Sex and the State: Abortion, Divorce, and the Family under Latin American Dictatorships and Democracies

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9780521810494: Sex and the State: Abortion, Divorce, and the Family under Latin American Dictatorships and Democracies

As Argentina, Brazil, and Chile made transitions from democratic to authoritarian forms of government (and back), they confronted challenges posed by the rise of the feminist movement, social changes, and the power of the Catholic Church. This study explores the patterns of gender-related policy reform in these countries and reveals their implications for the peoples of Latin America. In addition, it offers a broader understanding of the logic behind the state's role in affecting private lives and gender relations everywhere.

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As Argentina, Brazil, and Chile transitioned from democratic to authoritarian forms of government (and back), they confronted challenges posed by the rise of the feminist movement, social changes, and the power of the Catholic Church. Sex and the State explores these patterns of gender-related policy reform and shows how they mattered for the peoples of Latin America and for a broader understanding of the logic behind the state's role in shaping private lives and gender relations everywhere.

Review:

"This remarkable book will immediately establish Htun as a major thinker on Latin America, gender, and theories of dictatorship and democratization. Masterfully challenging much conventional wisdom, she offers a fascinating exegesis of how Argentina, Brazil, and Chile responded to challenges to their traditional patriarchal laws on family life and gender relations between the 1960s and the 1990s." Foreign Affairs

"Thinly disguised as a book about family and women's issues, Sex and the State is a scathing analysis of politics in three of Latin America's most important countries. Sadly, hypocrisy seems to be a main theme, at least when dealing with issues of sex and gender. Chile forbids divorce, but its courts freely hand out fraudulent annulments. Abortion is banned everywhere, but is available at the best hospitals and clinics. The church is an exemplary defender of human rights and the rights of the poor, except when these are claimed by poor women. The book, however, offers more than incisive political analysis. It provides a series of good, practical and often surprising proposals to deal with the hypocrisy. These will be of great value to governments, international organizations, and NGOs." Peter Hakim, President of the Inter-American Dialogue

"Sex and the State illuminates the ways in which policy innovation occurs, what shapes the terms of debate on the age-old question of the separation of church and state, and why the influence of the Catholic Church on social policy looms larger at some times and in some places than others. In this book of sweeping breadth, Htun admirably does justice to the normative traditions, moral reflections, and political passions that drove the feminists, bishops, dictators, and democratic politicians to adopt the positions they did in the public policy debates governing the state regulation of the most intimate aspects of private life. After two decades of scholarship on the subject, this is simply the most important book yet to appear on gender and politics in Latin America." Frances Hagopian, University of Notre Dame

"Sex and the State demonstrates persuasively that gender-related issues cannot be lumped together simply because they pertain to women. This masterful study develops a series of bold theoretical claims about the distinct logics that guide the outcomes of debates over three controversial policy issues: abortion, divorce, and equality within the family. It derives these findings from careful historical research and hundreds of interviews with policymakers: politicians, feminist activists, religious leaders, lawyers, and academics. It reveals a deep understanding of the complex array of factors that have shaped these debates in the Southern Cone. These analytically important findings give theoretical justification to the relatively recent development of single-issue networks within the feminist community. The book speaks to important debates within the literatures on legal reform, gender and politics, public policy, and democratization." Lisa Baldez, Washington University in St. Louis

"This is a valuable addition to gender studies of Latin America." The Americas, Nikki Craske, University of Liverpool

"...an innovative piece of historical comparative analysis on gender and the State in Latin America, and should interest scholars working on gender and politics as well as Latin American comparativists in general." CJLACS, Stephanie Rousseau, UNC Chapel Hill

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