Liberation Movements and the Battle of the Sexes
In liberation struggles new scope for action can open up for women. Thus, in 1973, the Sandinista Liberation Organization (FSLN) in Nicaragua started to admit more women into their ranks, until eventually about 30 % of the guerrilla fighters were female. In the Mexican “Zapatista Army of National Liberation” (EZLN), the total proportion of women in all positions came to around 47 %.
The conflict situation thus leads, at least in part, to a shift in women’s roles: from caregiver to fighter. During the Zapatista uprising, women saw themselves as strengthened by their active role, and vigorously promoted their interests in the overall process of social change. They formulated a fundamental critique of patriarchy and did not want to wait around for haphazard improvements for women. Thus in the Zapatista uprising, the actors, both male and female, tried to connect the political struggle with the construction of civilian peace-building institutions.
Conversely, in the case of Nicaragua, we observe a tendency that can frequently be identified in post-war countries, namely the restoration of traditional gender relations: The emancipation of women was rolled back on many fronts, and former combatants and women’s groups were socially ostracized. In the fall of 2006, in an effort to secure the support of the Catholic Church for his re-election as president, former FSLN commander Daniel Ortega had the parliament pass a total ban on abortion. In the fall of 2008, he instigated house searches, legal proceedings, and smear campaigns against the Movimiento Autónomo de Mujeres (MAM), the Cinco Research Institute, and abortion advocates.
- Guiomar Rovira (2002): Mujeres de maíz. Mexico
- Margara Millán (1996): Las zapatistas en fin del milenio. Hacia políticas de autorepresentación de las mujeres indígenas, including: www.ezln.org/revistachiapas/No3/ch3millan.html (last reviewed: Nov. 2008)
- taz report on Nicaragua by Ralf Leonhard on 18.10.2008