Argentina once again saw a milestone victory for people’s rights after the National Congress passed the Travesti Trans Employment Quota. The law carries the name of two leaders, Diana Sacayán and Lohana Berkins, two activists who advocated for similar legal initiatives and helped advance this law. The norm was approved with 55 votes in favor and calls on the State to guarantee that a minimum of 1% of its full-time staff must be travesti, transexual and transgender people.
The law also states that employment access should be carried out with a strict protocol of “no discrimination”, and that there will be economic incentives for the private sector for them to increase their hiring of travesti and trans workers.
There have already been experiences of this in the country: in 2015, the province of Buenos Aires passed the Trans Employment Quota law, which came into effect some years later. Similarly, in September of last year, the government of Alberto Fernández pushed through an employment quota for the sector through a Necessary and Urgent Decree.
The debate in Congress and the increased awareness on the content of the discussion was a key advance, but perhaps more important, the debate prioritized the testimonies of the travesti, transexual and transgender people that have suffered (and continue to suffer) from incalcuable exclusion and violence.
“The importance of this law is without a doubt the creation of a more just society. It gives people tools to make their rights respected and it is key that it happened with this level of visibility, because that is how it will reach all of society. Not everyone knows what life is like for travesti and trans people, many times even their families do not,” explained Gabriela Abreliano, leader from the Self-Organized Trans People’s Collective.
For Abreliano, “the State has to set an example” to “repair the persecution and harm” that occurred for years. She also considers that in addition to guaranteeing the right to change one’s identity, the law should help improve records since the State “does not have data on how many travesti-trans people exist.”
Valentina Pereyra, trans and feminist activist, added that “now we can come closer to this base level of equality that all human beings should have when they enter into this society.” She also emphasized the importance of this law for the “future generations.”
“We have never had this opportunity to have a formal insertion in the area of employment. We have always been forced into certain informal labor markets that are criminalized,” highlighted Pereyra. “We are very happy, excited and content because this is a historic act. And above all for the future generations that are coming behind us.”
The activist for trans and travesti rights in the city La Plata reminded that in the province of Buenos Aires the employment quota for trans people was passed six years ago and as of now “there have not been significant advances.” “We hope that with this national law the same thing does not happen, because we do not have much time. We continue to die at 35-40 years old, waiting for alternatives and rights.”
The historic importance of the passing of this law is also reflected in the posts of some political leaders like the president, Alberto Fernández, and the vice president, Cristina Fernández.
“This law is the result of a very long struggle and there is still much left to do. Always more rights and more equality,” posted the vice president on her Twitter account.
During the Senate session, different travesti and trans organizations organized a pañuelazo (a rally wherein participants wave scarves) outside Congress and followed the live stream of the debate on the bill, which ended in a big celebration. “We will never return to the cells,” was chanted by participants which appropriately encapsulates what it means to have access to formal employment instead of being persecuted on the street.
A noteworthy moment took place inside of the chambers when Pablo Blanco, a senator from the southern province of Tierra del Fuego stated that he would change his vote in favor of the initiative “after hearing the arguments of the [female] members of the Senate.”
Without a doubt, now a new battle for the travesti, transexual and transgender movement begins: the monitoring and pressure for the employment quota to become a reality and for it to be applied in all public spheres of the country. For now, the news sets a fundamental precedent that gives motivation for these rights to be fought for in other corners of the world.
First published in ARG Medios