Anti- gender politics in Latin America – SPW is pleased to announce the collection Anti-gender Politics in Latin America, which encompasses nine case studies from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay and Uruguay, a regional study on the effects of anti-gender frays on debates of the Organization of American States, and an article that traces a genealogy of the religious conservatism that led to this phenomenon. The studies have been published in Spanish, but quite soon short versions will be also available in English. Check here
ARGENTINA – Alberto Fernández’s cabinet comprises ten women, amongst them Alba Rueda, the first transgender woman to ever hold a state secretary seat. The Ministry of Women, Gender and Diversity is headed by feminist Elizabeth Gómez Alcorta and the new Health ministry is Dr. Ginés González Garcia, who has a long history of defending the right to abortion and right to health. In his first address to Congress, President Hernandez declared he would send to Congress within ten days a new draft bill to legalize abortion (Read further about Argentina here and here).
URUGUAY – On March 1st, President Luis Lacalle Pou took office, reiterating his commitment to austerity and repressive public security policies. The ceremony was attended by conservative presidents from Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Paraguay and Brazil. President Bolsonaro was hailed by the public. Read further on Uruguay (here and here) . Even before taking office, senator Manini Ríos, president of the far-right party Cabildo Abierto, which is part of the current governing coalition, has made a lurid statement. He claimed that Uruguay’s most serious problem is the country’s low fertility rate, which he attributes to feminists and LGBT people who have brought into the country foreign cultural models from the UN and from communism, leading to the right to abortion and to sexual diversity.
INDIA – Since December, the country’s political scenario has been taken by wide political demonstrations against the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that openly discriminates against India’s Muslim population (see a compilation). The student movement was at the core of these mobilizations and also special attention must be paid to the peaceful demonstrations led by the Shaheen Bagh Muslim women. In the midst of this troubling scenario, Bolsonaro visited India, for the first time, and made a disgusting declaration contrasting his own military background and Gandhi’s pacificism (more in English). Indian civil society protested against the visit. Soon after, the political scenario in India worsened. Right after the opposition victory in Delhi State local elections, Hindu nationalist mobs began harassing Muslim communities, using pogrom methods such as lynchings, police pursuits, and even murder. The Delhi pogroms coincided with Donald Trump’s visit to India which was also the object of repudiation in street rallies and digital media.
SPAIN – In Spain, where a left-wing coalition (PSOE and PODEMOS) is in power, feminism is on the agenda. The Ministries of Universities and Equality recognized feminist and gender studies as an area of knowledge to be included in public criteria for evaluating scientific careers. On the other hand, feminist internal fractures have also become evident: the new Minister for Equality declared itself radically against prostitution and the Feminist Party was expelled from the United Left Movement because of its position against trans rights. The growth of conservatism is also not negligible in Spain (see below).
BRAZIL – As stated by Sonia Corrêa, sexual politics is at the heart of the process of de-democratization that the country is currently undergoing. For example, at the beginning of 2019 the Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights, Damares Alves, announced that her ministry would promote a policy of sexual abstinence, which was finally launched at the end of the year and can be read as another translation of the JMB anti-gender ideology, as it also targets the specter of “sexual disorder”. This new guideline is not a Brazilian invention, but rather the transposition of the policy implemented by the U.S, during the George Bush administration (2001-2008) – which ABIA-SPW analyzed its Working Paper, No.1 – Global Implications of U.S. Domestic and International Policies on Sexuality, written by Françoise Girard. Fortunately, though, the proposal received an avalanche of criticism. It is worth noting, however, that abstinence policies are always associated with moral panics and the stigmatization of dissident sexual conduct. It has been no different in this case, as in defending Minister Damares policy, JMB declared that “people living with HIV are an economic burden on the country”. Once again, the critical response to this speech act was overwhelming (see ABIA’s statement).
JMB’s verbal aggression did not stop there, however. On February 18th, JMB, in his morning press conference with supporters, said that journalist Patrícia Campos Mello “wanted a scoop at any cost” – a statement that has sexual connotations in Portuguese. This served as JMB’s support for Hans River’s allegation to the Parliamentary Commission on Fake News that Campos Mello had tried to sexually seduce him. Rivers was Patrícia’s main source when she investigated the WhatsApp mass message mechanism used by JMB’s party (PSL) in the 2018 electoral campaign. This unseemly — not to say disgusting — episode must be situated in relation to other events, particularly the execution of former police officer Adriano da Nóbrega, a key witness in the investigations into the involvement of the presidential family with the militias of Rio.
International Alliance for Religious Freedom
On February 5th, the American Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the creation of the International Alliance for Religious Freedom in Washington, which will have Poland as its next meeting place. Twenty-six countries joined the Alliance, including Brazil (read more about the Polish case below).
Commission of Inalienable Rights
Announced in July 2019, the Commission of Inalienable Rights held international meetings in December 2019. One of the attendees was Brazil. Created by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo the Commission aims at promoting a reinterpretation of human rights based on “natural laws and rights” and it is viewed, by various observers, as a threat to the application of human rights to gender, sexuality, and reproduction matters.
JMB’s son, Eduardo Bolsonaro, was invited to participate as a speaker at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington. In his speech, he attacked gender programs in the public education system and defended the liberalizing of arms ownership and possession in Brazil.
In February, a group of cis teen girls, represented by the Christian organization Alliance Defending Freedom, filed a lawsuit against Connecticut’s state law that allows trans people to participate in sports competitions. Read more at The Guardian.
In Peru’s parliamentary elections, anti-gender offensives were central to the campaign strategies of the Solidaridad Nacional, Contigo, and Fuerza Popular parties.
Russia will undertake the process of revising its constitution. Among the amendments, President Vladimir Putin proposed the inclusion of language that defines marriage as the “union between a man and a woman” and establishes “faith in God” as a main premise of the republic, a view that is at odds with secular norms of the state as they have been defined in 1993.
Over the last year, almost a hundred Polish municipalities, comprising a third of the country, approved propositions against “LGBT propaganda” in an escalation of the anti-gender discourse in the country.
Under pressure from far-right party Vox, the Popular Party local governments now require educational centers to publish the content that will be offered to students. On the other hand, Vox’s official Twitter account was suspended for 24 hours on charges of inciting hatred by declaring that the award-winning Skolae sex education program promotes “pederasty”. It is also worth noting that representatives of Spain’s far-right attended the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington.
During the Croatian carnival, demonstrations were held against the Zagreb’s Court 2019 decision that allowed a couple composed of two men to adopt a child. In the city of Imotski, an effigy of a gay couple was burned in a parody of an auto-da-fé (the Inquisition’s public penance ritual) as passers applauded.
On the day he took office, Minister of Health Ginés declared he will run a green Ministry, alluding to the color of the scarf used by abortion-rights activists. Quite immediately he instated an updated version of the Protocol for Legal Pregnancy Termination, which expands the definition of risk to health as one of the exemptions that allow for legal abortion.
A lawsuit presented by anti-abortion aiming to restrict access to abortion has re-opened the debate on the matter by the Constitutional Court. While feminists presented a counter proposal that calls for the enlargement of legal grounds, President Iván Duque declared he was “prolife”. The final Court’s decision has preserved the definitions established in 2006 by there avoiding regressions.
In the midst of the Indian political turmoil, Prime Minister Modi’s office introduced a bill to amend the 1971 Medical Pregnancy Interruption Act to raise its limit from 20 weeks to 24 weeks and strengthen access to maternal health services and abortion care. As the International Campaign reports, the amendment was generally well-received by feminists and other abortion rights defenders. However, a question remains in the air: why does Hindu nationalism, whose fascist biases become more evident every day, wish to facilitate access to abortion in the country?
A coalition of civil society groups submitted a report to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), recommending that the UN body weigh in on the Philippines government’s decision to act in favor of women’s rights by decriminalizing abortion. The document underlines that the criminalization of abortion violates women’s right to life and health and emphasizes that the draconian current law, rooted in the 19th Spanish penal code, is particularly dangerous to poor women. Read the report here.
The Constitutional Court ruled in favor of revising the country’s Penal Code with regard to two articles punishing abortion. As the International Campaign for Women’s Right to Safe Abortion has pointed out, however, the decision may be opened to an ambiguous interpretation, which could lead to a wider criminalization. Learn more here.
On February 28th, Belgium’s State Council approved a proposal that aims at amending the legislation on abortion, which would expand access to abortion services.
To access more information on abortion, check the International Campaign for Women´s Rights to Safe Abortion Newsletter.
The Chilean Senate began discussing a same-sex marriage bill. The 2015 Civil Union Agreement allows same-sex marriage, but the new proposal aims to guarantee the right of adoption for these couples.
The Senate of Virginia passed bills that promote LGBT rights by prohibiting LGBTQ discrimination, forbidding conversion therapy for anyone under 18 years old, and determining that guidelines be published to protect trans students. Click here and here to learn more.
Voters in Switzerland approved by referendum a law passed in 2018 aimed at banning sexual orientation-based discrimination .
At the end of February, the Supreme Court of Israel has toppled the law prohibiting single men and gay couples from accessing maternal surrogacy services. The decision ruled that the current law violated the right to equality and the right to parenthood.
At the beginning of the legislative year, a coalition of São Paulo’s state representatives tried to approve draft bill 346/2019, which defines “biological sex” as the only criterion to be adopted in state-sponsored sports tournaments. .
Feminisms and women’s rights
The brutal assassination and dismemberment of Ingrid Escamilla in Mexico City in February fueled the debate on femicide in the country and the discontent of the country’s various feminisms with the government of President AMLO. See a compilation.
In early January, a report by newspaper Folha de São Paulo investigated the case of “decreed girls” in Ceará, another tragedy of gender violence in the country. These girls are teenagers who are killed via cruel methods as part of local disputes between drug factions.
In February, criminal investigation data show that, contrary to the 22% decrease in the number of homicides in general and the 14% decrease in the number of intentional homicides against women, femicide cases increased by 7% in Brazil in 2019. In Northern states like Amazonas, Alagoas, and Amapá the numbers more than doubled. This growth may be related to improvement in recording mechanisms, but other factors may also be at play, such as the toxic misogyny now being spread by various public officials, beginning with the Brazilian President. Significantly, the Minister of Women, Family and Human Rights Damares Alves declined to comment on the figures.
A report published by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), the National Center for Transgender Equality, and 22 other United States-based human rights organizations found that 52 percent of Americans and two-thirds of voters age 18 to 44 years support decriminalizing sex work
Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein was convicted in two of the five accusations he was facing. The trial brought an end to an almost three-year-long scandal, which triggered a global movement against sexual harassment and violence. Check out our compilation of news and analysis.
Pope Francis appointed, for the first time, a woman to occupy a top-level position in the Secretary of State. Francesca Di Giovanni was assigned to diplomatic functions. The following month, however, the Pontiff rejected the ordination of women priests that was discussed at the Amazon Synod. Click here to learn more (In Portuguese).
The coronavirus outbreak led UNAIDS to raise its voice to warn that Chinese HIV patients risked running short of AIDS medication due to the quarantines and lockdowns set up by the country’s government. Read more here.
We deeply regret the departure of Nilcéa Freire, on December 29th , 2019. Nilcéa who was Minister for Women´s Policies (2004-2010) left a substantive legacy for Brazilian feminism and women at large, especially the establishment of a new law and related policies to respond to gender-based violence. In the somber political climate that Brazil is now experiencing Nilcéa´s commitment to women’s rights and her tenacity to sustain difficult agendas, in particular, the right to abortion, constitute an amazing source of inspiration.
Sexuality & Art
Carnival has just ended. Therefore, SPW features in this Sex&Art edition the politics of carnival.
The series of case studies entitled Políticas Antigénero en América Latina, edited by Sonia Corrêa – SPW
Global politics of Pleasure and Danger: the Strugles for sexual rights and sexual health in the 21st Century, byRichard Parker, presented at 24th Congress of the Woled Association of Sexual Health
Bolsonaro and The Unmaking of Brazil – Culanth
The Queer Opposition to Pete Buttigieg, Explained, by Masha Gessen – The New Yorker
Publications and Resources
Check it out
Call for papers: Intersex special issue – deadline for submission is August 31, 2020.
We recommend (In Portuguese)
Pensamento feminista hoje: perspectivas decoloniais, organizado por Heloísa Buarque de Hollanda – Editora Bazar do Tempo
O golpe de Bolsonaro está em curso, por Eliane Brum – El País
Viradouro vence o carnaval carioca com as “primeiras feministas do Brasil” – Portal Catarinas
Tanque atropela patinete – Revista Piauí
Continue, Bolsonaro – O Globo
Os protestos na América Latina sob a ótica das mulheres – Café da Manhã
O governo e a abstinência sexual dos jovens – Café da Manhã
Don’t miss out!
Oportunidades na área de gênero em março de 2020 – Núcleo de Estudos de Gênero Pagu
Rio de Janeiro
Mulheres Indígenas Desafiando a Ordem Global: Soberanias Vernaculares, Manuela Picq é a palestrante convidada para a aula inaugural do curso de RI da PUC Rio em 19 de março, às 11h, no auditório RDC.