SANTIAGO – Chile’s women and gender minister, a great-niece of the late dictator Augusto Pinochet, has resigned after just a month following a furious backlash to her appointment and a string of missteps in office.
Macarena Santelices stood down on Tuesday, tweeting: “The day it is understood that women’s rights are not political – that they belong to all and for all – we can move forward.”
Before she was named minister in May, Santelices, had spoken definitely of the “good side” of Pinochet’s regimen, under which thousands of women were put through torture and almost all female political prisoners endured sexual violence.
Once in office, she oversaw a string of controversial decisions, prompting the hashtag #WeDoNotHaveAMinister (#NOTENEMOSMINISTRO) to trend in Chile.
On Monday, she named Jorge Ruz – a former tabloid editor most commonly known for taking care of a reality TV program in which women are judged in a swimsuit competition – to head the Ministry’s research division.
The Plurinational Feminist Assembly described the move as “unacceptable,” tweeting: “We demand her departure NOW.”
Last month, the Women’s ministry stirred controversy after launching a public service campaign against domestic violence, having a video where an elderly man tearfully repented abusing his wife.
Critics was overly sympathetic to abusers, and the Ministry swiftly removed the video, admitting that the campaign “did not send the intended message”.
Santelices, who describes herself a feminist, had condemned Chile’s forceful feminist groups for seeking “chaos and destruction”.
The Women’s Ministry seat is held by right-wing party Independent Democratic Union, a part of the conservative coalition government light emitting diode by the president, Sebastian Piñera.
Santelices is replaced by Monica Zalaquett, a former deputy who staunchly opposed Michelle Bachelet’s push to help ease on the sum total abortion ban, and permit termination in instances of rape or if there is risk to the life span of the lady or fetus.
In 2013, when abortion was still prohibited under all circumstances, Zalaquett applauded the bravery of an 11-year-old girl who gave birth after being denied abortion rights by their state.
Women’s rights groups welcome the news of Santelices’ resignation, nevertheless the appointment of Zalaquett yet again prompted the hashtag #WeDoNotHaveAMinister to trend.