Excerpt from What kind of State? What kind of equality?
This document was prepared under the supervision of Alicia Bárcena, Executive Secretary of the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC), for presentation at the eleventh session of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean (Brasilia, 13-16 July 2010).
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The document What kind of State? What kind of equality? analyses the progress of gender equality in the region 15 years after the approval of the Beijing Platform for Action, 10 years after the drafting of the Millennium Development Goals and 3 years after the adoption of the Quito Consensus at the tenth session of the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean, held in 2007. It also examines the achievements made and challenges faced by governments in light of the interaction between the State, the market and families as social institutions built on the foundation of policies, laws, and customs and habits which, together, establish the conditions for renewing or perpetuating gender and social hierarchies.
Although the study focuses on Latin America and the Caribbean, some of the indicators are compared with those of Portugal and Spain, which are members of the Gender Equality Observatory for Latin America and the Caribbean and participate in the Regional Conference on Women in Latin America and the Caribbean as member States of ECLAC. Particular mention is also made of certain policies on gender parity and reconciliation of caregiving and productive work, in order to draw comparisons with equality processes under way at the global level and bring attention to the region’s increasing dialogue with other countries in this area.
The State’s role in promoting social equality is the crux of the debate, as affirmed in the document Time for equality: closing gaps, opening trails (ECLAC 2010a). This is a key concept in a development agenda shared by various social actors: it assumes that women will be incorporated into the labour market under the same conditions as men, that their rights as citizens will be recognized, that they will participate fully in decision-making at all levels of society, that their physical integrity will be respected and that they will have control over their own bodies.
The incorporation of women into the labour market under the same conditions as men presupposes an analysis of their social and symbolic role in society and a strategic change therein. This will entail redistributing the unpaid workload associated with the reproduction and sustainment of human life as well as dismantling the power system that subjugates women both in private (thereby guaranteeing them the right to a life free from violence and the right to free choice in matters of, and conditions relating to, reproduction) and in public (through their equitable representation at all levels of decision-making in society).
Progress in gender equality is directly related to advances in women’s economic autonomy, such as control over material goods and intellectual resources and the ability to make decisions regarding family assets and income. It is also closely linked with physical autonomy as an essential requirement for overcoming the barriers to the exercise of sexuality, to women’s physical integrity and to free choice in matters of reproduction, as well as with parity in decision-making.
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