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Jelke Boesten (Kings College London)
Argentina’s political win in December 2020 over the legalisation of elective abortion was the result of years of activism and lobbying by feminist activists and their allies. It has created impetus throughout Latin America to continue the fight for women’s rights despite powerful and aggressive transnational conservative forces actively undermining gender equality and women’s citizenship. In this paper I will discuss what is at stake by making the direct link between abortion rights and widespread and persistently high rates of violence against women and girls, and the insidious patriarchal forces manipulating public discourse around ‘gender ideology’. The battle over legal abortion is important for its own sake; however, the stakes are of course much higher: it is about bodily and sexual autonomy and thus against violence, about women’s right to control their own lives without imposition of a harmful patriarchal order. Abortion is the main field allowing conservative forces to mobilise religious ‘pro-life’ morality in support of a range of oppressive gender structures and norms far beyond abortion. Therefore, as I will argue, activism for legal abortion is central to a broad movement for inclusive citizenship, women’s equal rights, against violence, and pro-sexual and gender diversity.
About the speaker
Jelke Boesten is Professor of Gender and Development at King’s College London. She has published widely on gender and violence in Peru. Her latest book is Gender, Transitional Justice and Memorial Arts. Global Perspectives on Commemoration and Mobilisation (Routledge Transitional Justice Series, 2021), co-edited with Helen Scanlon. The current paper forms part of a co-authored book called Women Resisting Gendered and Intersectional Violence to be published by the Latin America Bureau in 2022.
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