Last Friday, Chile’s new president-elect, Gabriel Boric, who ran on a progressive feminist platform, announced his first cabinet. Fourteen of the 24 ministers are women. This is not the only sign of Boric keeping his promise. Key political posts such as ministers of the interior, justice, and defense are to be occupied by women and, for the first time, the Ministry of Women and Gender Equity will be part of the government’s core “political team.”
Boric’s campaign promised to focus on human rights issues that have been top priorities for feminist groups, such as violence against women, discrimination at work, sexual and reproductive rights, housing, and care work. He made commitments to tackle many structural barriers to women’s equality that, if realized, could set the stage for other countries to follow suit. These include:
- Increasing women’s access to the labor market
- Working to end the gender pay gap and the gendered division of labor
- Valuing unpaid domestic and care work by establishing a National Care System that deems care as a human right
- Using preventive and human rights-based approaches to reduce sexual and gender-based violence, instead of relying largely on a carceral system that uses incarceration as the primary solution. He also committed to ratifying the International Labour Organization Convention 190 on Violence and Harassment at Work
- Reforming the private pension system, which contains structural barriers that have disproportionately harmed women in retirement.
- Supporting the demand for safe, free, and legal abortion, going beyond the limited and poorly implemented 2017 abortion law, and seeking to end institutional conscientious objection, which had allowed entire medical facilities to refuse to provide abortions.
There will certainly be challenges. A feminist government will first have to focus on the most marginalized women. Chile’s female workforce participation has lagged for years and with the Covid-19 pandemic it dropped to less than 50 percent. The number of women working in informal sectors, on the contrary, increased. Racism creates additional barriers for Indigenous and migrant women, and sex workers are mostly invisible in public policies, despite the violence and stigma they face. Boric’s program and cabinet are a good start. Next, they’ll need to take action to deliver on their feminist promises.