Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka, under-secretary-general and executive director of U.N. Women, says that Argentina "can do more and better" to protect women against femicides and convict the killers.
The U.N. Women executive director since 2013, Mlambo-Ngcuka told The Nation newspaper that Argentines shouldn’t be discouraged by the Senate defeat of the pro-abortion law last August because she says, “I’ve seen this happen before in other countries.” She adds, “(the law) usually isn’t passed the first time around. Do not be discouraged,” expressing hope that Argentina may someday pass a bill that allows abortions up to the 14th week of inception.
Mlambo-Ngcuka is in Argentina this week to participate in the G-20 summit and inaugurate the country’s first U.N. Women office, adding to the list of the existing offices in Latin America, located in Colombia, Ecuador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Paraguay, Brazil, Barbados, Panama, the Dominican Republic, Uruguay, and Peru.
This is the director’s fourth visit to Argentina since 2013 and says she’s looking for the Argentine office to focus on combating violence against woman, enabling their access to work and sex educatio, and eliminated the lack of political will to eradicate gender inequality. “We can help narrow the gender gap, collaborate with civil society, and support the work of the women's movement,” she says of the Argentine office.
“We will work with the government and partner with the private sector. We are here because we need to deal with the problem of "machismo," to make sure that men use their power to fight against gender inequality, which is not a women's issue. It is a subject of men, and they have to be concerned,” adds the longtime public servant.
The former deputy president to South Africa does laud Argentina’s recently passed ‘Brisa Law’ that gives minors whose mothers are victims of femicide economic support from the government. A woman is killed by her male partner every 28 hours in Argentina, on average.
"Let's hope that with this, men will think before committing a crime that is so damaging to women," Mlambo-Ngcuka says of the measure passed in July.
She says that relative to the rest of Latin America, Argentina "has its strengths and weaknesses, like most countries. But I think the biggest problem is femicide, (and) stereotypes about women, which perpetuate violence against women.”
Another major hurdle in the country, says Mlambo-Ngcuka, is the impunity that exists for crimes against women. “There is no easy access to justice,” she says.
“It is important to strengthen judicial institutions to ensure that perpetrators know that there are consequences for their crimes and to deter them. … I think it is good that in Argentina there is legislation on violence against women and in favor of equality. The challenge is to make these laws really work,” and to enforce them.
Mlambo-Ngcuka, who holds a Ph.D. in education and technology, questions the Catholic church's resistance to sexual education in public schools and questions the resistance by asking: "Do you have another solution for teen pregnancy?”