Feminist Agendas and Democracy in Latin America

Feminist Agendas and Democracy in Latin America

Book Pages: 272 Illustrations: 5 graphs Published: July 2009

Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Latin American Studies, Politics > Political Science

Latin American women’s movements played important roles in the democratic transitions in South America during the 1980s and in Central America during the 1990s. However, very little has been written on what has become of these movements and their agendas since the return to democracy. This timely collection examines how women’s movements have responded to the dramatic political, economic, and social changes of the last twenty years. In these essays, leading scholar-activists focus on the various strategies women’s movements have adopted and assess their successes and failures.

The book is organized around three broad topics. The first, women’s access to political power at the national level, is addressed by essays on the election of Michelle Bachelet in Chile, gender quotas in Argentina and Brazil, and the responses of the women’s movement to the “Bolivarian revolution” in Venezuela. The second topic, the use of legal strategies, is taken up in essays on women’s rights across the board in Argentina, violence against women in Brazil, and gender in the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in Peru. Finally, the international impact of Latin American feminists is explored through an account of their participation in the World Social Forum, an assessment of a Chilean-led project carried out by women’s organizations in several countries to hold governments to the promises they made at international conferences in Cairo and Beijing, and an account of cross-border organizing to address femicides and domestic abuse in the Juárez-El Paso border region. Jane S. Jaquette provides the historical and political context of women’s movement activism in her introduction, and concludes the volume by engaging contemporary debates about feminism, civil society, and democracy.

Contributors. Jutta Borner, Mariana Caminotti, Alina Donoso, Gioconda Espina, Jane S. Jaquette, Beatriz Kohen, Julissa Mantilla Falcón, Jutta Marx, Gabriela L. Montoya, Flávia Piovesan, Marcela Ríos Tobar, Kathleen Staudt, Teresa Valdés, Virginia Vargas


Feminist Agendas and Democracy would be great reading for any women’s studies course that covers global perspectives or in any Latin American studies course. Public policy analysts would also benefit from this book. The fluidity of the reading and its broad spectrum of themes make it appealing to anyone interested in democracy, social movements or gender justice.” — Ana Maria Goldani, Contemporary Sociology

“Besides its contribution to scholarship, this is an eminently teachable text. As my students and I experienced in Fall 2009, it is an excellent regional case study of the challenges facing feminist activists at the national institutional level and beyond. Jaquette’s pithy introduction and thought provoking conclusion bookend chapters that are ripe for comparison, discussion and debate.” — Elisabeth Jay Friedman, International Feminist Journal of Politics

Feminist Agendas and Democracy offers an update on an increasingly diverse women’s movement in Latin America. . . . Combining the perspectives of academic and non-academic activists, contributions to the volume identify some recent successes of women’s activists (i.e., Argentina’s gender quota law, Brazil’s law criminalizing domestic violence, the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s focus on sexual violence against women) while working to understand, explain and address the movement’s continuing fragmentation.” — Laura Landolt, Mobilization

“Taken altogether, the chapters in Feminist Agendas and Democracy in Latin America provide a wealth of detail about the full spectrum of feminist activism in the region today, allowing the reader to generate her own conclusions about the pros and cons of various strategies for advancing women’s rights.” — Lisa Baldez, Women's Studies International Forum

“This anthology offers an array of important and thought-provoking essays focusing on women’s activism and feminism in Latin America.” — Kia Lilly Caldwell, Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology

“This is a highly readable and informative volume that will be of interest to students, policymakers, academics, and activists from other regions, particularly for the story it tells about feminist movements’ engagement with democratising and consolidating states.” — Fiona Macaulay, Gender and Development

a powerful book on the women's movement in Latin America. . . . This accessible and engaging text is a must read for undergraduate and graduate students in women's studies, political science, and social sciences in general. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels. — Frau Sally Benz, Feminist Review Blog

Feminist Agendas and Democracy in Latin America is a valuable text for scholars and students of Latin American feminisms interested in some of the most pressing issues of the day. It assembles accessible and compelling essays by authors with expertise in law and the social sciences, and with personal experiences of political involvement and activism in the contexts they write about. This collection is a fine contribution to the literature on women’s movements in Latin America and promises to be a critical reference for dialogues about the future of feminism and gender equity in the region.” — Barbara Sutton, A Contracorriente

“[A] powerful book on the women's movement in Latin America. . . . This accessible and engaging text is a must read for undergraduate and graduate students in women's studies, political science, and social sciences in general. Summing Up: Highly recommended. All readership levels.” — I. Coronado, Choice

“All of the chapters are excellent in this volume. The authors are recognized feminist experts and academics and their penetrating analyses point out the strengths and limits of feminist strategies in the target nations. . . . Feminist Agendas and Democracy in Latin America is a fascinating, well-organized volume that could be used in advanced undergraduate and graduate courses in feminist politics and history.” — Kathryn A. Sloan H-LatAm, H-Net Reviews

“In several respects, Jaquette has delivered another major contribution to the field, with nine high-quality case studies grouped under three sections. . . . [T]he chapters are excellent, all written by top feminist experts and academics, and providing up-to-date data and perspectives on feminist strategies and work in the region. . . .[Feminist Agendas and Democracy in Latin America] is a very useful collection of works, and it nicely reveals the vitality of feminist movements and networks in Latin America.” — Stéphanie Rousseau, Perspectives on Politics

“This welcome update on the current state of the feminist agenda in the region is full of strong contributions. . . . Well worth the price of admission is the brilliant concluding chapter, in which Jaquette champions professional women working within their democratic political systems—to build bridges to government agencies, win legal redress through the courts, and provide life-sustaining social services.” — Richard Feinberg, Foreign Affairs

Feminist Agendas and Democracy in Latin America gives one a sense of the dynamism of feminist thinking in Latin America. The essays address national and regional women’s movements’ significant yet partial successes over the past twenty years as well as the ways that the movements have more recently confronted urgent political strategy choices such as whether to rely on judicial solutions or to engage with the World Social Forum.” — Cynthia Enloe, author of The Curious Feminist: Searching for Women in a New Age of Empire

Feminist Agendas and Democracy in Latin America is a timely intervention in debates that should matter to feminists everywhere. Using freshly collected data, the authors evaluate questions like the impact of gender quotas on politics, the relationship between global feminism and national policies, and the impact of neoliberal restructuring and democratic transition on specific women’s movements. Engaging and clear, the essays offer new insights into issues that demand our attention.” — Gay W. Seidman, author of Beyond the Boycott: Labor Rights, Human Rights, and Transnational Activism

“This is an important, timely, and fascinating examination of women, feminism, and democratization in Latin America. It is also a terrific read and another major contribution by Jane S. Jaquette, who has brought together a first-rate team of authors with extensive knowledge of the countries about which they write.” — Valentine Moghadam, author of Globalizing Women: Transnational Feminist Networks


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jane S. Jaquette is Bertha Harton Orr Professor in the Liberal Arts and Professor of Politics, Emerita at Occidental College in Los Angeles. A past president of both the Association for Women and Development and the Latin American Studies Association, she is the editor of Women and Gender Equity in Development Theory and Practice (also published by Duke University Press), Women and Democracy: Latin America and Central and Eastern Europe (with Sharon Wolchik), and The Women’s Movement in Latin America: Feminism and the Transition to Democracy.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction / Jane S. Jacquette i

Part I. Feminism and the State

1. Feminist Politics in Contemporary Chile: From the Democratic Transition to Bachelet / Marcela Ríos Tobar 21

2. Gender Quotas, Candidate Selection, and Electoral Campaigns: Comparing Argentina and Brazil / Jutta Marx, Jutta Borner, and Mariana Caminotti 45

3. Feminist Activism in a Changing Political Context: Venezuela / Gioconda Espina 65

Part II. Legal Strategies and Democratic Institutions

4. The Effectiveness of Legal Strategies in Argentina / Beatríz Kohen 83

5. Violence against Women in Brazil: International Litigation and Local Advances / Flávia Piovesan 113

6. Gender and Human Rights: Lessons from the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission / Julissa Mantilla Falcón 129

Part III. International and Cross-Border Activities

7. International Feminisms: The World Social Forum / Virginia Vargs 145

8. Social Accountability and Citizen Participation: Are Latin American Governments Meeting Their Commitments to Gender Equity? / Teresa Valdés and Alina Donoso 165

9. Violence and Activism at the Mexico-United States Border: Women, Migration, and Obstacles to Justice / Kathleen Staudt and Gabriela Montoya 186

10. Feminist Activism and the Challenges of Democracy / Jane S. Jacquette 208

Bibliography 219

Contributors 243

Index 247
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Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4449-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4437-7
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