Envío Digital
Central American University - UCA  
  Number 335 | Junio 2009


Latin America

Fernando Lugo: Irresponsibility and Machismo

The Paraguay Women’s Coordinating Committee (CMP), a network of 10 organizations that has been working for women’s rights for 22 years, released this communiqué on April 26 to present their reflections and positions on events related to President Fernando Lugo’s paternity.

Paraguay Womens Coordinating Committee

Responsible paternity is an issue of public interest. The rights of children, just like those of women, are a public issue because they are recognized and must be guaranteed, respected, protected and promoted by the state. The decades-old feminist motto “The personal is political” means that what is apparently an individual experience with no political importance has a political nature because it’s part of a general system of male domination and female subordination. The existence of rights that break with this is the result of civic struggles that must be known and recognized by all.

A man’s power is not above the law

It seems important to us, as feminists, that the unfolding of events should demonstrate the existence of mechanisms and tools for the exercise of rights that must be obeyed, even by those who have power. As a Paraguayan citizen, the President is not above the law and must fulfill his duties of recognizing, caring for and feeding any children who turn out to be his.

The President’s conduct reflects the persistence of the patriarchal order

The President is part of a culture of male domination in full force in Paraguayan society. Much has been said already about Lugo’s power relations with some of the mothers of his possible children, an analysis that seems pertinent to us and that questions the patriarchal order. At the same time, it worries us that references to these cases reinforce other stereotypes attributed to women: as poor, unprotected victims, incomplete beings who need a man to protect them, and individuals subject to male domination in the framework of obligatory heterosexuality. It is this ongoing surrender of autonomy that jeopardizes women with respect to bosses, caudillos and diverse powers of the patriarchal culture.

There are no privileges based
on religion in a secular state

These days daughters and sons—be they of a President or anyone else, regardless of the circumstances of their birth—have equal rights before the law. Previously there were classifications based on civil status and on the relationship between the father and mother. For example, the descendents of priests, bishops and other Catholic Church hierarchs were considered “sacrilegious children” because Canon Law governed the thinking behind Civil Law, an influence that still exists despite some changes. That’s why it’s important to eradicate what’s left of Canon Law from our laws so that one religion doesn’t continue to discriminate. Only a secular state can guarantee the rights of all people, independent of their creed.

The dual morality of the Catholic Church discriminates against and hurts women

The cultural and political pressure of institutional Catholicism on our country’s laws, policies and customs has a negative affect on women’s rights. The Catholic hierarchy has protected the prevailing dual morality, using the pulpit and its power to reproach and deny people’s sexual and reproductive rights, at the same time protecting its own members when they lead a sexually irresponsible life. It is time to recognize and change this situation.

The nuclear and heterosexual family is not the only valid model

We can use laws to oblige men to recognize their offspring and take economic responsibility for them, and this is necessary in a country of irresponsible fathers such as Paraguay. Nonetheless, that should not allow us to forget that the traditional nuclear and heterosexual family is not the only valid model for raising children. Laws can’t resolve the need for affection and tenderness. We oppose the idea of accompanying paternal recognition—especially when it was initially denied—with a disproportionate power for men who, despite their recognition, will be absent from the daily demands of childcare.

The punishment for statutory rape is
a mockery of women’s rights and dignity

Beyond possible prescription of the events, we’re worried that the President may have committed punishable violations of individuals’ sexual autonomy. What would happen if Lugo were guilty? According to our discriminatory machista Penal Code, he would have to pay a fine, case closed. This is how seriously our laws take the dignity of women’s lives. It deeply angers us that political groups and politicians in legislative posts who paid no heed to our demand for changes in the penal law regarding this and many other aspects are today making political hay out of the President’s alleged offense.

They only listen to feminists when it suits them

We find it interesting that there’s a generalized clamor for feminists to make a statement about Lugo’s paternities when we aren’t listened to in our daily struggle and when, in fact, various feminist women and organizations have already spoken up, showing the diversity of this social movement in Paraguay. They ignored us when we made suggestions for modifying the Penal Code, and when we fought for approval of a law to protect the victims of crimes against sexual autonomy or a law on sexual and reproductive health. The same people who opposed our demands then are now denouncing the government and asking us to speak out against it. The hypocrisy, opportunism and dual morality of a large part of the political class have been bared for all to see.

We oppose political use
of the women’s struggle

We in the CMP reject the use of women’s victimization by the political parties and dominant and favored sectors for their own ends. Only when these sectors genuinely commit themselves to our struggles will they be able to speak credibly on such issues. Meanwhile, they shouldn’t seek to make our demands “cannon fodder” for their own political pretensions.

We support the initiative
of our comrades in the state.

The organizations in the CMP support the initiative and efforts our comrades Gloria Rubín and Liz Torres are making today at the head of the Women’s Secretariat and the Secretariat for Children and Adolescents. Their history of struggle certifies their interest in improving the situation of women and children, and they owe nothing to any powerful person for the position they occupy. We’re glad they are staying there to continue working and don’t want them to leave their arenas to those clamoring for them to leave. On the contrary, we believe this is an opportunity to more firmly establish the need for changes—especially a strong campaign for responsible paternity—that put women, children and adolescents at the center of public administration.

Considering all this, the CMP repudiates President Fernando Lugo’s irresponsible and machista attitude and demands that he assume and make good his errors, not only with a speech and honest action in response to the charges against him, but also by promoting public policies on sexual and reproductive rights without discrimination or hypocrisy.

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