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Decoding Gender

Law and Practice in Contemporary Mexico

Helga Baitenmann, Victoria Chenaut, and Ann Varley

Publication Year: 2007

Gender discrimination pervades nearly all legal institutions and practices in Latin America. The deeper question is how this shapes broader relations of power. By examining the relationship between law and gender as it manifests itself in the Mexican legal system, the thirteen essays in this volume show how law is produced by, but also perpetuates, unequal power relations. At the same time, however, authors show how law is often malleable and can provide spaces for negotiation and redress. The contributors (including political scientists, sociologists, geographers, anthropologists, and economists) explore these issues-not only in courts, police stations, and prisons, but also in rural organizations, indigenous communities, and families.By bringing new interdisciplinary perspectives to issues such as the quality of citizenship and the rule of law in present-day Mexico, this book raises important issues for research on the relationship between law and gender more widely.

Published by: Rutgers University Press


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pp. v-vi


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xiv

Scholarly work on law and gender in Latin America has begun to gather pace in recent years, after a period of relative neglect. This revival has proceeded in tandem with efforts by women’s movements during the period of democratic transition to advance programs of reform aimed at securing gender equality in the spheres of law, politics, and social rights. Nourished in part by this ...

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pp. xv-xviii

This book originated in a research workshop held at the Institute of Latin American Studies (now the Institute for the Study of the Americas, or ISA) in February 2004. Discussions benefited from the participation of, in addition to the contributors to this volume: Elizabeth Dore, Diane Elson, Juan Guillermo Figueroa, Jane Hindley, Fiona Macaulay, Kevin J. Middlebrook, Caterina Pizzigoni, ...

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Introduction. Law and Gender in Mexico: Defining the Field

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pp. 1-40

An extensive literature links the subjects of law and gender in Mexico, but only rarely is the connection itself the focus of attention. This book demonstrates that the linkage is complex and, at times, contradictory. Law (written corpus, legal procedures, and everyday practices) frequently reproduces and perpetuates exclusion, discrimination, and inequality on the basis of gender (idealized...

Part One: Discourses on Law and Sexuality

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1. Love, Sex, and Gossip in Legal Cases from Namiquipa, Chihuahua

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pp. 43-58

In 1923, Andrés, a son of the pueblo of Namiquipa, Chihuahua, brought a civil suit against his brother-in-law José. José, Andrés complained, had been “living scandalously with a señora who is not his wife,” setting his son Juan such a “bad example” that the poor youth had had to move out of his home.1 Andrés told the judge that “this young man . . . wishes to take a road that is straighter than his ...

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2. Sins, Abnormalities, and Rights: Gender and Sexuality in Mexican Penal Codes

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pp. 59-74

This chapter examines the gender constructions present in the normative discourse that defines which sexual practices are considered crimes in Mexico.The goal is to contribute to debates about the right to make decisions about one's own body and about gender equity. ...

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3. The Realm outside the Law: Transvestite Sex Work In Xalapa, Veracruz

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pp. 75-90

In this chapter, I examine the ways in which laws fail to recognize the rights of transvestite sex workers in Xalapa, Veracruz. On the one hand, the normative model of sexuality inherent in the laws is based on dichotomized categories linked to gender. In these laws, the gender system is presented as consisting of two mutually exclusive categories (women and men), often with complementary ...

Part Two: Gender at the Intersection of Law and Custom

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4. Women’s Land Rights and Indigenous Autonomy in Chiapas: Interlegality and the Gendered Dynamics of National and Alternative Popular Legal Systems

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pp. 93-108

The indigenous peoples of Mexico are currently living in a fluid legal and political period. Increasing numbers of indigenous communities are revitalizing and redefining their local legal systems,1 while living under shifting federal and state legal systems that for the most part are moving toward more strictly defining indigenous rights and focusing on the granting of universal, individual rights ...

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5. Indigenous Women, Law, and Custom: Gender Ideologies in the Practice of Justice

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pp. 109-124

In this chapter, I show how gender ideologies constitute disciplinary mechanisms in the form of rules and customs guiding social practices, limiting the possibilities for the emergence of new discourses about rights. The practice of justice and conflict resolution in indigenous regions offers us a space in which to analyze these processes, since it reveals how norms derived from different ...

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6. Indigenous Women and the Law: Prison as a Gendered Experience

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pp. 125-142

In the analysis of legal practices in multicultural societies, it is important to understand that indigenous law and state law do not constitute countervailing normative systems, self-contained and isolated from each other. As Santos has argued (1987, 297–298), what emerges in these contexts is a situation of “inter-legality,” characterized by “different legal spaces superimposed, interpenetrated ...

Part Three: Legal Constructions of Marriage and the Family

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7. Domesticating the Law

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pp. 145-161

In the years after the Revolution’s rewriting of Mexican family law, the judges of the nation’s Supreme Court found themselves faced with deciding what constituted “the home” in divorce cases brought for abandonment of the marital home. In 1926, author and “emancipated woman” Antonieta Rivas Mercado sought to divorce her husband Albert Blair for abandonment. She initially won ...

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8. Conflictive Marriage and Separation in a Rural Municipality in Central Mexico, 1970–2000

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pp. 162-179

What options do married women have when they suffer from domestic violence and/or live in marital situations that they find oppressive or unsatisfactory? Research conducted in diverse ethnic and rural contexts in Mexico has found that a woman confronting these circumstances (whether formally married or in a common-law marriage) frequently abandons her home and seeks assistance from local ...

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9. The Archaeology of Gender in the New Agrarian Court Rulings

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pp. 180-194

Scholars focusing on the intersection between law and gender tend to give attention to those aspects of the legal system that create and/or perpetuate hierarchical social relations based upon idealized notions of femininity, masculinity, and heteronormativity. In some instances, discrimination, unequal treatment,or power structures based upon naturalized conceptions of sexual difference are ...

Part Four: Legal Reform and the Politics of Gender

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10. Law and the Politics of Abortion

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pp. 197-212

Abortion has been a crime in Mexico since colonial times. It still is, suggesting that reproductive freedom is as yet an unattained right for women. In this chapter, I argue that a gentlemen’s agreement between church and state has shaped abortion politics in contemporary Mexico. This unspoken agreement has led to the state’s compensating for the liberalization of abortion laws with secrecy and ...

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11. Married Women’s Property Rights in Mexico: A Comparative Latin American Perspective and Research Agenda

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pp. 213-230

Mexico was a pioneer with respect to married women’s property rights in Latin America, in a number of ways. In the nineteenth century, Mexico was the first country to offer couples a formal choice with respect to the marital regime governing marriage. Although, as in the colonial period, partial community property remained the default, after 1870 couples could also choose to marry under ...

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Afterword: Thinking about Gender and Law in Mexico

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pp. 231-238

The relationship between gender and law in Mexico has to be understood within the context of “bourgeois law,” the legal concepts and practices that developed in eighteenth-century Europe. Although sometimes presented as a coherent set of ideas and practices, bourgeois law is a language of argument, riddled with contradictions (Fitzpatrick 1992; Kristeva 1991; Macpherson 1962). ...


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pp. 239-264

Notes on Contributors

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pp. 265-270


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pp. 271-275

E-ISBN-13: 9780813541594
E-ISBN-10: 081354159X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780813540504
Print-ISBN-10: 081354050X

Page Count: 296
Illustrations: 8 tables
Publication Year: 2007