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Luis BARRUETO is a journalist from Guatemala, currently working in trade policy at the Secretariat for Central American Economic Integration (SIECA). Studied business and finance journalism at Aarhus University in Denmark and City University London.
Omar Encarnación, a writer and author of Out in the Periphery: Latin America's Gay Rights Revolution, tries to explain the puzzle of progressive rights in Latin America.
His piece in Foreign Policy seeks to explain why countries in the region have moved to recognize same-sex marriage or unions, and enact laws banning discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. At the same time, he seeks to explain the apparent paradox of abortion rights moving little, or nothing at all.
"Save for in Cuba, Mexico City, and Uruguay, it remains a crime in Latin America in most circumstances for a woman to terminate a pregnancy", he explains. "The region is also home to four of the six countries in the world where abortion is banned in all circumstances".
Conventional wisdom points to the role of the Catholic Church as a "longtime arbiter of social policy". But other factors mediate as well: Encarnación discusses pinkwashing – "the cynical use of momentum on LGBT rights to either distract from unsavory political behaviors or to disguise lack of progress in other areas" –, but also the emergence of LGBTIQ rights as a priority for international power players, including states, cooperation agencies, and civil society.
The LGBTIQ movement has also been instrumental in pushing for their rights. In terms of capacity to "rally the base, to lobby policy-makers, and to craft messages that resonate with the public at large", it is one of the most successful movements in the continent in the past few years. The women's movement has not been as effective, due to internal divisions and historic failure to change hearts and minds. As the recent campaign to legalize abortion in Argentina shows, however, this may be about to change.