Argentina: Punitive policy, yes or no? #MiráCómoNosPonemos: the answer is political.
The brave denunciation of Thelma Fardin against Juan Darthe, accompanied by Argentinian Actresses, had a high social impact and opened doors. While the institutions re-victimize us and the media confines us to that role, women are still arguing about how to fight against misogynist violence and its causes, how to change the patriarchal judicial system and the effectiveness (or not) of punitive policy. Here are some thoughts on it.
Since Thelma’s denunciation, first person anecdotes have flooded social media, while 144 calls and social and legal denunciations have grown. The collective scream of #MiráCómoNosPonemos (Look How We Get) is heard everywhere, even at the political level. In these days, a national conservative senator was accused of sexual abuse, along with a Buenos Aires senator of La Campora, and a councilman and trade unionist of the Frente Renovador from Quilmes was arrested for pimping. And the list goes on.
The proliferation of cases makes a systematic problem visible. On different levels of individual responsibility, damage and severity, they all express the patriarchal order. As held by anthropologist Rita Segato, masculinity has a rape mandate: there isn’t in it a sexual reason, but a demonstration of power in order to humiliate (paradoxically, the aggressor seems himself as a moralizer). Meaning, he’s a “healthy son of the patriarchy”, whose mandate is built by this society.
The denaturalization of that rape mandate leads to transforming the relationships between genders and to dismantle the power asymmetries of man/woman, straight/gay and cis/trans binaries. This includes changing the historical role of men, which is going through a deep crisis. At the same time, we must challenge this entire socioeconomic system and its State, which is patriarchal and capitalist, for being the origin of sexism and other forms of violence. The problem then isn’t moral, but political. And punitive policies, which are also moralizing, reduces violence to the individual level, without attacking its real causes.
Anticapitalist feminism isn’t punitive
When facing cases of sexist violence, the first necessity is protecting the denouncer and separating the denounced from shared spaces, without waiting for a court decision. But there’s a punitive oriented sector of feminism whose main focus is the exposure of the denounced, and that equals the denunciation with an automatic condemnation. That exposure can sometimes be useful, but if it depends on whether it strengthens the fight for justice, or it substitutes it.
On this topic, the anthropologist Rita Segato warns: “be careful with the lynching, for we’ve defended the right to a just proceeding for a long time, which is nothing less than the right to the contradiction: the counterargument in a trial”. Thelma said something similar: “I want us to build something new. I don’t believe in exposing just because, that’s falling into a very dangerous practice”.
The mobilization includes exposure when there’s no justice, as in the case of Lucia Perez, where the jury absolved her murderers. But the content must be different from lynching. Segato adds: “When State justice fails, other forms of justice appear, but they´re not spontaneous, for there is deliberation and consults, and the consideration of the group that might be a mistake -that’s the contradiction, that’s the space for the possibility of a contradiction. Lynching is a form of execution, without any guarantees”.
Considering the denunciation (and therefore the immediate protection of the victim) and knowing that sometimes it can be late because of the patriarchal environment, then an investigation must be carried out, while giving the accused the right to defend himself, and if necessary, there must be sanction, with a real systematic and transcendent reparation. Each time a man commits sexist violence, there must be a clear sentence according to the type of damage, aimed at achieving social transformation. This doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been a political use of the denunciations or false attacks as smear campaigns.
Sexual aggressions considered criminal are just the tip of the iceberg of a social conduct. For a long time, they constituted “the world” and the ways of understanding it, that now women are disassembling. This is why we must fight for justice, knowing that if someone takes part of an abusive conduct, they don´t necessarily turn into lifetime abusers, if the necessary measures are taken. An episode is not the same as a repetitive conduct.
It also isn’t the same when it happens among almost equals -as with teenagers in schools, often because of the absence of adults- than when there is a wide power gap, as in the case of pedophile priests. All violence is punishable, but not all the same. it’s necessary to address the institutions and if they fail, collectively elaborate the denunciation
Punitive policy, on the other hand, only proposes the neutralization of people through locking them up, eliminating them or socially expelling them. But these “tough-on-crime” policies were never a guarantee of the diminution of violence. Even less while there’s an government punitive offensive that looks to appropriate hard earned social capital and use women as a victim figure to solve these issues. This is what the PRO policies and its 2016 penal reform aim at, with an indiscriminate increase of sentence times and the autonomy of the police forces. At that time, the group Ni Una Menos said: “on the streets, while feminists and groups of women, lesbians and trans people were mad with anger because of a new femicide, none of us actually asked for this proposed bill”.
A contrary example are the proposals that the feminists have postulated around the ESI (Integral Sex Education), the budget for the 26.485 anti-violence law and other changes.
Changing the rules, changing everything
The Micaela Law, that projects education with gender perspective for every State employee, is necessary but not enough. On this, we disagree with Segato. Destroying patriarchy isn’t only educating “with a gender perspective” in the institutions of the same political regime that perpetuates inequality and violence. The inter-ministerial plan against gender violence isn’t useful either. This is why we demand:
The application of the ESI in the entire educational system to prevent abuses. The anti-rights sectors, as the Church and evangelists, oppose this.
A national anti-violence emergency budget because the current one is too low: less than one peso for each women per month. Without integral assistance, shelter houses and subsidies there’s no Ni Una Menos.
A real enforcement of the 27.210 law of free legal representation for victims of gender violence, passed in 2015 but hasn´t been implemented yet.
To end with patriarchal justice, there are three urgent measures to take: 1) Choosing judges and prosecutors by popular vote with limited terms that can be recalled in case of misbehavior. 2) implemented trials through popular juries with gender parity. 3) integrating female judges on every jury, from the lowest one to the Supreme Court.
We call on everyone to fight for transforming pain into strength to fight for radical social change, that is only possible through a revolutionary and collective project.
Juntas y a la Izquierda-MST
1. Página 12, 16/12/18.
2. Clarín, 16/12/18.
3. Así se actuó hasta con los genocidas de la dictadura: el movimiento de derechos humanos nunca hizo justicia por mano propia, sino que siempre luchó por juicio y castigo. El escrache fue un emergente ante la impunidad, consensuado en forma colectiva.
4. Esa política punitivista del gobierno prosigue hasta hoy.