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Decoding Gender

Decoding Gender: Law and Practice in Contemporary Mexico

Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Rutgers University Press
Pages: 296
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  • Book Info
    Decoding Gender
    Book Description:

    Gender discrimination pervades nearly all legal institutions and practices in Latin America. The deeper question is how this shapes broader relations of power. By examining the relationship between law and gender as it manifests itself in the Mexican legal system, the thirteen essays in this volume show how law is produced by, but also perpetuates, unequal power relations. At the same time, however, authors show how law is often malleable and can provide spaces for negotiation and redress. The contributors (including political scientists, sociologists, geographers, anthropologists, and economists) explore these issues-not only in courts, police stations, and prisons, but also in rural organizations, indigenous communities, and families.By bringing new interdisciplinary perspectives to issues such as the quality of citizenship and the rule of law in present-day Mexico, this book raises important issues for research on the relationship between law and gender more widely.

    eISBN: 978-0-8135-4159-4
    Subjects: Anthropology, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
    (pp. vii-viii)
    (pp. ix-xiv)

    Scholarly work on law and gender in Latin America has begun to gather pace in recent years, after a period of relative neglect. This revival has proceeded in tandem with efforts by women’s movements during the period of democratic transition to advance programs of reform aimed at securing gender equality in the spheres of law, politics, and social rights. Nourished in part by this interaction, a growing literature is to be found on the social, political, and historical aspects of law and gender relations, as well as a sizeable quantity of policy-related work on specific aspects of legal reform. This...

    (pp. xv-xviii)
  6. INTRODUCTION. Law and Gender in Mexico: Defining the Field
    (pp. 1-40)

    An extensive literature links the subjects of law and gender in Mexico, but only rarely is the connection itself the focus of attention. This book demonstrates that the linkage is complex and, at times, contradictory. Law (written corpus, legal procedures, and everyday practices) frequently reproduces and perpetuates exclusion, discrimination, and inequality on the basis of gender (idealized notions of femininity, masculinity, and heteronormativity), but also is often malleable and provides spaces for agency, negotiation, and redress. Moreover, law and gender cut across traditional social science dichotomies (state–popular, hegemonic–subaltern, and so forth) in interesting and complex ways. Thus, this...

  7. PART ONE Discourses on Law and Sexuality

    • 1 Love, Sex, and Gossip in Legal Cases from Namiquipa, Chihuahua
      (pp. 43-58)

      In 1923, Andrés, a son of the pueblo of Namiquipa, Chihuahua, brought a civil suit against his brother-in-law José. José, Andrés complained, had been “living scandalously with a señora who is not his wife,” setting his son Juan such a “bad example” that the poor youth had had to move out of his home.¹ Andrés told the judge that “this young man . . . wishes to take a road that is straighter than his father’s and to be a man who is not a libertine.” The case was resolved when José gave his son formal permission to live with...

    • 2 Sins, Abnormalities, and Rights: Gender and Sexuality in Mexican Penal Codes
      (pp. 59-74)

      This chapter examines the gender constructions present in the normative discourse that defines which sexual practices are considered crimes in Mexico. The goal is to contribute to debates about the right to make decisions about one’s own body and about gender equity.

      The chapter begins with a brief review of crimes against individuals’ sexual freedoms, examining in detail the definitions of some crimes characterized not as affronts against those liberties but as crimes against family order (including estupro, consensual sexual intercourse with an honest woman under the age of eighteen or seventeen; rapto, kidnapping with the intention to have sexual...

    • 3 The Realm outside the Law: Transvestite Sex Work in Xalapa, Veracruz
      (pp. 75-90)

      In this chapter, I examine the ways in which laws fail to recognize the rights of transvestite sex workers in Xalapa, Veracruz. On the one hand, the normative model of sexuality inherent in the laws is based on dichotomized categories linked to gender. In these laws, the gender system is presented as consisting of two mutually exclusive categories (women and men), often with complementary roles. Transvestites (and all persons who do not conform to an exclusively heterosexual model of sexual orientation) fall outside the dichotomized vision of society found in most Veracruz state laws. On the other hand, although sex...

  8. PART TWO Gender at the Intersection of Law and Custom

    • 4 Women’s Land Rights and Indigenous Autonomy in Chiapas: Interlegality and the Gendered Dynamics of National and Alternative Popular Legal Systems
      (pp. 93-108)

      The indigenous peoples of Mexico are currently living in a fluid legal and political period. Increasing numbers of indigenous communities are revitalizing and redefining their local legal systems,¹ while living under shifting federal and state legal systems that for the most part are moving toward more strictly defining indigenous rights and focusing on the granting of universal, individual rights rather than collective rights. At the federal level, the most important legal reform for indigenous peoples has been the 1992 agrarian legislation,² which has encouraged, but not required, the privatization ofejidosand agrarian communities.³ In addition, in 2001 the Mexican...

    • 5 Indigenous Women, Law, and Custom: Gender Ideologies in the Practice of Justice
      (pp. 109-124)

      In this chapter, I show how gender ideologies constitute disciplinary mechanisms in the form of rules and customs guiding social practices, limiting the possibilities for the emergence of new discourses about rights. The practice of justice and conflict resolution in indigenous regions offers us a space in which to analyze these processes, since it reveals how norms derived from different judicial systems—the state system and the indigenous system—shape social behavior and legitimate the subordination of women. What happens in the courts also enables us to reconstruct the strategies women have developed to challenge these models and ideologies and...

    • 6 Indigenous Women and the Law: Prison as a Gendered Experience
      (pp. 125-142)

      In the analysis of legal practices in multicultural societies, it is important to understand that indigenous law and state law do not constitute countervailing normative systems, self-contained and isolated from each other. As Santos has argued (1987, 297–298), what emerges in these contexts is a situation of “inter-legality,” characterized by “different legal spaces superimposed, interpenetrated and mixed in our minds as much as in our actions.” This implies that social actors can reference different normativities, which they use and manipulate, invoking both state law and local norms, depending upon the context and the interests in play. In this manner,...

  9. PART THREE Legal Constructions of Marriage and the Family

    • 7 Domesticating the Law
      (pp. 145-161)

      In the years after the Revolution’s rewriting of Mexican family law, the judges of the nation’s Supreme Court found themselves faced with deciding what constituted “the home” in divorce cases brought for abandonment of the marital home. In 1926, author and “emancipated woman” Antonieta Rivas Mercado sought to divorce her husband Albert Blair for abandonment. She initially won her case, but lost on appeal.¹ She then brought anamparopetition for review to the Supreme Court.¹ In 1930, the Court found against her. In doing so, it loftily dismissed the relevance of the home as material space: “The word ‘abandonment,’...

    • 8 Conflictive Marriage and Separation in a Rural Municipality in Central Mexico, 1970–2000
      (pp. 162-179)

      What options do married women have when they suffer from domestic violence and/or live in marital situations that they find oppressive or unsatisfactory? Research conducted in diverse ethnic and rural contexts in Mexico has found that a woman confronting these circumstances (whether formally married or in a common-law marriage) frequently abandons her home and seeks assistance from local judges in renegotiating her marital contract with the hope of improving her daily life.¹ In this chapter, I explore the interrelationship between these two forms of feminine agency and analyze the extent to which wives seeking changes in their marital relationship depend...

    • 9 The Archaeology of Gender in the New Agrarian Court Rulings
      (pp. 180-194)

      Scholars focusing on the intersection between law and gender tend to give attention to those aspects of the legal system that create and/or perpetuate hierarchical social relations based upon idealized notions of femininity, masculinity, and heteronormativity. In some instances, discrimination, unequal treatment, or power structures based upon naturalized conceptions of sexual difference are more or less explicit in laws, court procedures, jurisprudence, and so forth. In other contexts, the ideas that sustain a gendered asymmetry of rights and obligations are profoundly implicit; they can only be exposed by peeling away layers of constructed signification to reveal what Appignanesi and Garratt...

  10. PART FOUR Legal Reform and the Politics of Gender

    • 10 Law and the Politics of Abortion
      (pp. 197-212)

      Abortion has been a crime in Mexico since colonial times. It still is, suggesting that reproductive freedom is as yet an unattained right for women. In this chapter, I argue that a gentlemen’s agreement between church and state has shaped abortion politics in contemporary Mexico. This unspoken agreement has led to the state’s compensating for the liberalization of abortion laws with secrecy and a failure to implement the legal options and services that could be available to women. From the 1970s, when the law on abortion began to be liberalized, until the present, reforms have remained buried in legal documents...

    • 11 Married Women’s Property Rights in Mexico: A Comparative Latin American Perspective and Research Agenda
      (pp. 213-230)

      Mexico was a pioneer with respect to married women’s property rights in Latin America, in a number of ways. In the nineteenth century, Mexico was the first country to offer couples a formal choice with respect to the marital regime governing marriage. Although, as in the colonial period, partial community property remained the default, after 1870 couples could also choose to marry under the separation-of-property regime. Moreover, after 1928 its partial-community-property regime became one of the most flexible in the region, giving couples a great deal of choice in terms of alternative arrangements regarding the ownership and management of marital...

  11. AFTERWORD. Thinking about Gender and Law in Mexico
    (pp. 231-238)

    The relationship between gender and law in Mexico has to be understood within the context of “bourgeois law,” the legal concepts and practices that developed in eighteenth-century Europe. Although sometimes presented as a coherent set of ideas and practices, bourgeois law is a language of argument, riddled with contradictions (Fitzpatrick 1992; Kristeva 1991; Macpherson 1962). I will discuss some of these to consider their implications for gender justice in Mexico. I will repeat the obvious, but do so because generally accepted truths affect us most when they remain unexamined (Bourdieu 1977). I will restate what we all know but need...

    (pp. 239-264)
    (pp. 265-270)
  14. INDEX
    (pp. 271-275)