In a major breakthrough for LGBTQ rights, Argentina’s Senate has approved sweeping legislation that mandates that one percent of all public sector jobs should be reserved transgender individuals.
LGBT+ activists hailed the trans quota law’s passage last Thursday, with many saying that it would “change lives'' for many in the trans community by including them in the formal job market.
The bill, promoted by the ruling Frente de Todos bloc and authored by legislator Gabriela Estévez (FdT-Córdoba), was approved by a 55-1 vote, with just six senators abstaining. It bears the name of campaigners Lohana Berkins and Diana Sacayan, who both passed away before its passage.
The initiative was backed by campaigning organisations, including the LGBTIQ+ League of the Provinces and the Federal Trans and Travesti Argentina Convocation.
The law’s approval is seen as a significant step forward for the trans community, which historically has had fewer job opportunities and are vastly underrepresented in leadership positions.
Apart from suffering widespread discrimination and stigmatisation, members of the trans community has an average life expectancy of 36 years, according to academic studies.
Studies by the Asociación de Travestis, Transexuales y Transgéneros de Argentina (ATTTA) have shown that 90 percent of the community is outside the formal job market while almost 95 percent "find themselves in situations of prostitution on the extreme fringes of society." Some 60 percent were unable to finish their schooling.
According to a separate 2017 survey in Buenos Aires City, only nine percent of trans people had a formal job and 70 percent were sex workers.
Senators voted overwhelmingly in favour of the law, which reserves one-percent of jobs in the public sector for members of the trans community.
The only vote against the regulation was from Córdoba's PRO Senator Ernesto Martínez, while the six abstentions were from Roberto Basualdo (PyT-San Juan), Julio Cobos (UCR-Mendoza), Silvia Elías de Pérez (UCR-Tucumán), Laura Rodríguez Machado (PRO-Córdoba), Humberto Schiavoni (PRO-Misiones), Belén Tapia (UCR-Santa Cruz).
PRO Senator Gladys González (Buenos Aires City) was among those who backed the law. In doing so, she inherently criticised her own previous vote against Argentina's historic equal marriage law back in 2010.
"I did not understand and thus voted with a partial view, conditioned by the cultural, the religious, full of prejudices and ignorance," she admitted.
Senator Norma Durango, of the Frente de Todos ruling coalition, hailed the vote as a major breakthrough.
"We are discussing something beyond the transgender labour quota. We are discussing whether trans and LBGTQ people are going to be afforded rights that they are guaranteed, as citizens: human rights. That is what we are talking about,” she declared.
Undersecretary of Diversity Policies Alba Rueda, said that the legislation “enriches our society in the sense that diversity is a great strength of democracy and, in this way, we believe that we have great contributions for making the democratic quality of our country."
Women, Gender and Diversity Minister Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta also celebrated the news.
“This law arrives to repair a chain of exclusions that often begins in childhood. It is not admissible that in Argentina there are people whose life expectancy does not exceed 40 years, simply because of their desire to live according to their self-perceived identity,” she declared.
The new rules – which were initially introduced with emergency decree last year – apply to all three branches of the federal government, decentralised and autarchic organisations, non-state public entities and state-owned firms.
In a bid to encourage private businesses to follow suit, the law also offers tax incentives and soft loans for firms that recruit members of the trans community.
Experts say the codifying of the emergency decree into law will strengthen its enforcement.
To facilitate access to formal employment, the project indicates that "the requirement of educational completion [of a degree] cannot be an obstacle to entry and permanence in employment" and that "trans people are understood to be all those who perceive themselves with a gender identity that does not correspond to the sex assigned at birth." The law says that most criminal records should not be taken into account when hiring trans workers.
Argentina is something of a pioneer for human rights, legislating in favour of sexual diversity with its gay marriage law of 2010 and a gender identity law a year later.
Congress is pending another initiative that has been in the works for a long time: the Historical Reparation Law for trans people over 40 years old.