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

Santiago, Chile – Olga Valenzuela waits on a busy street in the Chilean capital in the heat of late November, wearing a black T-shirt with the name “Muriel” printed on it.

Valenzuela’s daughter Muriel was killed by her boyfriend during a quarrel at home four years ago. She is 19 years old, and her boyfriend has not yet appeared in court or sentenced.

“I’m not a politician, but I joined this group to let people hear,” said Valenzuela, who went to Chile’s presidential palace with thousands of women on November 25 to protest violence against women. South American Countries.

Several mothers walked side by side with her, each with their name printed on their T-shirts and holding banners condemning domestic violence.A member of the group is holding a suitable portrait with a cardboard cut-out of the extreme right face Presidential candidateJose Antonio Castel.

Custer is a 55-year-old devout Catholic and the founder of the far-right Republican Party. Win more votes In the first round of Chile’s presidential election on November 21, it surpassed any other candidate with a 27.91% approval rate. In the final on December 19, he will face the 35-year-old progressive Gabriel Boric, a former student protest leader.

For Valenzuela and many mothers around her, there is growing concern that the Custer government may weaken their efforts to fight for justice and increase the violence that kills their daughters. “No one listens to me-I’m just a mother seeking justice,” Valenzuela told Al Jazeera.

“But I don’t want a Custer government, he is a person who does not support women.

“I won’t have a granddaughter,” she added. “But I hope my daughter’s friends can live with dignity.”

‘Anti-feminist movement’

UN Women’s Appeal Chile addresses widespread gender inequality, Including women’s low political representation in parliament and threats of violence. The organization found that in 2018, 5.8% of Chilean women reported sexual and/or physical abuse in the past 12 months.

As part of the campaign, Custer promised to curb domestic violence by imposing stricter sentences on the perpetrators.

However, during his 16 years in the House of Representatives, he has repeatedly voted against the gender equality bill and women’s rights legislation. He reiterated his belief in patriarchal family units and Catholic family values, which was regarded by women’s rights activists as misogynistic and retrogressive.

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

Earlier this week, in order to attract the support of female voters, he said that he would not “call out” the cancellation of the Women’s Department, but he did not withdraw the plan to downsize and merge it with other departments.

His plan also includes a plan to provide subsidies to heterosexual families with children (excluding single mothers and same-sex couples), to prohibit abortion under any circumstances, to abolish the current rules that allow women to have abortions in the case of rape, and to treat mothers. Life, otherwise the fetus will not survive.

Paulina Vergara, a professor at the Institute of Public Affairs of the University of Chile, said: “He has a strategy against the feminist movement and believes that their values ​​are inconsistent with the concept of the family.” “(Women) have a lot of rights. Less, without them, we would not have true democracy,” Vergara told Al Jazeera.

Extreme right party

Custer spent most of his career in the Union of Independent Democrats (UDI). The party is composed of legislators who held political office during the 17-year dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet, which ended in 1990.

Custer withdrew from the party in 2016 and launched his first presidential campaign as an independent candidate a year later, when he finished fourth. 7.9% of votesIn 2019, he founded the Republican Party with the support of UDI’s separate members, who sought a more traditional model that was further aligned with conservative values ​​and liberal economics.

this Party manifesto It is based on the defense of life from “conception to natural death”, “faith in God”, and the idea that a family unit consisting of a man and a woman is the “foundation of society.” It also promotes low-state intervention and a free market economy.

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

In November’s primaries, Chileans elected 15 representatives From the Republican Party, 12 men and 3 women. Tweets and interview clips from one elected deputy, Johannes Kaiser, went viral soon after his appointment due to their misogynist and violent nature.

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

Chilean presidential candidate Jose Antonio Kast gestures during the election in the capital Santiago on November 21 [File: Ivan Alvarado/Reuters]

Kast condemned Kaiser’s comments, forcing his resignation from the Republican Party only days after he was elected – although Kaiser will keep his position as an independent deputy.

In Vergara’s view, these “jokes” reflect serious moral deficiencies in the party. “They joked about rape and used arguments based on freedom of speech to defend their views, but this did not reduce violence,” she said.

The Republican Party did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment, nor did media contacts for Custer’s presidential campaign.

But Custer refuted the allegations of misogyny. “I am the son, husband and father of a great woman,” he said on the radio Broadcast this week“I will work tirelessly to let all women live in freedom and peace.”

Women’s voting is “very important”

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

“With Kast, we will lose all rights,” she told Al Jazeera, explaining that she found some aspects of the Kast plan disturbing, such as the abolition of the Ministry of Women and the prohibition of abortion under any circumstances. “To take it away is to deny these things happened and to position women as second-class citizens again,” she said.

According to poll data, Chilean presidential candidate Gabriel Boric was ahead of his far-right rival before the final vote on December 19 [File: Andres Poblete/AP Photo/]

Borquez plans to vote for Boric because “she wants her vote to be important”, but said it was not an easy decision. She said that some of her conservative female friends decided to abandon voluntary voting.

In a recent poll, Boric over Kast 8%, Which puts him in a comfortable leading position, and 59% of women surveyed said they support Boric.

Women account for 51% Chilean votersVergara said that women like Borks and Valenzuela may use their votes to specifically condemn Castells, which will help decide the next president.

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

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