We start this announcement recalling that, before May 2019, two major antigender events have taken place that are worth revisiting because of their potential subsequent ripple effects in Europe and Latin America.
The World Congress of Families – The 2019 edition of the World Family Congress (WCF) was held in Verona (Italy) in the last week of March. The event was attended by Italian Interior Minister Matteo Salvini, senior Hungarian officials and other well-known names of conservative religious and lay circles in Europe and the United States. The event faced protest, as Feminist and LGTBI marches took to the streets of Verona to contest the event’s agenda (see a compilation). It is also worth noting that the Vatican and members of the Five Star Movement — whose coalition with Salvini’s Lega Nord governs Italy — have publicly distanced themselves from the conference. Amongst the vast record of information published on Verona, we draw attention to the report published by openDemocracy on the large flow of money — more than 50 million euros — transferred between lay and religious conservatives in the United States and European far-right movements. Another OD report examines how WCF acts as a regular meeting point for strategies among highly conservative personalities, members of the European aristocracy and the Catholic hierarchy engaged in antigender and anti-abortion policies.
The Transatlantic Summit – A week later, a similar event was organized in Colombia: the III Transatlantic Summit, promoted by the Political Network of Values. The meeting was a main stage for conservative Catholic and Evangelical activists, politicians and legislators from thirty countries – mainly from Latin America, Europe and the United States – to develop common strategies (see a compilation).
An excellent investigative report prepared by the Chilean organization CIPER, as part of the wider project Transnacionales de la Fe, analyzes how US-based conservative religious NGOs are undermining OAS procedures and human rights work. It also looks at their connections with and the role played by the Chilean politician José Antonio Kast, who presides the Hemisphere Congress of Parliamentarians. The report also tracks connections between these trends and the dynamics that played out in the 2016 Colombian Peace Agreement Referendum and the 2018 Bolsonaro election in Brasil (read in Spanish).
SPW has prepared an assessment of the 180 days of sexual politics under JMB administration that comprises essays by Sonia Corrêa, Fábio Grotz, Rajnia de Vito and Marco Aurélio Prado and an interview with Lena Lavinas (read here).
On July 10th, following his attendance in the March for Jesus in June – a first for a president in office — JMB announced during an Evangelical service in the Parliament he would appoint a “terrifically Evangelical” candidate for a seat in Brazil’s Supreme Court. The day before, he signed two decrees attenuating fiscal duties for churches.
In July, JMB announced he would shut down the Nacional Agency of Cinema (Ancine) and, to justify this measure, he declared the agency had a history of investing in sexual movies that battled “family values”. He used as an example the movie Bruna Surfistinha, that is about the life of a call girl. The declaration received much criticism on various quarters. Feminist Antonia Pellegrino, who produced the movie, rebutted the declaration vigorously in an article published in Folha de São Paulo, titled “Bolsonaro is afraid of women’. JMB did not shut ANCINE, but signed two executive decrees that totally alters agency managing structure in ways that will compromise film production in the country in respect to content and funding.
In the diplomatic arena, for the first time since the ’90s, Brazilian diplomacy took radical stands against gender and sexual and reproductive rights. This happened at the 41st Session of the UN Human Rights Council. Diplomats received instructions to veto the term “gender” in various resolutions and suggested replacing for “biological facts: man and woman”. They also proposed to insert “religious groups” as recognized promoters of women’s rights. In the Foreign Office memorandum prepared to support Brazil’s candidacy for the renewal of its membership at UN’s Human Rights Council, there is no mentions to gender, torture, poverty, right to health and LGBT rights is made, while great the “strengthening of family ties” is emphasized (see a compilation of articles and analyses).
Despite these regressive stances, Brazil remained at the Core Group and supported the renewal of the Independent Expert Mandate on SOGI. However, after the approval of the renewal, Brazil made an explanatory statement declaring that it interprets gender to mean the male and female sexes. This interpretation is in open contradiction with the Mandate’s definition in regards to gender identity (see a compilation). In August, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Ernesto Araújo, was questioned during a Congress’ Special Commission session, when he argued in favor of the new Administration’s human rights policy (analyzed by SPW in our 180 days assessment). In this occasion, Araújo affirmed that the concept of sexual and reproductive rights is analog to a “piece of cake with a hidden blade inside” because it merely serves to conceal the “the call for abortion”.
During the OAS General Assembly in July, in Medellín (Colombia), Brazil kept this same line of diplomatic action. The Brazilian commissioner participating in the debate over the annual resolution on sexual orientation and gender identity did contest the term gender, but at the end of the discussion, the Ambassador also clarified that Brazil understands gender identity as the “biological female sex”.
Back to the domestic level, in June, seven bills against the dissemination of “gender ideology” were tabled at Congress by JMB congressional base. These propositions, when added to those submitted since 2015, comprise a total of 16 bills, of which 7 are criminal laws (read a brief report). Then, on September 3rd, JMB tweeted that he will order the Ministry of Education to draft a bill to prohibit the dissemination of “gender ideology” in public elementary schools. SPW and ABIA issued a public note that also includes information on similar autocratic measures in relation to gender in education adopted by the governors of Santa Catarina and São Paulo.
As the October general elections approach, a coalition of Catholic and Evangelical congressmen of the National Party proposed a pre-referendum on August 4th to repeal the Trans Comprehensive Law and collected 69,000 signatures against the Trans Law which were presented to the Electoral Tribunal. The campaign, promoted by NP representative Iafigliola was based on false information, such as that the law will allow for children and adolescents to adhere to hormonal treatments without the authorization of those responsible for them. According to Catholic newspaper Crux Now, the proposal divided the Catholic Church’s hierarchy in the country because, on the one hand, it recognizes that transgender people cannot be discriminated, but on the other, it fully rejects “gender ideology”. However, resistance to the referendum was strong and managed to mobilize civil society actors, the press and even the local UN office, which issued a public statement. The proposal was defeated as only 9.9% of voters supported the referendum. Even so, Iafligiola declared that he will continue to attack the law.
In the midst of the presidential elections campaign in Argentina, a conservative front was forged around the anti-abortion and antigender agenda. The front is formed by the Valores por País, Nos and Celestial Parties, which comprise conservative sectors from Catholic and Evangelical churches and right-wing military actors (see a compilation). For the first time, public television gave space to the Evangelical churches and a new TV program, named ‘Good News’, commanded by the Christian Alliance of Evangelical Churches of the Argentine Republic (ACIERA), was created and began broadcasting on September 7th.
On Septemeber 11th, the Argentinean Catholic bishops publicly issued a 20 pages document titled “El Dios de la vida y del amor humano” (The God of life and human love, in English) that strongly repudiates the propagation of “gender ideology”.
The law provision on the Progressive Autonomy of the Child, which includes language on the evolving capacity of children and adolescents, is being targeted by antigender forces, including the local chapter of CitizenGo. As analyzed by an excellent CIPER report, CitizenGo, in 2017, has taken its Orange Bus to Chile to campaign against gender and sexuality in education in close partnership with Evangelical groups. Under these pressures, the Piñera majority basis in Congress lifted the urgent processing status attached to the provision of the Progressive Law on June 30th.
During the Guatemalan presidential race, a coalition front was created to protect “life and family”, composed of fifteen presidential and vice-presidential candidates who signed a commitment that they would not approve same-sex marriage or any abortion rights project. On August 12nd, conservative Alejandro Giammattei (Vamos Party) was elected president while declaring his antigender, anti-abortion opinions, as well as his support of the death penalty.
In 2017, the Paraguayan government banned sex education from school programs. An article published in El Surtidor, however, revealed that antigender organization Decisiones has received public funding for the last seven years to promote false information and conservative religious beliefs on sexual and reproductive rights and health in secondary education schools.
In June, the Supreme Court issued a final decision denying the constitutional grounds of the demand interposed by group Padres en Acción against gender perspective in the national educational curriculum. The controversy is therefore settled and it meant a major defeat of antigender forces in the country and in the region.
The São Tomás Morus Center for Legal Studies — linked to antigender organization Padres en Acción and Con Mis Hijos No Te Metas — filed a judicial complaint against the national branch of the feminist organization Catholics for the Right to Choose, demanding its annulment from public records.
The Peruvian Pro Familia Movement, that is also linked to Con Mis Hijos No Te Metas, used without authorization the Lima municipality logo for the promotion of the “Peruvian Family Day”. The municipality demanded the image to be erased.
Con Mis Hijos No Te Metas spokesperson, Christian Rosas, while visiting Bolivia for his conference “Gender Ideology: How to Defeat a Lie”, received public recognition from the Christian Democratic Party (PDC). This tribute was contested by the Public Prosecutor’s Office and the LGBT movement and later annulled by the Congress’ Social Policy Commission.
On May 22nd, the Ministry of Education approved Order N. 33/2019, which establishes as a priority the inclusion of gender equality in the country’s educational plans. The measure that received support from the progressive and feminist sectors was directly attacked by the Dominican episcopate and this triggered a wide public debate.
On May 30, the US Department of State announced the creation of the “Commission on Inalienable Rights” to advise Secretary Mike Pompeo. The agency, chaired by anti-abortion activist Mary Ann Glendon, was created to promote a reinterpretation of human rights based on “laws and natural rights”. SPW recommends The Washington Post report. The measure was rejected by Amnesty International in a public statement for its rejection of international agreements and threatens millions of people for motivating other human rights systems not to respect the existing legal framework.
On July 17th, the Secretary of State sponsored the second Ministerial Meeting for the Advancement of Religious Freedom, attended by more than a thousand participants from the US, but also other countries. This crowd comprised mostly Trump allies and religious conservative actors, but also counted with the presence of human rights groups that criticize the Trump administration. According to The Atlantic, the meeting is to be read as a main effort to make of Washington the center of a conservative global order based on faith (see a compilation of analysis).
The Office for Civil Rights (OCR) of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is preparing a federal policy that will allow adoption institutions to discriminate against candidates based on their religious beliefs that will especially affect LGBTTIQ and non-Christian families. The Christian adoption agency Miracle Hill, to which the Trump administration granted a discrimination exemption in January 2019, is an example. Parents must sign a statement claiming to deny the existence of transgender people and same-sex marriages. In response, Democrat Senator Kirstin Gillibrand proposed on June 13 the Every Child Deserves a Family Law to face up to discrimination promoted by agencies funded by the federal government.
The Equality Act to protect LGBTQ people from various forms of discrimination passed in Congress on July 24th. The bill, introduced in mid-March, modifies a series of laws to guarantee protection against discrimination based on sex, gender identity and sexual orientation. On May 2nd, however, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published the Health Discrimination Rule, which extends conscientious objection to providers based on religious beliefs for all health-related services, including research and insurance coverage. HHS also proposes new regulations to eliminate LGBTQ discrimination protections from the Accessible Care Act. Lambda Legal, the United States for the Separation of the Church and the State and the Center for Reproductive Rights filed a joint lawsuit that questions the Denial of Attention Care Rule on May 28th.
An openDemocracy report informs that a proposition was tabled at the European Parliament to extend the rights of religious entities within the European Union, allowing religious organizations direct access to the legislative process of the body, especially in order to restrict sexual and reproductive rights.
On May 20, Italian organization Pro Vita and Famiglia put up a 250-meter poster in Rome showing an 11-week fetus, repeating an action carried out a year ago by the Spanish organization CitizenGO. This year, however, the text referred to environmental activist Greta Thunberg, arguing: “If you want to save the planet, save our children” and was signed by the presidents of the World Family Congress (WCF).
On May 18th, the “March for Life” took place in Italy, which was attended by conservative Catholic leaders, such as Cardinal Raymond Burke, who has links with Interior Minister Salvini, senators and other international delegates from the United States, Brazil, Canada, Argentina, New Zealand and other European countries.
In Poland, civil rights activist Elzbieta Podlesna was imprisoned for putting up posters displaying the Virgin Mary with an LGBTQ flag. The protest was intended as a response to slogans promoted by the Catholic Church presented during Easter, that framed gender and LGBTQ rights as sins.
During the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Warsaw Uprising, Archbishop Marek Kedraszewski made comparisons between Marxist ideology and the “rainbow ideology”, referring to LGBT people “who want to dominate souls, hearts and minds.” The statement led to a great wave of protest from LGBT groups in the country.
In May, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán was received at the White House by Trump. On that occasion, Orbán declared that “the protection of Christian communities throughout the world” is the common goal of both countries, while Trump said he and Orban were like twin brothers.
In his home country, Orban once again targetted academic freedom, now focusing on the Hungarian Academy of Sciences (see a compilation). A bill has been proposed to create a higher body with government-appointed delegates to manage the research networks now supervised by Academy.
Even when attacks on academic freedom are broader than attacks on gender, they constitute a very important aspect of the Turkish scenario. It is, therefore, critical to report on the recent conviction of two Turkish academics, among other four hundred who are being tried and convicted. In response, the Academic Committee for Freedom of the Middle East Studies Association published a public letter arguing about the arbitrariness of the sentence, addressed to the signatories of a peace petition in relation to the Kurdish conflict. On July 26, the Constitutional Court issued a decision condemning the Turkish judiciary for violating the right to freedom of expression. On the other hand, the decision has been criticized by other academic sectors that support the government.
Sexuality & Art
For this issue, SPW proudly presents the work of Pará state artist Berna Reale on violence. Reale is currently on the run for the 2019 Pipa Award.
Papers and articles
Journalistic series ‘Transnacionales de la fe’, read in Spanish
FAUNDES, José. The geopolitics of moral panic: The influence of Argentinian neo-conservatism in the genesis of the discourse of ‘gender ideology’ – International Sociology Association
How Trump Is Reversing Obama’s Nondiscrimination Legacy – The Atlantic
The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity – The Atlantic
US billionaires funding EU culture wars – EU Observer