Gender Roles in Argentina and Attitudes toward Same-Sex Couples

A mural in Buenos Aires depicting men and women dancing.

A mural in Buenos Aires depicting men and women dancing. Photo © Rod Waddington, licensed Creative Commons Attribution.

Like other Latin American societies, Argentina has a strong machista (chauvinist) element. Argentine women are traditionally mothers, homemakers, and children’s caregivers, while men are providers and decision-makers, although there are increasing numbers of female professionals and other working women.

It is best to ignore verbal comments, which are obvious by tone of voice even if you don’t understand them…Many Argentine men view foreign women as sexually available, but this is not necessarily discriminatory—they view Argentine women the same way. Harassment often takes the form of piropos, sexist comments which are often innocuous and can even be poetic, but are just as likely vulgar. It is best to ignore verbal comments, which are obvious by tone of voice even if you don’t understand them; if they’re persistent, seek refuge in a café or confitería.

Despite challenges, women have acquired political prominence. The most prominent and notorious, of course, was Evita Perón, but her rise to the top was an unconventional one. The highest-profile females in current politics are President Cristina Fernández—wife of former President Néstor Kirchner—and legislator and former presidential candidate Elisa Carrió, a vociferous anticorruption campaigner who, unfortunately, is better at identifying problems than offering solutions.

Gays and Lesbians in Argentina

Despite its conspicuous Catholicism, Argentina is surprisingly tolerant to both gays and lesbians, and public displays of affection—men kissing on the cheek, women holding hands—are relatively common even among heterosexuals.

In 2002 the capital’s legislature established domestic-partner regulations applicable to gay couples (and to other unmarried couples as well), with regard to health insurance and pension rights. There was opposition from the Catholic Church and from the Buenos Aires Bar Association (the latter on a legal technicality, that only the federal government could establish such legislation).

In late 2009, meanwhile, Buenos Aires mayor Mauricio Macri decided not to appeal a court judgment that permitted Alejandro Freyre and José Maria Di Bello to marry, but a federal judge blocked the ceremony until it could be considered by Argentina’s supreme court. In the interim, governor Fabiana Ríos of Tierra del Fuego Province issued a decree that allowed the couple to marry there despite legal ambiguity. And in July 2010, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage.

The Buenos Aires–based Comunidad Homosexual Argentina (CHA, Tomás Liberti 1080, La Boca, tel. 011/4361-6352), the country’s foremost gay-rights organization, was instrumental in lobbying for the domestic partner legislation.

Excerpted from the Third Edition of Moon Argentina.

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