Gender, citizenship and reproductive rights in the poblaciones of southern Santiago, Chile
This thesis is a study of the relationship between gender, citizenship and reproductive rights in the poblaciones of Santiago, both in relation to the Chilean State and in terms of the categories of international human rights law. At a time in which there has been a great deal of debate about women's international rights and new areas of rights directed at women have begun to be defined, this study seeks to draw attention to the need to consider how such rights operate in specific cultural contexts. In particular, it considers how dominant cultural discourses of gender are constructed and reproduced in the context of marginal urban communities in Santiago, Chile, and the constraints they may place on the conception and exercise of women's citizenship. The thesis sets out to show the ways in which these discourses are embedded in state institutions and reproduced in its practices. It describes the ways in which the law operates in a discursive way to allow or disallow interpretations of events and thereby conditions and delimits women's citizenship. Rather then depicting these dominant discourses as totalizing, the thesis aims to present a more complex picture in which women may on the one hand be seen to be complicit in their own subordination, but on the other to adopt alternative discourses, for example the new feminist discourse on human rights and the discourses emanating from NGOs which focus on concepts of freedom and autonomy. Women may be seen to reinterpret these discourses in the course of applying them to their own situations, accepting, rejecting and transforming them in the process. It draws on interviews with 89 women living in marginal urban communities, which investigate the exercise of citizenship and the variables affecting women's capacity to operationalise their rights. The data aims to show how rights discourses, including human rights can play a transformative role in the content and practice of citizenship. The extension of the concept of citizen to incorporate new areas of rights such as reproductive and sexual rights, creates the potential for women to use these conceptual tools to challenge traditional gender discourse that discriminate against them and inhibit the exercise of their citizenship. The thesis lays out the theoretical debates in relation to gender and citizenship, the state, the universalist-relativist debate in anthropology and the feminist discourse on human rights and argues in favour of a perspective that incorporates a gendered analysis of the cultural factors influencing the operation of laws.