Final Research Report
The Complexities of the Mexican Secular State and the Rights of Women
By Ana Amuchástegui, Guadalupe Cruz, Evelyn Aldaz & María Consuelo Mejía
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This paper describes and analyses the interplay between religion and politics in modern-day Mexico, with a particular focus on the struggle for gender equity. Over the last decades, the subject of gender equity has been constructed as an unprecedented political battlefield in Mexico. The paper demonstrates the conflicts between the feminist movement and progressive government sectors, which have put the issue of women’s human rights on the table, and conservative sectors allied with the Catholic Church, which have defended their conception of the family as central to society and actions by the state. The agenda of the conservative Catholic hierarchy in Mexico, particularly since 1995, reflects an attempt to question women’s sexual and reproductive rights, particularly in response to efforts of bringing the country into compliance with international commitments made by the government at the world conferences in Cairo and Beijing. These efforts have gone against mainstream conservative trends within other governmental entities, including the current national executive branch. The political turbulence provoked by this controversy has manifested itself through intense public debate about the secular nature of the Mexican state in the present-day context. In order to explore the complexities of this relationship, the paper offers a qualitative analysis of recent developments in Mexico with regard to public debate, legal changes, and the implementation of government policies. Examples include the 2004 inclusion of the emergency contraceptive pill in public health services and the 2008 decriminalisation of abortion in Mexico City. The analysis is based on periodicals-based research as well as interviews with thirteen political actors crucial to these events. The interpretation of the resulting material shows that women’s sexuality and reproduction have been constructed as a field of biopolitical action, within the context of an intense ideological and democratic struggle to define the characteristics of today’s secular state.
- Maria Consuelo Mejia
Maria Consuelo Mejia is an Anthropologist with a Masters Degree and Doctoral Studies in Latin American Studies. She is one of the founders of Catholics for the Right to Decide (CDD Mexico). During 2004 she worked for the International Planned Parenthood Federation/Western Hemisphere Region based in New York as Senior Program Officer for the Safe Abortion Project. Since April 2005 she is back as the Director of CDD Mexico and collaborated with the International Program of Catholics for a Free Choice.
Maria Consuelo received numerous awards for her remarkable work on the defense of women’s human rights, community leadership and for her individual contribution to Reproductive and Sexual Health: Award from Amnesty International USA in 1998;The medal “Omecíhuatl” from the Women’s Institute of Mexico City, in October 2006; “To the women who opened a way through Politics” from the Women’s Institute and the Minister of Social Development and the Government of Mexico City on November 2007; ‘Medal of Honor’ from the International Planned Parenthood Federation, Western Hemisphere (IPPF/WHR) on July 2008. Maria Consuelo is author and coauthor of a number of publications.
- Ana Amuchastegui Herrera
Ana Amuchástegui Herrera is a social psychologist based at the Department of Education and Communicacion in the Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana-Xochimilco, Mexico City.
She has conducted extensive qualitative research on subjectivity, sexuality and gender in Mexico, with special emphasis in rights related to reproduction and sexuality. She has published research articles in “Culture, Health and Sexuality”, “Sexualities” and “Reproductive Health Matters”, as well as book chapters such as “‘Because they were born from me’: negotiating women’s rights in Mexico” along with Adriana Ortiz and Marta Rivas, as part of the International Reproductive Rights Research and Action Group, coordinated by Ros Petchesky.
- Guadalupe Cruz Cardenas
Guadalupe Cruz Cardenas is an intern in Sociology from the Faculty of high studies-Acatlan of the Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico. Has a long ecclesiastic trajectory such as: the Movement of Catholic Students and Professionals, regional and national coordinator of the Base Ecclesial Communities (CEB), founder of the Women's Space (CEB), Coordinator of the Church Area at Catholics for the Right to Decide CDD and coordinator of the Ecclesial Observatory, a space for reflection and analysis by civil organizations based on faith. Author of several articles in magazines and church spaces with issues related to sexual and reproductive rights, citizenship, human rights and the Catholic Church.