Holy Politics: Exploring Catholicism, Dictatorship and Women’s Rights in Chile

Pro-Choice Rally in Chile

Pro-Choice Rally in Chile

A Brief Introduction

Chile, a country that prides itself on their democracy and vibrant economy has tried to move past the dark history that brings to mind stories of torture and violence. For almost two decade Chile suffered a period of military rule that has continued to leave the women of Chile with fewer rights than their male counterparts and subjected to human rights violations that do not allow women access to quality healthcare. Despite recent medical discoveries and growing information about the human body, officials in Chile choose not to acknowledge this information and continue to offer lower quality healthcare to women that can include misinformation about procedures that pertain to their condition, contraceptives for pregnancy, legal access to abortions and sterilization of voluntary participants who wish to control their family size.

chile3 These issues seem personal and should be kept between a patient and their doctor but these problems arose from multiple structural sources found within the Catholic Church, neoliberalism within the government and the patriarchal inner workings of private life. There was a time during Salvador Allende’s presidency that policies dictating women’s reproductive rights seemed like they were going to be reformed.

Activists hold signs reading "Verbal, sexual or institutional, it is violence anyway" as they take part in a pro-abortion demo in front of La Moneda presidential Palace in Santiago on November 11, 2014. Hundreds of people gathered in Santiago Tuesday in support of abortion. AFP PHOTO/MARTIN BERNETTI        (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

Activists hold signs reading “Verbal, sexual or institutional, it is violence anyway” as they take part in a pro-abortion demo in front of La Moneda presidential Palace in Santiago on November 11, 2014. Hundreds of people gathered in Santiago Tuesday in support of abortion. AFP PHOTO/MARTIN BERNETTI (Photo credit should read MARTIN BERNETTI/AFP/Getty Images)

However a change in the country’s leadership, via military coup, dashed all hope of this. The leader of the coup, Augusto Pinochet, instead reinforced previous archaic notions about women and reproduction. This leaves women to deal with the repercussions of misogynistic ideology held by men to be vessels of the next generation. The consequences of this are a growing HIV population in the country and women who have no way to protect themselves from infection. The stigma associated with women and contraception has left women vulnerable to the whims of patriarchy.

The government and the Catholic Church have ensured that women continue to be treated as unequal and to restrict their reproductive choices. An outright conscious objection to the well-being of women has been established by citing religious reasons that are then made into policy. They have created policies to prevent abortions, restrict birth control and encourage reproduction as a way of continuing to create bodies for the military. Even after the end of the military dictatorship these sexist ideologies and discriminatory policies are still in place. Chile is a country in which women are treated with violence and their right to safe medical services and education are continually obstructed. The unfair policies and laws have an even greater effect on low-income women because in Chile money can prevent a woman from feeling the effects of restrictive laws.

To continue reading Holy Politics: Exploring Catholicism, Dictatorship and Women’s Rights in Chile please click HERE

 

 

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