildren but also their great-grandchildren who, just like their parents, have their right to their personal identity violated. The technical teams in the organization work to find them as well as to ensure that such violations against children's rights can never happen again and to demand that all the people responsible for these terrible crimes be punished accordingly.

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