Shifting Fault Lines of Race & Reproduction in Latin America

Thursday, Mar 13, 2014 - Thursday, Mar 13, 2014 | 4:00 pm - 5:30 pm

691 Barrows Hall

Shifting Fault Lines of Race Reproduction in Latin America

Untangling Discursive Reproduction: Negras, Sterilization and Reproductive Rights in Brazil
Ugo F. Edu, Anthropology, History, Social Medicine
This paper takes the bodies of black women, particularly their fertility and reproductive system, as its primary focus to explore “the forms of violence and domination enabled by the recognition of humanity, licensed by the invocation of rights and justified on grounds of liberty and freedom”. I draw on 16 months of ethnographic qualitative fieldwork research in Brazil concerned with Brazilian women’s navigation of the health care system, to be able to control their fertility and secure a tubal ligation. Included in this navigation are a host of requirements set out by the 1996 law that legalized sterilization in Brazil. I examine the troubling ways that the invocation of human rights, humanity and freedom and a dependence on the law, can serve to further “tether, bind and oppress” black women in their efforts to end their reproductive careers. I narrate black women’s attempts to secure tubal ligations, highlighting the way that their female blackness makes them subject to the law in ways that hinder access to tubal ligations, in spite of the rhetoric of reproductive rights and choice. I draw attention to the disparity between women’s lived experiences and the efforts to legalize and regulate sterilization, thus theoretically alleviating women of doctors’ and politicians’ abusive practices.
Colombia’s 2006 Abortion Decision: Human Rights as Response to Anxieties about the Value of Human Life
Alisa Sánchez, Rhetoric
In a 2006 decision, the Colombian Constitutional Court legalized abortion in cases of rape, a grave threat to the woman’s health, or when the fetus would be unviable at birth. The
decision is remarkable for decriminalizing abortion in Colombia, and also for the decisive role that a human rights framework plays in the decision. After thoroughly studying various human rights legal resources, the Court ultimately draws a distinction between a right to dignified life and an absolute right to life. The Court determines that the pregnant woman claims a human life in a way that the fetus cannot, which in some circumstances, entails that her life is worth greater constitutional protection than the fetus.
As Colombian scholars of abortion have noted, the value of life, and hence abortion, is a delicate topic in Colombia. A decades-long, ongoing internal conflict has generated a discourse within and outside the country that Colombians are accustomed to violence, and do not take human life as seriously as other, “civilized” and “modern,” countries. Sentiments of shame and grief about violence in Colombia pervade the country’s public discourse. This presentation analyzes how the Colombian Constitutional Court turns to a human rights framework in the 2006 abortion decision, to a) reason through and legitimate its decision to decriminalize abortion in select circumstances, and b) affirm that the Colombian Constitution and the state sincerely care about human life, simultaneously aligning the country with the “modern” countries who also embrace a human rights framework, and distancing the country from discourses that it does not value human life.

Open to the public. Location is wheelchair accessible.


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