Chilean women express their concerns about the far-right presidential candidate | Women’s Rights News

Santiago Chile Olga Valenzuela waits on the side of a busy street in the Chilean capital in late November, wearing a black T-shirt with the name Morel printed on it.

Valenzuela’s daughter Muriel was murdered four years ago by her boyfriend during an argument in their home. She was 19 years old, and her boyfriend had not yet been tried.

says Valenzuela, who joined thousands of women in a November 25 march to Chile’s presidential palace to protest violence against women in country in south america.

Several mothers walked by her, each with their names printed on her T-shirts and carrying banners denouncing domestic violence. One of the group members carried a cardboard cut-out doll for the face of the far right presidential candidateJose Antonio Cast.

Cast, a 55-year-old devout Catholic and founder of the far-right Republican Party, He got more votes Than any other candidate in the first round of Chile’s presidential election on November 21, he had 27.91 percent support. He will face 35-year-old progressive Gabriel Borek, a former student protest leader, in the run-off on December 19.

For Valenzuela and many mothers around her, fears are growing that the Caste government may cripple their pursuit of justice and exacerbate the violence that killed their daughters. “No one listened to me – I’m just another mother looking for justice,” Valenzuela told Al Jazeera.

“But I don’t want Caste’s government, he’s someone who doesn’t support women.

“I will not have granddaughters,” she adds. “But I want my daughter’s friends to live with respect.”

against the feminist movement

UN Women called Chile to address prevailing gender inequality, including the low political representation of women in parliament, as well as threats of violence. The organization found that in 2018, 5.8 percent of Chilean women reported experiencing sexual and/or physical domestic violence in the past 12 months.

As part of his campaign, Cast has pledged to reduce domestic violence by toughening punishment for perpetrators.

However, during his 16 years in the House of Representatives, he has repeatedly voted against gender equality laws and women’s rights legislation. He reiterated his belief in patriarchal family unity and Catholic family values, which had been overlooked as misogynistic and regressive by women’s rights activists.

In his presidential program, Cast announced plans to abolish the existing Ministry of Women, which was established in 2017 to eliminate gender inequality and eliminate violence, and merge it with the Ministry of Social Development.

Earlier this week, in an effort to attract the support of female voters, he said he would not abolish the Women’s Ministry “in name,” but he did not back down from his plans to reduce it and merge it with the other department.

His program also includes plans to provide benefits to heterosexual families with children – with the exception of single mothers and same-sex couples – and to ban abortion in all circumstances, abolishing the current rule allowing women to access abortion in the event of rape, which poses a threat to the mother’s life, or if she does not The fetus survives.

“He has a strategy against the feminist movement and considers their values ​​to be incompatible with the concept of the family,” said Paulina Vergara, a professor at the University of Chile’s Institute of Public Affairs. “(Women) have very few rights, without them we wouldn’t have a real democracy,” Vergara told Al Jazeera.

far right party

Cast has spent the greater part of his career in the Independent Democratic Union (UDI). The party was formed by deputies who held political office during Augusto Pinochet’s 17-year dictatorship, which ended in 1990.

Caste split from the party in 2016, and launched his first campaign for president as an independent a year later, when he came in fourth. 7.9 percent of the vote. In 2019, he established the Republican Party with the support of dissident members of the UDI who sought a more traditional model aligned with conservative values ​​and a libertarian economy.

The party statement It is grounded in the defense of life from ‘pregnancy to natural death’, ‘belief in God’, and the idea that family units comprising man and woman are the ‘foundation of society’. It also calls for low state intervention and a free market economy.

“The popularity of the Republican Party is part of a shift to the far right that is happening around the world,” Vergara said, citing PolandHungary and Spain as examples. “It has a Christian front, and it’s more orthodox and more extreme.”

In the November primaries, Chileans elected 15 deputies From the Republican Party, 12 men and three women. Tweets and interview clips from an elected deputy, Johannes Kaiser, went viral shortly after his appointment due to her violent and misogynistic nature.

“62% of women fantasize about being raped, and at the same time they go out to protest, why,” Kaiser Tweet in 2018. In a video posted five years ago, he called immigrants “rapists” and questioned whether women should have the right to vote.

José Antonio Caste, Chile’s presidential candidate, indicates that he is casting his vote during the general election in Santiago, the capital, on November 21. [File: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

Cast condemned Kaiser’s comments, forcing him to resign from the Republican Party just days after his election – although Kaiser would retain his position as an independent. Kaiser also apologized for his comments, asserting that he was sarcastic.

For Vergara, these “jokes” reflect serious moral flaws within the party. “They make jokes about rape and use arguments based on free speech to defend their opinions, but that doesn’t make it any less violent,” she said.

The Republican Party did not respond to a request for comment from Al Jazeera, nor did the press call for Cast’s presidential campaign.

But Cast has denied the misogynistic accusations. He said on the radio, “I am the son, husband, and father of wonderful women.” broadcast this week. “I will work tirelessly so that all women may live in freedom and tranquility.”

Women’s vote is ‘very important’

However, the nature of his platform alienated many women, including traditionally conservative voters. Natalia Burkes, a 43-year-old dentist, decided to vote for a left-wing presidential candidate for the first time in her life this month.

“With Cast, we will lose all our rights,” she told Al Jazeera, explaining that she found aspects of the Cast program disturbing, such as the abolition of the Women’s Ministry and the ban on abortion in all circumstances. “To exclude them is to deny that these things happened, and to re-position women as second-class citizens,” she said.

Chilean presidential candidate Gabriel Borek edges out his far-right rival ahead of the December 19 run-off election, according to poll data. [File: Andres Poblete/AP Photo/]

Burkes plans to vote for Borek because she “want her vote to matter,” but said it wasn’t an easy decision. She said that some of her conservative friends decided to abstain from the voluntary vote.

In a recent survey, Exceeded Boric Kast by 8 percent, putting it in a comfortable lead, while 59 percent of women surveyed said they supported Borek.

Women represent 51 percent of Chilean votersVergara said women like Borques and Valenzuela, who might use their votes to specifically denounce Caste, will be instrumental in deciding the next president.

“In 1988, the women’s vote was very important in voting against the Pinochet regime,” she said. “I hope history will repeat itself this time.”

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Andrew Naughtie

News reporter and author at @websalespromo