Racial and Discrimination Practices against Minority Groups in Argentina’s Current Society

The struggle against discrimination is an old social issue, and its exclusion seems an indispensable goal for everyone. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights proclaims human equality as its basic element. Nevertheless, this problem is topical and crucial in every society.

The history of discrimination in Argentina has a contradictory character. On the one hand, migrants, mainly Europeans, who had arrived in the country in a great number, formed the nation. On the other hand, at that time, the campaign for the eviction of indigenous peoples from their lands began. Over the years, the Argentine government has applied ethical principles and taken measures to overcome discrimination. Current discriminatory expressions among people refer to morals, psychology, or xenophobic thoughts that appear in each country.

According to Mutuma Ruteere (2013), the UN Special Rapporteur, discrimination against people based on their customs, race, faith, or other aspects causes the impoverishment of certain groups of the population because of unequal access to essential needs and services.

Descriptions of discrimination practices against minority groups in Argentina are set forth below:

• Violations against Afro-Argentineans

As Argentina is a well-developing country, and its population consists of predominately white people, this fact has led to racial discrimination. The minority group of Afro-Argentineans includes post Second World War African settlers, migrants from African states, such as Senegal, Nairobi, and Mauritius, and African refugees from neighboring countries, such as Uruguay, Brazil, and Colombia. Almost all of them face a long-term system of marginalization and discrimination. The lives of black people are affected by racism and xenophobia every day. Discrimination has especially influenced their education and income opportunities.

According to Nengumbi Celestin Sukama (2013), the founder of The Argentine Institute for Equality, Diversity and Integration (IARPIDI), the violations of Afro-Argentinean rights refer to difficulties in access to work, housing, education, and medicine. Moreover, it is discrimination in the protection of human rights, juridical system, and police aggression. All these facts are connected with a deficiency of the special programs of reception, support, and social and labor integration of refugees, particularly African people.

• Anti-Semitism

Periodic acts of anti-Semitic discrimination and violation can be identified in Argentina. The Jewish population comprises approximately 250,000 persons. According to the survey provided by the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations (DAIA) (2012), Argentineans have strong negative feelings towards people of the Jewish faith. Besides, people are not sure that the Argentine government guarantees the safety of its Jewish citizens.
Over the year, the Delegation of Argentine Jewish Associations received different complaints about anti-Semitic actions. The most common incidents were abuses posted on different websites, graffiti, and verbal slurs as well. In addition, there were many cases of the constant profanation of Jewish cemeteries. Another important fact that must be highlighted is the author’s impunity.

Discrimination against the Jews happens not only in large cities, such as Buenos Aires, but in the provinces as well. There was an incident in 2012, when the municipality distributed tax-payment receipts printed with the sentence: “Be a patriot, kill a Jew.” Certainly, the DAIA announced that the municipality was in charge of the bill and demanded the necessary sanctions. Therefore, the current situation of the Jewish minority group is ambiguous. On the one hand, the level of anti-Semitism in the society is not so high and is inherent in small social groups. On the other hand, the significance of actions and their consequences and, what is even more serious, their permanent character and the impunity of their authors turn anti-Semitism into a subject that must be reflected upon as well as an institutional concern.

• Discrimination against indigenous people

Indigenous communities live primarily as a third-class nation today. Usually, Argentineans and the Argentine government exclude original peoples on the pretext of not understanding their languages, religions, cultures, and the way of life. Argentina’s aboriginal peoples face struggles relating to the essential issues of survival, land rights, education opportunity, and the existence of indigenous culture and language.

The indigenous communities of Argentina include from 450,000 to 1.5 million, near one to four percent of the total Argentine population. According to the existing legislation of Argentina, its government should protect the national, ethnic, and tribal identities of native peoples, guarantee their right to bilingual education, protect their communal ownership, and admit their participation in the management of their property and lands. Nevertheless, in keeping with Human Rights Report 2013 in Argentina (2013), aboriginal peoples have no opportunity to take part fully in the management of their lands, mostly because only 11 of 23 provinces of Argentina admit the constitutional rights of original peoples. Even though there is no official procedure to recognize aboriginal communities or determine who is an aboriginal person, indigenous tribes can register in the local administration as public associations. In the World Report 2014 (2014), it is stated that the valid laws require that by 2017, the Argentine government at all levels has to carry out a survey of the territory inhabited by indigenous peoples. Without conducting a survey, authorities have no right to evict those people. However, the facts of indigenous communities’ evictions are growing. As James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples, says, the problems of Argentina’s indigenous peoples stem from the historic occupation and eviction of the aboriginal population by migrants.

One of the most problematic fields of discrimination against members of indigenous communities is human rights violations by the police and judicial unfairness. First of all, the facts of violations against people are connected with unequal access to justice and frequent impunity of offenders. In many cases, when aboriginals are the victims of crime, the police even do not accept claims and accusations, or, more often, the crime is not investigated. At the same time, if only indigenous persons are the accused, they even do not have a counsel, prescribed by law. The INADI or the National Human Rights Secretariat and many other institutions receive regular accusations of police abuses against original peoples as well as the lack of fair juridical system every year.

• Discrimination based on sexual orientation

According to Human Rights Report 2013 in Argentina (2013), there were no official cases of discrimination against sexual minority groups. It refers to all spheres, including employment, housing, access to education, medical care, or other services. This statement is connected with the fact that Argentina became the first Latin American country to legalize same-sex marriage, provide protection and equal rights for same-sex couples, and allow adoption and appropriate pensions in such cases. Moreover, in 2012, the Gender Identity Law declared that everyone over the age of 18 had the legal right to choose their sexual identity, undergo gender reassignment surgery, and modify official documents without any former judicial or medical agreement. Gender reassignment processes are covered as part of health insurance.

• Discrimination against women

Discrimination against women includes any exclusion or restriction made on the basis of gender, acts of violence, which lead to the violation of human rights and freedoms, and disruption of marital status, based on equality between men and women. Unfortunately, in Argentina, social norms permit physical and psychological violence against women because of the inferior status of women relative to men. The civil society organization La Casa del Encuentro reported that approximately 30 percent of women’s deaths are the results of domestic violence. Often, these cases include a husband or a boyfriend. Nearly half of the accidents occur in the regions of Cordoba, Buenos Aires, and Santa Fe. In addition to physical superiority and impunity provided by the authorities, men have economic benefits, mostly related to income opportunity.

However, the Argentine government tries to struggle against gender discrimination and protect women’s rights. In March 2013, a new law was adopted. It extends fundamental protections to domestic workforce, the greater part of whom are women and girls. The key positions of this law proclaim limits to working hours, a weekly rest period, overtime payment, sіck leave, and maternity protectіon.
Even though women have equal rights under the law, they face economic discrimination even now.

The reasons for it are as follows:

  • much higher number of women than men hold low-paying jobs;
  • significantly fewer women hold executive positions in the private sector (the same situation is with the public sector);
  • despite the fact that valid legislation requires equal payment for equal work, women earn just about 58 percent of the wages of men for similar or equal work (according to the data of the 2013 Global Gender Gap Report (2013).

Women of indigenous communities suffer from triple discrimination in Argentina: first of all, they are women; second, they are indigenous; lastly, they are poor. The only word that can describe the inequitable treatment they receive in educative institutions, health organizations, or public administration is humiliation.

Discrimination based on ethnic, religious, economic, and gender aspects appears in Argentina in close relation with marginalization and intolerance. It refers to the rejection of essential rights, obstacles to employment, educational system, medical services, juridical processes, and the denial of cultural and individual identity of the minority groups in this country. Despite the fact of globalization and the parity of all nations, it is hard to be Jews, Afro-Argentineans, or Indigenes and survive here. Besides, everything is more complicated for women.

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