In the street, at home, and in bed
In the past years, we the Feminists, have learned to identify new scenarios and actors and to take from the global scene that which served to organise us regionally and strengthen the demands and proposals we submitted in our respective countries.
These processes were symbolised by popular words such as: 'empowerment', 'lobby', 'monitoring' and 'advocacy'. What words will symbolise our speech, our work and our struggle in the new millennium?
They will have to be sufficiently thought provoking in order to revitalise the militant character of feminism 20 years ago; this said, without nostalgia, but rather, expressing an accumulation of strength, knowledge and power. The objective is the same: cultural change.
Last November, in Lima, CLADEM (1) called a meeting to discuss an issue: whether it is desirable and possible to fight for an inter-American Convention of Sexual and Reproductive Rights.
In our region, the Convention of Belém do Pará (2), promoted nearly all the laws against gender violence approved in this decade. To a larger or lesser degree, all States abide by them. But compliance is due, not only because women fought for them and they are fair, but because it was difficult to argue against them; how could they not be against violence. In other words, Governments and Political Parties found it 'politically expedient' to be in favour of the laws. It is quite another matter though, to achieve a Convention on Sexual and Reproductive Rights, because of prejudice and the discussions around abortion and sexual options, not included in the PAM of Beijing (3).
For this reason, it is a good idea. It would mean that we would have to go onto the streets again, and into people's houses and into everybody's beds, including those of lawmakers, government and international officials.
Probably this is the precise moment to raise the issue in discussion, not from a "lobby" (which will continue to be necessary) and not as a matter to be negotiated with the State (which will have to be done), but from a stance of subversion, counter-culture and mobilisation. Nor should the approach be from the different specialised networks and ONGs, rather it should "strengthen the feminist focus in civil society" (4) and raise it to one of the most questioning and profound views of democracy.
To achieve this goal, it will be absolutely necessary to run a long-term campaign requiring a coordinated endeavour in each country (and at a regional level). We will have to make use of mass media (they will be only to "pleased" to deal with such "burning issues"), organise public debates, seminars, publications, media acts, radio and television spots etc, etc. Furthermore, alliances should be entered into with other movements and social sectors (young people, homosexuals, etc). Nor should politicians, government and international officials be left out, if the goal is to become a reality.
A campaign, with a purpose such as this one, is an instrument towards a common agenda and also a provocative means of furthering cultural change that can only happen when our goal is to change how people think.
The starting point, of the one and only meeting held, was that none of this would be possible, if beforehand, we did not recognise and value the previous experiences of the movement in other initiatives and campaigns. Due to this, a document was prepared on the consensus and dissensions it experienced, in dealing with the focuses, contents and strategies regarding sexual and reproductive rights from 1986 onwards.
The meeting was attended by women who had worked on the subject of sexual and reproductive rights and by others who had never done so. There were two points of basic coincidence. On the one hand, the value that the convention may have for the free exercise of these rights; on the other, the strategic value the subject may have when dealt with politically and discussed in each of our countries: we, the Feminists, continue to question the system, whilst remaining provocative, creative and making proposals, and from this point we are appealing to other movements, ideas and other proposals.
We want to convince
all (all of them, the specialists on human rights, on health matters,
and the others, those in NGOs, in grass-roots organisations, those who
work in education, in violence, in communication, in racism; those who
are in trade unions and in cooperatives as well as the theorists and the
practitioners; those with global concerns and those with local ones; in
fact, absolutely all of them): there are ideas that are so bold as to
be worthwhile pursuing.
The above has induced us to open a web page which is under "PERMANENT construction"(5), that is to say, that nearly every day it is renewed with the material you send us: documents, newspapers, debates, jurisprudence, events, photographs, testimonials ..You will find there, of course, everything you might want to know about the campaign. As the campaign is "under permanent construction" we hope we will be able to help each others, to make it even more open, participatory and strong.