Mara Viveros Vigoya
Universidad Nacional de Colombia
The notion of gender and the debates that it raises in relation to its social effects and political consequences have played a crucial role in different political processes and in different countries, such as those that accompanied in France the vote of the Civil Pact of Social Solidarity in 1999 or the Adoption of gay marriage in 2013; The disqualification of social movements such as the feminist or indigenous by President Rafael Correa in Ecuador; The impediment to the continuity of Dilma Rousseff’s term as president of Brazil in April 2016, or the recent negative result of the October 2 referendum that sought to endorse the peace accords for Colombia. These different examples present the present wagers around the gender and feminist perspective, understood as an extension of democracy – affirming the equality and freedom of groups that are marginalized for reasons of gender and sexuality – Or as a threat to the transcendental foundations of social order.
In this text I will present some elements on gender ideology, its antecedents and contemporary uses and secondly I will refer to the Colombian case, as one of the cases in which the term “gender ideology” has been used as part of a conservative rhetorical strategy to the constant interfaces between religious and political sectors that oppose the changes that have occurred in society in terms of gender and sexuality. These interfaces give an account of the notoriety that gender and sexuality issues have acquired in the contemporary world for the definition itself and for what constitutes democracy and citizenship today.
What is gender ideology? And what is the history behind the term?
Gender ideology is a discursive strategy devised by the Vatican and adopted by numerous Catholic and Christian activists and intellectuals to counteract the rhetoric of equal rights for women and LGBTI people. In an article published in 2011 and titled “A double-edged sword: Sexual democracy, gender norms and racialized rhetoric,” Eric Fassin pointed out that the term “gender ideology” had already been linked to the debates at the Fourth UN World Conference on Population and Development in 1994 and at the United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing in 1995. The Cairo Conference discussed issues related to health, sexual and reproductive rights, population growth and AIDS epidemics that generated resistance in some of the participating countries (the Vatican and some Latin American, North African and Middle Eastern countries) leading them to express their reservations to the chapters of the final document addressing reproductive health and rights. Those attending on behalf of the Vatican and the Christian lobby at the Women’s Conference in 1995, pointed out the danger posed by the systematic integration of a gender perspective in public policies and programs and the understanding of gender as a construction of sexual difference.
One of the most active contenders for the extensive use of the word Gender on the Beijing Platform was Dale O’Leary, representative of the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH) and the Family Research Council (Fillod 2014). She gave the task of alerting the network of Christian lobbyists to the risks posed by the religious values of the so-called “gender feminists”: among others, she referred to their questioning of motherhood as the first Vocation for women; Tolerance for homosexual orientation and identity, and denaturalization of sex and sexuality, which opened up the possibility of marriage for same-sex couples (Fassin 2011). Before the beginning of the conference O’Leary developed his denunciation of the “gender ideology,” which was quickly appropriated by the high dignitaries of the Church (Fillod 2014: 323), popularizing the expression.
It is also worth noting a curious fact raised by Sonia Corrêa: in the Preparatory Committee of the 1995 World Conference, conservative allied religious groups, the Vatican and some Islamic countries openly opposed the use of the term gender, associating it with the work of deconstruction of the binary sex system undertaken by the feminist biologist Anne Fausto-Sterling. This theory, unknown to most of the women participating in that conference, was used by these conservative sectors to generate “a wave of moral panic” (and restore order) based on disqualification of the idea that the binary system does not adequately embrace the whole spectrum of human sexuality.
In 2001, Jutta Burggraf, a theologian close to the Vatican, whose headquarters was the University of Navarre, a private university belonging to the Opus Dei prelature, published in Costa Rica in Spanish the text “What does gender mean? Which would become an article often quoted by those who argue the rejection of gender ideology. It is the article “Gender,” included in the Lexicon on the ambiguous and debatable terms on family, life and ethical issues, published in 2004 by the Pontifical Council for the Family. In that same year, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, in a letter addressed by the Vatican to the American bishops, made the position of the Church clear in this regard: “The collaboration of men and women in the Church and in the world is based on The premise of their difference. ” Biblical anthropology defines the role of men and women based on their complementary nature in physical, psychological and ontological terms, and on the primary vocation of women caring for their children and husband. Thus, for Catholic theology the social order has a natural foundation in sexual difference, which requires that God be identified with Nature; Hence, the privileged role assigned to sexual politics in the politics of Catholic theology (Fassin 2011).
Since then, campaigns to disqualify the academic fields of gender and sexuality have been multiplied and disseminated globally, and in recent years, as I have pointed out below, they have received special emphasis in Latin America “where gender Is paradoxically described as “ideological colonization” by a church that was imposed in these latitudes precisely in a colonialist process” (Motta 2015). I will now turn to the uses of this conservative rhetoric, and to the interfaces and intersections it has produced in the Colombian context.
In August 2014, Sergio Urrego, a Colombian secondary school student, committed suicide after being victimized in the school where he was studying, of various forms of discrimination based on his sexual orientation. The National Government and the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation pledged to investigate the case, and Sergio’s mother filed an action against the Department of Education, alleging that the school’s cohabitation manual, at the time of the events, did not Was in accordance with the legal and constitutional provisions regarding freedom of sexual orientation. In fact, he characterized as “serious faults” manifestations of homosexuality.
After many avatars in the investigation and the criminal process, the Constitutional Court ruled in favor of the family of Sergio Urrego and issued sentence T478 of 2015, by ordering the Ministry of National Education to implement the National School Coexistence System and to review in an “extensive and integral manner all the coexistence manuals in the country, in order to determine that they are respectful of sexual orientation and identity of Gender of students and to incorporate new ways and alternatives to encourage and strengthen school life. ”
To comply with the ruling, the Colombian Ministry of National Education decided to address the revision of school textbooks. In that process, an intense and polarized political and religious debate was generated around the Ministry of Education, and its efforts to achieve inclusive and discrimination-free school environments. The political debate opposed the Minister of Education, Gina Parody – who had publicly acknowledged a couple of years ago to have a relationship with another colleague of the Cabinet – with the attorney general of the moment, Alejandro Ordonez, characterized by his defense at last of the conservative values related to the family. The task of reviewing these coexistence manuals was reduced in this controversy to a strategy used by the Ministry to, in the words of Ordóñez, “to indoctrinate our children and our grandchildren in gender ideology.” The trigger of the debate was an image of two men in a bed, coming from a Belgian pornographic comic book that began to circulate through social networks and supposedly part of a campaign of sexual orientation of the Ministry.
This debate popularized once again the expression “gender ideology,” which some Catholic and Christian religious groups have used in Colombia to signal the understanding of sexual identities, characteristics and desires as social constructions, accusing it of being “the greatest contemporary fallacy”. Thus emerged in the debate fields that were polarized around the understanding of sexual differences generated tensions that are expressed not only in religious terms but citizens since the expression “gender ideology” has been used to hamper public policies, substantive changes In Colombian society aimed at ensuring gender equity and more recently, the endorsement of Peace Agreements through a plebiscite.
During the campaign of the NO different strategies were used that sought to make equivalent the inclusion of the approach of gender in the Agreements of Peace of the Havana, with the imposition of a supposed gender ideology. While a part of the population welcomed the inclusion of the gender approach in the Bureau’s talks as an unprecedented event in a peace process, another sector used during the NO campaign the plebiscite’s argument gender ideology to bring together people around the rejection of the supposed changes that would bring in the family values the peace accords signed by President Santos.
Interfaces and intersections in Colombian sexual politics
According to various analyzes , the inclusion of the gender approach in the Habana Agreements “was the trigger for the evangelical church to massively support the NO vote and, by the way, oblige the country to recognize its growing presence and influence in The national life “. Although the agreement does not touch on topics traditionally linked to what is called gender ideology such as marriage, family and same-sex couples, elements such as the gender differential approach, transverse to the text, and the use of the term gender in a way not circumscribed to the women were indicated as points that must be reviewed. Gender, being disconnected from sex, and sexuality, being disconnected from biology, are considered to open the door to an equal rights that have not been socially agreed, and which entails, for example, egalitarian marriage, adoption by Part of same-sex couples and the “manipulation of educational discourses” through school textbooks of coexistence.
However, the relevance of the evangelical vote was not the result of a conscious strategy but the result of a confluence of interests around support for NO. A decisive factor for the activism of civil organizations of different Catholic and Christian faiths was the debate around school textbooks of coexistence perceived as impositions of criteria of gender ideology in institutional education projects by the Ministry of Education Education  . Two other elements played an important role: the choice of Cuba to host the agreements and the inclusion of the gender approach in peace agreements to highlight the impact of conflict on women and LGBTI groups. The first reinforced the idea that communism and Castro-Chavismo were behind the agreement and the second was interpreted as a strategy to promote gender ideology and homosexuality and impose a model of society that was not foreseen. The speeches of former President Álvaro Uribe, leader of the campaign of opposition to these agreements, coincided in large part with those of the former Conservative Alejandro Ordonez, those of some Christian pastors and members of the Episcopal Conference, and those of different political parties. They all agreed to ensure that the gender approach referred to in the Final Agreement was in fact an expression of the “gender ideology” that attacked the traditional concept of family and encouraged children and young people to become homosexuals.
What do these political, religious and moral interfaces of Colombian sexual politics tell us? First, that many of the advances in the area of sexual and reproductive rights in Colombia have not called for broad sectors of the society. Among other reasons, because a large part of these achievements, such as the partial decriminalization of abortion, homoparental adoption, recognition of the identity of transgender persons, marriages for same-sex couples have not been the result of debates in the legislative sphere But of tutelas, decisions of High Courts and high-impact litigation that have institutionalized them by judicial means. This means that these decisions, arising from these instances and procedures, have not had sufficient capacity to link large population groups of society, whose adherence to these changes is what ultimately guarantees the political and social sustenance of these norms. On the other hand, it can not be ignored either that the application of these failures has been made in a very differentiated way between the urban and rural contexts, and between the most central and the most peripheral areas of the country (Gil Hernández 2016).
In this scenario, Christian religious sectors have gained space, collecting the concerns and fears that generated the changes that have occurred since the 1990s with the so-called general law of education. In fact, this law modified the idea of the young person, now perceived as a political subject and of rights, and included sexual and reproductive education within the legislation as a state obligation (Morales Borrero 2010). The various proposals to address gender and sexuality in the School that have been made since then have provoked countless reactions from conservative sectors that seek to sow the moral panic between parents and educators. One of the effects of these reactions is the timid reach of sexual and reproductive education that has been given in Colombia, more related to a moral control and sanction of the behaviors of young people and women (and more specifically young women) who With a focus on the rights of young people (Morales Borrero, 2010) founded on a “new” secular regime of sexuality (Carrara 2015).
It should be remembered that those who opposed the revision of the coexistence manuals do not speak about the rights of young people but about the right of parents to train their children in matters of sexuality, in accordance with their principles and values. In the speeches of those who present themselves as defenders of the traditional family or the young, neither girls nor boys are really considered as decision makers on these issues. Thus, in the recent marches against the primers, which were being revised in order to provide precisely a better protection for minors in schools (Rodríguez Rondón 2016), the centrality of childhood and the defense of children on raised flags are striking. Youth, but especially childhood, were singled out as symbols of innocence and helplessness to mobilize emotions against changes perceived as threatening family order. At the same time, they have been used as a “currency of exchange” by conservative political and religious sectors that linked the affirmative vote in the plebiscite with the imposition of gender ideology in school.
This political debate also expresses a strong resistance to the recognition of the rights of LGBTI persons, constituted as an abject category of enemies of childhood, family and Christian morality. However, the gender approach only examines issues associated with the origin and development of the armed conflict, such as the recognition of LGBTI women and persons as victims of the armed conflict who have suffered particularly strongly from their subordinate social position. Issues such as the definition of family, marriage or adoption by same-sex couples, as well as other rights of LGBTI persons recognized in the Political Constitution of Colombia and constitutional jurisprudence are not included in this agreement, as stated in a statement Between some organizations of the LGBTI people and the Farc-EP. The debate on these issues, the communication continues, must be carried out freely and in a democracy in the corresponding institutions.
The Colombian case highlights the difficulties that arise today in order to place the debates on gender and sexual diversity on the public agenda. It is important to understand that what is at stake in this discussion about “gender ideology” and its use in different political contexts and places is the possibility of understanding gender and sexuality systems as systems not founded on a transcendent authority, called God, nature or Tradition or any other transhistoric principle, sheltered from a political criticism.
What will happen now? What are the forecasts for the future?
In response to the disappointment experienced by the young people with the results of the plebiscite, the youth movement ‘Paz a la Calle’ was born on October 3. This movement has given back to young people that weren’t in the debates that accompanied the rejection of the primers that reviewed the school textbooks of coexistence. And this initiative has been joined by teachers who teach classes in the street, or subcommittees such as gender and sexual diversity, explaining the scope of the gender approach in peace agreements.
After almost 50 days of pressure, the Camp for Peace, an initiative derived from the “Peace to the Street” movement – which had been installed in the iconic Plaza de Bolívar, seat of Bogotá’s political-administrative and religious power – In part by its own decision, to consider that its objective of remaining until a new peace agreement had been fulfilled, as was achieved again on November 12, after the peace negotiators of the National Government and the FARC Made adjustments in 56 issues, following the victory of the NO in the last plebiscite of October 2. However, those who decided to remain until the new peace agreement was implemented were forcibly evicted, and their property and tents were seized by the police, generating indignation among citizens and impotence among the demonstrators.
The arrangements in the new agreement include narrowing the gender perspective to the search for guarantees to ensure that women victims of armed conflict are treated with priority. The rights of LGBTI persons were incorporated in the principles of equality and non-discrimination of the agreed text. From the side of the government, it was announced that next November 23 will be delivered to the Congress of the Republic the new agreement to be in that scenario where the discussions are held on it. Meanwhile, there is suspense around what will be the exit from this impasse of Colombian (sexual) politics.
 In the plebiscite of October 2, 2016, 50.21% of voters in Colombia said “No” to the agreement reached with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) after nearly four years of negotiations in Cuba.
 The adjectives “Christian” and “Christian” (dry) refer to the evangelical movement Pentecostal, expanding throughout Latin America and sub-Saharan Africa. Today, around 16% of the Colombian population sympathizes or is part of this movement and represents the second religious expression in Colombia, after Catholicism. Beltrán, William Mauricio, http://razonpublica.com/index.php/econom-y-sociedad-temas-29/7141-la-mutaci%C3%B3n-del-
 Fassin, Eric. A double-edged sword: Sexual democracy, gender norms, and racialized rhetoric. The question of gender: Joan W. Scott’s critical feminism, 2011, p. 143-158.
  Fillod, Odile, 2014. L’invention de la “théorie du genre”: le mariage blanc du Vatican et de la science Contemporary French Civilization, vol. 39, no. 3 doi:10.3828/cfc.2014.19
 Corrêa, Sonia. O Percurso Global dos Direitos Sexuais: entre “margens” e “centros”. Bagoas: Estudos gays, gêneros e sexualidades, 2009, no 4, p. 17-42.
 It is worth noting that the author of the preface to the Lexicon was Cardinal Alfonso López Trujillo, President of the Pontifical Council for the Family of the Holy See, from 1990 until his death in 2008 in Robis Camille. Catholics, the “Theory of Gender,” and the Turn to the Human in France: A New Dreyfus Affair? The Journal of Modern History, 2015, vol. 87, no. 4, p.-909.
 These manuals collect the agreements of the educational community on the value frameworks and norms that will guide the life in the school and that will facilitate the construction of coexistence in the surroundings.
 The inclusion of the gender approach in the agreement, signed in Cuba on July 24, seeks, according to the official Communiqué, “to create conditions so that women, and persons with diverse sexual identity can access on an equal basis the benefits To live in a country without armed conflict.”
 Week edition No. 1800, October 30 to November 6, 2016, pg 27
 Ver Gil Hernández, Franklin, (2016) en: http://sxpolitics.org/es/la-politica-sexual-en-julio-de-2016/3429
 This is not a unique phenomenon in Colombia, but rather the expression of a global trend of weakening political institutions such as Congress and parties that give way to non-representative bodies such as Las Cortes. Week Edition No 1800
 Morales-Borrero, María Carolina (2010). “Lo político de las políticas de salud sexual y reproductiva para jóvenes en Colombia.” Gerencia y Políticas de Salud Vol. 9, No.19, pp 69-89,
 Carrara, Sérgio 2015. Moralidades, racionalidades e políticas sexuais no Brasil contemporáneo. Mana 21(2): 323-345 – DOI http://dx.doi.org/10.1590/0104-93132015v21n2p323
 Rodríguez Rondón, Manuel, 2016. “La infancia como símbolo y moneda de cambio” en http://www.clam.org.br/ES/destaque/conteudo.asp?cod=12437
 This same argument accompanied the controversies around schoolbooks, in France and Brazil, although in each of these countries, the political situation gave particular characteristics to the debate.
 This is part of the joint statement signed on November 3, 2016 between some leaders of the main LGBT organizations and the Farc-EP that seeks to maintain the gender focus in the peace agreements reached and lists five points that will be discussed later with The Government and promoters of NO. See http://colombiadiversa.org/noticias/comunicado-conjunto-organizaciones-lgbt-la-delegacion-paz-las-farc/