Jane S. Jaquette
atin American women’s movements played important roles in the demo-
cratic transitions in the Southern Cone (Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, Bra-
zil) and Peru in the 1980s, as well as in the civil wars and peace processes in
Central America in the 1980s and 1990s. They put gender-equity issues on
political agendas throughout the region, reforming discriminatory family
and labor laws, criminalizing violence against women, and introducing gen-
der quotas for elections to national legislatures in several countries. Demo-
cratic governments established offices or ministries within the executive
branch to design legislation, monitor progress, and carry out specific pro-
grams for women.
Yet women’s movements in Latin America appear to have lost momentum,
unable to sustain their initial successes. The issues that mobilized women
over the past few decades—equality in family law and violence against
women—have been addressed by constitutional reforms and new laws in
virtually every country, but the new laws are rarely adequately implemented.
Women’s issues are now institutionalized in government ministries, but
these often remain underfunded and lack strong connections to women’s
organizations. Women’s political representation has been promoted by quo-
tas that require political parties to nominate women, but the laws are often
evaded or ignored. Social norms have shifted markedly in favor of women’s
rights and toward equality for women; rural women have asserted demands
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