Argentina

Last Updated 16 September 2020

Argentina is a country on the southern cone of South America, which obtained its independence from Spain in 1816. Argentina is a federal republic with an established constitution, an elected two chamber Congress and an elected president acting as head of state.

A majority Catholic nation (62.9%), the non-religiously affiliated account for approximately 18.9% of the population as of 2019.

 
Systemic Discrimination
Mostly Satisfactory

Constitution and government

The national legal framework of Argentina guarantees equality and freedom of conscience. Specifically, Articles 14 and 20 of Argentina’s Constitution1https://www.acnur.org/fileadmin/Documentos/BDL/2001/0039.pdf (in Spanish) guarantee both its citizens and foreigners, respectively, freedom of conscience, among other rights.

A series of constitutional reforms over the last century have systematically sought to disentangle religion (particularly Catholicism) from the state. Most recently, in 1994, an obligation of the president and vice-president to be Roman Apostolic Catholics was removed. However,there continues to exist an invocation to God within the preamble and reference to God in Article 19, which states, “The private actions of men that in no way offend order and public morals, or harm a third party, are reserved to God only, and exempt from the authority of the magistrates. No inhabitant of the Nation will be forced to do what the law does not command, nor deprived of what it does not prohibit.” Today, such references may be understood to represent a writing style typical of the time that the Constitution was enacted.

Article 75, paragraph 22, incorporates into national legislation all the international human rights declarations and conventions that guarantee equality and freedom of conscience and beliefs ratified by Argentina. These treaties include but are not limited to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, and the American Convention on Human Rights.

Preferential treatment of the Catholic Church

Despite the above, Article 2 of the Constitution states that “the federal government supports the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church.” Law 21,745 requires all religious organisations other than the Roman Catholic Apostolic Church to register with the authorities in order to register publicly.2http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/65000-69999/65159/norma.htm; https://www.argentina.gob.ar/normativa/nacional/resoluci%C3%B3n-2092-2005-110363/texto Once registered, they receive tax-exempt status.3 argentinaindependent.com/currentaffairs/church-state-argentina-long-road-secularism/

Since the last civic-military-ecclesiastical dictatorship (1976-1983), through decrees and laws that are still in force, the government guarantees that the Argentine Episcopal Conference receives annual funds for salaries and pensions of bishops, archbishops, and auxiliaries; salaries for border priests; travel expenses for the entire curia inside and outside the country; and scholarships for seminarians. It is also a common practice for provincial and municipal governments to allocate funds to restore Catholic churches, assign properties free of charge and for an indefinite time to the church, and even donate properties.

Argentina has a chaplaincy system for the Armed Forces creating the Military Vicariate or Military Bishopric established in 1957 between the state and the Holy See. The Military Bishopric seeks to provide spiritual assistance to the military, and, since its establishment, hundreds of priests have served as chaplains, collecting official state salaries. In 2019, former President Mauricio Macri (2015-2019) increased the salary of the military bishops to be equivalent to an undersecretary of state.4https://www.boletinoficial.gob.ar/detalleAviso/primera/206717/20190502

More recently, President Alberto Fernández, (2019-2023) invited Pope Francis to intervene in the negotiations with Wall Street bondholders to restructure the 60,000 million dollars of Argentina’s external debt.5https://www.infobae.com/politica/2020/08/08/alberto-fernandez-hablo-con-el-papa-francisco-y-agradecio-su-apoyo-en-la-negociacion-con-los-bonistas-de-wall-street/?outputType=amp-type

Belief Demographics

According to the 2019 National Survey on Beliefs and Religious Attitudes conducted by the National Council for Scientific and Technical Research (Consejo Nacional de Investigaciones Científicas y Técnicas – CONICET)6http://www.ceil-conicet.gov.ar/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/ii25-2encuestacreencias.pdf, 18.9% of Argentinians identify as not religiously affiliated, which positions nonreligious people as the second-largest group in the country only below Catholics. Within this number, 3.2% identify as agnostics, 6% as atheists, and 9.7% as non-religious.

The survey shows that between 2008 and 2019, the number of Catholics in the country has decreased from 76.5% to 62.9% although it remains as the majority group in the country. Correspondingly, non-religious affiliated people jumped to 18.9% of the population compared with 11.3% in 2008 followed by the number of Evangelicals, which increased to 15.3% compared with 9.0% in 2008.

Education and children’s rights

The right to education is understood broadly to include the right to teach and learn, as well as the right to freedom of conscience of teachers, parents, guardians, boys and girls. It is protected under several legal sources, including international treaties, the national Constitution, and each of the 22 provincial Constitutions that address education differently. 

According to Fernando Lozada, Co-director and speaker of the International Association of Free Thought of Argentina, in provinces, such as Chaco, Entre Río, Neuquén, Río Negro, Tierra del Fuego, Antarctica, South Atlantic Islands, and Mendoza public education is explicitly secular. At the same time, in Buenos Aires, Corrientes, Formosa, Jujuy, La Rioja, Misiones, San Luis, Santa Cruz,  Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero, there is no legal authorization to teach religious education in public schools and the right to freedom of conscience of the student and their parents is constitutionally promoted. Finally, other provinces, such as Catamarca, Chubut, Córdoba, La Pampa, and San Juan allow optional religious education. 

In 2017, Argentina’s Supreme Court of Justice in the case Castillo, Carina Viviana and others C/ Province of Salta v. Ministry of Education of the Prov. of Salta ruled that the province of Salta’s provision of religious education within class hours in state schools was unconstitutional. Instead, it established that religious education can only be carried out outside of school hours.7http://www.saij.gob.ar/corte-suprema-justicia-nacion-federalciudad-autonoma-buenos-aires-castillo-carina-viviana-otros-provincia-saltaministerio-educacion-prov-salta-amparo-fa17000058-2017-12-12/123456789-850-0007-1ots-eupmocsollaf

Under Law 26,206 of 2006, education is a public asset, and an individual and social right guaranteed by the state. Article 6 “officially recognized religious confessions” among the institutions responsible for such service. Similarly, Article 63 points out that “the Catholic Church, the religious confessions registered in the National Registry of Worship hall have the right to provide these services; alongside societies, cooperatives, social organizations, unions, associations, foundations, and companies with legal status.”8http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/120000-124999/123542/texact.htm

Law 26,150 of 2006 created the National Program for Comprehensive Sexual Education, which establishes that students have the right to receive comprehensive sexual education in state and private establishments at the national, provincial, and municipal levels.9http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/120000-124999/121222/norma.htm

Family, community and society

Argentina has in place laws that secure some degree of equality among its people.

LGBTQ+ rights

In 2010, despite strong opposition from the Catholic and Evangelical Churches, Argentina became the first country in Latin America to legalize same-sex marriage. The law grants same-sex couples the same rights and responsibilities enjoyed by heterosexual couples, including the right to adopt children.10https://www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/gay-marriage-around-the-world/#argentina

Two years later in 2012, Congress enacted Law 26,743 known as the “Gender identity law.”  The law emphasizes the right to be treated according to one’s gender identity, as well as the right to modify one’s name, photo ID, and registered sex in official documents without additional paperwork.11https://www.argentina.gob.ar/justicia/derechofacil/leysimple/identidad-de-genero

Abortion rights

In recent years, the right to abortion has been subject to much public debate. Under current legislation, abortions are only permitted in cases of rape or when a mother’s life is in danger. However, pro-choice advocates have sought to amend the legislation.12https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/09/world/americas/argentina-abortion-laws-south-america.html Upon the opening of parliament, President Fernández announced a move to legalize abortion during the first 14 weeks of pregnancy.13https://www.elmundo.es/internacional/2020/03/01/5e5c0e68fdddffec508b46b2.html; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/22/world/americas/abortion-argentina.html

Freedom of expression, advocacy of humanist values

Freedom of speech is generally protected in Argentina, under Articles 14 and 32 of the national Constitution, however there are some important caveats.14https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/publications/argentina-current-trends-in-freedom-of-expression-jurisprudence/ However, vaguely-worded provisions in the criminal code, including ‘sedition’, make possible and have been used to prosecute human rights activists and those conducting protests, and may serve to stifle free expression.15https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/argentina The criminal code also criminalizes defamation.

Of concern to freedom of expression groups is the concentration of the media, controlled by two conglomerates.16 https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-18707517; https://freedomhouse.org/country/argentina/freedom-world/2020 However, media outlets face no official censorship.

Journalists face sporadic harassment, however, those covering discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals report frequent threats on social media.17https://freedomhouse.org/country/argentina/freedom-world/2020

Highlighted cases

In 2019, an 11-year-old girl from San Miguel de Tucumán, was reportedly prevented from having an abortion by medical personnel. The minor was allegedly raped by her grandmother’s boyfriend, and although she had stated her wish to have an abortion, medical personnel forced her to have a C-section.18https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/28/americas/11-year-old-girl-c-section-argentina/index.html

References   [ + ]

1. https://www.acnur.org/fileadmin/Documentos/BDL/2001/0039.pdf (in Spanish)
2. http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/65000-69999/65159/norma.htm; https://www.argentina.gob.ar/normativa/nacional/resoluci%C3%B3n-2092-2005-110363/texto
3. argentinaindependent.com/currentaffairs/church-state-argentina-long-road-secularism/
4. https://www.boletinoficial.gob.ar/detalleAviso/primera/206717/20190502
5. https://www.infobae.com/politica/2020/08/08/alberto-fernandez-hablo-con-el-papa-francisco-y-agradecio-su-apoyo-en-la-negociacion-con-los-bonistas-de-wall-street/?outputType=amp-type
6. http://www.ceil-conicet.gov.ar/wp-content/uploads/2019/11/ii25-2encuestacreencias.pdf
7. http://www.saij.gob.ar/corte-suprema-justicia-nacion-federalciudad-autonoma-buenos-aires-castillo-carina-viviana-otros-provincia-saltaministerio-educacion-prov-salta-amparo-fa17000058-2017-12-12/123456789-850-0007-1ots-eupmocsollaf
8. http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/120000-124999/123542/texact.htm
9. http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/120000-124999/121222/norma.htm
10. https://www.pewforum.org/fact-sheet/gay-marriage-around-the-world/#argentina
11. https://www.argentina.gob.ar/justicia/derechofacil/leysimple/identidad-de-genero
12. https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/09/world/americas/argentina-abortion-laws-south-america.html
13. https://www.elmundo.es/internacional/2020/03/01/5e5c0e68fdddffec508b46b2.html; https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/22/world/americas/abortion-argentina.html
14. https://globalfreedomofexpression.columbia.edu/publications/argentina-current-trends-in-freedom-of-expression-jurisprudence/
15. https://www.hrw.org/world-report/2020/country-chapters/argentina
16.  https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-latin-america-18707517; https://freedomhouse.org/country/argentina/freedom-world/2020
17. https://freedomhouse.org/country/argentina/freedom-world/2020
18. https://www.cnn.com/2019/02/28/americas/11-year-old-girl-c-section-argentina/index.html

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