Yesterday, Congress met for the first session of the year. Some significant bills were passed in both chambers, marking a positive start to the political calendar.
In a significant step for women in Argentina, a controversial legal figure in the penal code is on its way to being removed. The diplomatic war of words continues as the Senate released a statement on the issue of sovereignty of the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, and a bill proposing reforms to the Central Bank was passed by the Chamber of Deputies.
Removal of “Avenimiento” from the Penal Code
“Avenimiento” is a legal figure in the penal code, which states that if a rape victim over the age of 16 marries her rapist, the rapist may be freed from prison.
The removal of the figure from the penal code was voted on unanimously by 51 senators yesterday.
During the presentation, Entre Ríos Senator Guillermo Guastavino asked “How can one think that a person that has been subjected sexually can freely take decisions on equal footing in front of her attacker?”
The bill comes after an 18-year old woman was killed by her 26 year old husband in December 2011. The couple from La Pampa married after Marcelo Tomaselli had raped Carla Figueroa in a field. Tomaselli stabbed his wife and brutally beheaded her in front of their son.
The law was created in 1999, and has been subject of much criticism from international human rights organisations.
Salta Senator Sonia Escudero explained: “We are eliminating an intolerable legal figure, which does not understand the vulnerability of victims of crimes against sexual integrity, and offers criminals of this act a passport to impunity.”
Statement on the Malvinas/Falkland Islands
The Senate has released an official and extensive statement, which seeks to affirm Argentina’s sovereignty over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, following the growing diplomatic tensions of the past few months.
The statement declares “the legitimate and imprescriptible sovereignty of Argentina over the Malvinas/Falkland Islands, South Georgia, South Sandwich and the surrounding maritime areas.” The document also states that the conflict between the Argentine and UK governments should be resolved “peacefully in accordance with the provisions of the General Assembly of the United Nations.”
The Senate and Chamber of Deputies also warned the international community against the “militarisation and the introduction of nuclear weapons in the South Atlantic” by the UK government.
The statement goes on to thank countries such as Chile, Brazil and Uruguay for their recent support over the issue of the Malvinas/Falklands Sovereignty.
Reforms to the Central Bank
Importantly, the Chamber of Deputies voted on reforms to the Central Bank, a significant part of President Fernández de Kirchner’s speech that begun the legislative year.
The bill seeks to amend the Central Bank’s charter. The new bill will add more functions to the Central Bank: to ensure financial stability and to promote economic development through the handling of credits for long-term investments.
The controversial bill was passed with 142 votes in favour and 84 against, after ten hours of debate.
The government presented the reform as a “key tool diametrically opposed to the neoliberal model” and stated that it would help to improve employment and social equality.
Critics of the proposed reforms see the changes as a way for the government to access the Central Bank’s foreign reserves.
It is possible that the bill will be passed as a law before the end of the month.