On November 21, the first round of Chilean presidential elections took place and far-right presidential candidate José Antonio Kast received a wave of support, leading with 27.91% of the vote. This affected women across Chile, because of Kast’s history of supporting socially regressive policies. In response, on November 25, women gathered to voice concerns about Kast and other issues such as violence against women, during a protest on the steps of Chile’s Presidential Palace.
Kast presents himself as a “family man”. In a recent interview, he said that “the value of the family has been lost” and cited this as a reason for abolishing the right to abortion. If elected, Kast’s ideology aligns with that of the Chilean far-right party about the idea that abortion should be banned indefinitely. According to the Good Country Index, on Kast’s candidate profile, he said that “one of the first things I would try to complete is the abortion law.” As Al Jazeera reports, women across Chile find Kast’s positions on abortion a violation of their bodily autonomy and a threat to their future. Paulina Vergara, professor in the public affairs department at the University of Chile, said: “He has a strategy against the feminist movement and considers their values to be at odds with the concept of family.
Kast’s opponent Gabriel Boric recognizes the importance of the female vote in this election and has condemned previous sexist statements he has made in the past. In an interview with Reuters, Boric explained what is needed to create a nation that takes into account everyone’s needs. In politics, “you have to be ready to sit down to dialogue, to debate firmly with those who think differently from you”. This mentality allowed her to work with feminist organizations in Chile in order to overthrow patriarchal society. Kast and his opposing stance can be seen as a threat to women’s human rights in Chile, as he views any remarks against patriarchy as an attack on far-right ideals. For Chile to protect women’s rights, this second round must elect the candidate who does not see women’s autonomy as a threat.
Previously, UN Women called on Chile to achieve gender equality, stressing in its 2021 report that only 22.6% of parliamentary seats are held by women. In 2018, 5.8% of women aged 15 to 49 reported experiencing physical and / or sexual violence from a current or former intimate partner in the past 12 months. In addition, women and girls aged 10 and over spend 22.1% of their time on unpaid care and domestic work, compared to 9.9% for men.
These inequalities in Chile have been recognized globally, signifying the gravity of the situation. Kast also recognized the seriousness of these problems and understands the importance of the vote for women in this second round, thus promising to “reduce domestic violence”. However, Kast’s political record shows an aversion to women’s issues. According to Al Jazeera, Kast voted against gender equality laws and women’s rights legislation for 16 years during her tenure in the House of Representatives. For reference, throughout his political career, Kast voted against laws making emergency contraception more readily available because it threatened family values.
Chilean women increasingly fear that Kast will be elected in the coming weeks and threaten their rights. Despite her vows to fight domestic violence, Kast’s political record demonstrates her true positions on women’s rights issues. In order to achieve the gender equality demanded by the UN, Chile must not accept Kast’s empty promises. The near future looks dangerous for Chilean women. They look down on a reality that strips them of their bodily autonomy and imposes archaic values in their daily life.