770.1 “Take your rosaries out of our ovaries”: Counter-hegemony, and the multiplier effects of the dominican feminist movement

Saturday, August 4, 2012: 4:15 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Esther HERNÁNDEZ-MEDINA , Centro de Estudios del Género, Instituto Tecnológico de Santo Domingo, Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
As it is the case elsewhere in the region, the Dominican feminist movement has to reckon with the Catholic Church’s immense public legitimacy. The paper analyzes the movement’s contributions to democratic consolidation by focusing on the counter-hegemonic tactics it used during the first public debate on abortion by focusing on the case of the “Women’s Forum for Constitutional Reform.” The Forum’s strategies were tested in 2009 and 2010 during the national debate around an anti-choice provision in the new Constitution introduced by President Leonel Fernández.

For the first time in Dominican history, feminist groups were able to mobilize other sectors to publicly oppose hegemonic anti-choice discourse and policies. Journalists, doctors, civil society organizations, intellectuals, scientists, as well as women and men of all ages and walks of life took part of demonstrations against the so-called Article 30. Moreover, a 2010 national poll indicated some important cultural shifts: 80% of Dominicans were in favor of interrupting a pregnancy when it puts the woman’s life in danger. In contrast, only a third of Dominicans favored a woman’s right to choose in 2008.

Congress ended up approving the anti-choice provision, which became Article 38 of the 2010 Constitution. Nonetheless, vocal opposition to it as well as feminists’ long standing work regarding violence against women has contributed to the radicalization of other movements, particularly among previously demobilized constituencies. The paper analyzes these developments vis-à-vis their potential in deepening the country’s democracy based on Gramsci’s hegemony framework and Fraser’s concept of counterpublics. The paper looks at the Women’s Forum as well as its connections with two new movements: the “4%” initiative challenging government to implement the law devoting 4% of the country’s GDP to education, and more recently, a movement of men against gender-based violence.