Handbook on Gender and Health
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Handbook on Gender and Health

Edited by Jasmine Gideon

This Handbook brings together a groundbreaking collection of chapters that uses a gender lens to explore health, healthcare and health policy in both the Global South and North. Empirical evidence is drawn from a variety of different settings and points to the many ways in which the gendered dimensions of health have become reworked across the globe.
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Chapter 28: Conservative backlashes to women’s bodily integrity in Latin America: the case of Chile

Gabriela Alvarez Minte


The chapter analyzes the ways in which women’s sexual and reproductive rights are disputed and blocked in Chile. As in the rest of the region, Chile’s demographic trends have changed with a decrease in fertility and mortality rates, educational levels have risen, and women have increased their access to employment. However, efforts to advance sexual and reproductive rights and health have met the resistance of conservative groups that have been successful in restricting women’s _ and men’s _ reproductive choices. Focusing on the legacy of the 1973–1990 authoritarian dictatorship; the processes to ensure free and universal access to emergency contraception; and the development, implementation and evaluation of the national sexual education programme, the chapter illustrates the resistances that come into play when policies on these issues are spearheaded, and the institutional constraints that still exist. Concluding that to understand the resistance and backlashes relating to advances in women’ sexual and reproductive rights in Chile, it is important to look not only at policy outcomes but also at their implementation, looking at all actors, going beyond the political left/right divide, and searching for what is driving conservatism and the strategies used to resist social change. Chileans live in the divide between social practices and social discourse, where the practices are more progressive and liberal and the discourse is driven by an elite and is conservative and traditional; where the institutional weight of the dictatorship, and the combined public_private and decentralized educational and health system diminish the state’s capacity to implement exiting progressive legislation such as the case of emergency contraception and sexual education.

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