By Lisa Maria Hagen -
Buenos Aires - Since last year, Argentina allows homosexual marriage, but problems remain: the children of a lesbian couple may only be officially recognized as the offspring of one of their mothers.
In October 1992 Andrea Majul was teaching a course for aspiring radio presenters in the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires, and Silvina Maddaleno was her student. 'Don't get involved with a student!' Andrea told herself.
But she did not follow her own advice, and they became a couple and shared quite a regular love story.
Fifteen years later, their third attempt at artificial insemination worked out. Eight weeks later, Silvina experienced unusual bleeding. The two feared a miscarriage and hurried to hospital. But doctors reassured them: the implantation of the embryos had caused the bleeding. 'You're having triplets! Congratulations!' they were told.
'It was as if we had booked a trip to the Caribbean and landed in the North Pole,' Silvina, 37, recalls with a laugh.
Their friends and relatives rejoiced. The neighbours wondered why two women were living together, and how come one of them had got pregnant. Later, on Mother's Day, Clarin, Argentina's most popular newspaper, published a big story about the family, which explained everything.
'We wanted to show that other models of family are as entitled to exist as the traditional one,' says Andrea, 42. Father, mother, child - this has long been a dated model in Argentina, with all the single parents, patchwork families and families like Andrea's and Silvina's.
In the 27th week of the pregnancy came labour pains. Far too early. At the hospital, a nurse requested the names of the baby's mother and father, the usual facts. 'There is no father, there are two mothers,' Andrea replied.
That could not turn out well, the nurse mumbled. Andrea asked who had raised her. An aunt, the nurse replied.
'And in your case that turned out well, didn't it?' The nurse said nothing else.
Santiago, Abril and Jazmin were born by C-section on August 8, 2007. The three were tiny. For three months, their parents kept watch by the incubators. At the beginning, they could not even touch the babies. But they all made it.
'Since then, we have no time even to breathe,' Andrea says.
There are no fixed roles in this family. Andrea is a better cook, Silvina is better at combing the girls' hair. Both earn a living. It is a model family.
Jazmin dances on the sofa, with her little hands on Andrea's face. 'Mamu, I've got your nose!' she shouts, and she waves her thumb in the air.
Mamu - that is Andrea. Mami is Silvina. Both answer to the more standard mama. But while Andrea is as much a mama for the children as Silvina - she too tells them bedtime stories, cooks their favourite dishes and blows on bruised knees - the state does not recognize her as a mother.
Argentina made major progress in the direction of granting equal rights to same-sex couples in July last year when the country accepted homosexual marriage.
According to the Argentine Federation of Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals and Transexuals (FALGBT), more than 1,300 couples got married in the six months that followed the implementation of the new law. Thirty per cent of them were lesbians, including Andrea and Silvina, who married on October 18, their 18th anniversary.
'It's an indescribable feeling to be finally recognized by the state after so many years and to be granted the same rights as every other couple,' Silvina said.
Legislator Alfredo Olmedo is less enthusiastic about the legalisation of homosexual marriage, particularly regarding the situation of children. 'A couple consists of a mother and a father,' Olmedo says.
There is no child with two mothers or two fathers, he insists. But the law contradicts him.
Nowadays, the non-biological mother is also entitled to raise the child in case of a pregnancy. But since this legislation is not retroactive, Silvina Maddaleno remains a single mother and Andrea Majul is legally no-one to her own children. Should Silvina die, the children will lose not just one mother, but two.
'I would have to adopt my own children,' Andrea says.
There are more than 300 couples in a similar position because of this legal loophole. The organization Lesmadres has recognized this and is working with other institutions to find an administrative solution, which will then have to be approved by the Interior Ministry.
Martin Canevaro, of the organization 100% Diversidad y Derechos (100 per cent Diversity and Rights), assumes that the problem will be solved within a few months. 'For our community, this would be, after the implementation of same-sex marriage, our greatest legal achievement,' he says.